Because I don’t like to renege on promises here is my first proper blog post of 2016!
It’s that time of year when people make silly statements about what 2017 is going to be like. Just don’t. Or do but remember that no one could have predicted the general farce that was 2016. Man buns. Trump. Endless terrorist attacks. Heating scandals. A lot of crazy shit happened. And a lot of magical fantastically pleasantly awesome things happened. Let’s not forget that.
Around this time of the year Kerry and I usually sit down and make our ‘Next Years Wish List’. Mostly it consists of things we would like to buy and places we would like to visit on day trips or longer trips. It’s a generally safe list of rewards and one that narrows our choices so we can start to take action towards them. I have managed to make that sound quite boring, but really it’s cause I can stand in the beer aisle in the supermarket for a good 20 minutes deciding between a sawdust lager at a great price, an interesting Asian lager or an overpriced small time American Pilsner with wicked branding. I usually walk out with all three and have no pocket money for the rest of the week, so making a list is a good thing.
Anyway as we are on the cusp (I really just wanted to squeeze in that fantastic phrase) of 2017, how about some thoughts on my year - which I know is ridiculously selfish but it may prove interesting.
Believe it or not this time last year I was 2 1/2 stone heavier - somedays it was closer to 3. I was the heaviest I had ever been. Following a nasty ankle injury and a six month bout of ‘I can’t exercise so I’m going to eat whatever the hell I want’ I had started to wear my shirts open. Not bare chested, but with a t-shirt under them. I literally couldn’t button some of my shirts and others were busting at the seams. I’m not exaggerating. For me this was different. So was my mood. I’m a 3.33.32 marathon guy. Then there was a moment and I thought I can go two ways - cuddlier or fitter. So I ran through the pain and the sweat and the cold mornings and nights and looked at what I was putting on my plate and the weight fell off and the smile returned. Please don’t let this ruin your Christmas dinner but also please do take your health seriously - it can have a profound impact on your general and mental well-being. Testify.
Unashamedly I’ll use it again. In December 2014 I remember thinking to myself I’m on the cusp of greatness. This time next year Half Irish will have taken over the world and I’ll be in Gary Barlow’s house writing the script for the Half Irish Broadway show. It didn’t happen. But it did change my world. I’ve been learning patience for 32 years. But the last 2 years have been particularly telling. After ten years in youth work and initiating a national book project I was totally done. Some say burnt out. Others say ready for a new challenge.
It was a more than welcome turn of events. For me my little personal mantra is ‘Pick up the things that give you joy’. Youth work and church stuff was no longer giving me joy, in fact it was robbing me of joy. As with everything it’s the attitude you carry that matters the most. Whatever you have faced this year may 2017 mean you choose better with a cracking attitude. And if you have to tell yourself that ten times a day it might be time to take yourself off on a retreat, look in your arms and see what you are carrying. Joy givers or joy stealers? Through this I think of two things - one profound - patience is the making of character & one less profound - no one likes a dickhead. If the circumstances in your control are making you the latter then take some serious action. It felt like ten years of hard work crashed down around me. So I threw myself into the only thing I knew would save me.
As a writer I haven’t published/had anything published this year. I’ve had a couple of conversations about future publications but nothing concrete. ‘Everything in its time’ is the phrase I’m carrying. I finish 2016 knowing that I have written more ‘good words’ than any other year. I have researched and read and found a depth to my work. I have formed characters and stories that I know you will love.
I have also mastered two inner frustrations/battles I was having. I was having this continual conversation in my mind where I would see an artist or a photographer post something online and get a zillion likes. Yes at the age of 32 I was like ‘aghhhhhhh that’s so unfair. I write for like three hours and can’t share it with anyone and you spend five minutes on a doodle or choosing a filter and get instant likeability and wowness and emojis with hearts for eyes’. I had the simple realisation that my craft is different. It’s like a barrelled whisky that sits blindly in a barn until the time is right for people to taste it. I read about the journey of some of the best writers of this world and it pulled me out of a slump.
The second thing is that I have nearly mastered the ability to finish things. I really do have about twenty projects/book/ideas that are at various stages of completion. Some are fully planned and not written. Others are embryonic, others are 40% or 70% complete. So in 2016 I have learned there is no perfect time to write. That the way I best work is to always have things on the go, but in order to gain sanity I need to get shit done. So I’m working my way through that long list and completing things. Having a structure and a plan and sticking to it has seen my productivity soar.
We moved a couple of times this year. We had a son. I became a father and on that I will finish. My entire blog post should have been about that. But I have no words. Only feelings. My four weeks of being a Father has ripped up the book and changed everything. Mostly I’m humbled that I’ve been chosen to show this little man around this world. I’ve cried most days. I don’t like sleeping because I just want to stare at my kid. I’ve a heart that is bursting and I think, I just think that maybe 2017 is going to be the best year yet. But I remember saying that last year, and the year before and the year before that …
To you and your loved ones have a fantastic festive season. May 2017, not the month of May, well maybe the month of May, but the year of 2017, be the best yet. I don’t know what this blog is, but make good choices, laugh everyday, celebrate often and remember that change doesn’t have to be in the future. Start today.