This is the time of year that the internet fills with resolutions, challenges, advice, and leftovers from the feasts enjoyed previously. Although I don’t want to bore you all silly I thought I would think over, and write about, the lessons from 2013 and my hopes for 2014.
Truthfully, other than a few beautiful joy-filled moments, 2013 was pretty bad. Bear and I moved twice, had 3 jobs changes between us, applied for jobseekers twice (really reluctantly), went through a miscarriage, numerous finance issues, and a whole lot of anxiety/depression/stress whilst trying to figure out what we’re doing with our lives. We also gained a beautiful and wonderfully intelligent dog called Guin, and have so far succeeded in carrying our third pregnancy to term.
There are basic things that of course will be happening this year that I have already talked about; we plan to organise our finances to get ourselves out of debt and into serious savings, we are also having a baby (in TWO WEEKS!), and Bear starts his new job. On top of that we will be trying to look forward and plan out how and where we want to live, how to be the best parents we can be, but also how to move forwards in our individual careers.
However, you’ve got to have some fun. These are the things I’ve been thinking about challenging myself with, and to be perfectly honest I don’t care if I complete them or not because making myself feel like a failure is not the intention.
1. Learn to play the Ukulele.
I received the most beautiful baroque ukulele for Christmas this year and I have started teaching myself the basics. This is not something I’m planning on killing myself with, and really my only aim is to be able to pull off a few decent lullabies to put Cub to sleep when he/she arrives. I’m only looking at about 5-20 minutes a day so nothing to strenuous or pressuring, just a bit of fun.
2. Continue to write regularly; more specifically try and write a theology/faith post for each Sabbath.
Writing has done me the world of good over the past two years and I have been surprised how I have managed to keep going despite stress and an often crazy-busy life. I have also hoped and aimed to help others through writing about the harder times in my life and I have loved getting responses from those this has been true of. My reason for specifically aiming to write about theology is that honestly I miss it: I miss debating contemporary issues, researching the truth behind seemingly obvious biblical texts, and I have been compiling a list of subjects to either preach on or write about for years and currently contains over 70 ideas. This should be at least one a week, and there is going to be a special shared post from Preston Yancey’s blog in March. I would love comments on this but feel like I should declare now that if you don’t agree with everything, that’s OK, and as long as you’re nice/constructive I still want to hear from you.
The following are probably the more ambitious options:
3. Read 52 books in 52 weeks.
I do realise I’m having a baby but I also know that babies sleep far more than people expect them to and actually reading to them doesn’t have to be some ridiculously boring and repetitive baby book. The important thing is to calm them with your voice and teach them language skills, so honestly I don’t think it matters too much whether I’m reading a theology book, Narnia, or a fairytale and I’m counting all options towards my total. Audio books are also genius and something I will be enjoying as much as possible. I am also not going to beat myself for not quite managing this. I’ve had plenty of “but you’ll be a mum/you’ll have a baby/ha! good luck!” comments but I don’t really care if someone else feels superior if I don’t reach my total – I’m trying for me and no-one else so who cares if someone says “I told you so” next Christmas.
4. Take on the NaNoWriMo challenge/write a book.
Honestly I don’t know what I’d write about but this one doesn’t need to be started immediately (it is a November challenge after all) unless I take on the novel in a year challenge instead which is just over 300 words a day with weekends off. Even so I think it would be incredible to say you’d wrote a novel, even if it’s complete rubbish, and who knows, maybe it’ll be amazing and start off a whole new part of life.
5. Learn a little Welsh.
You’ve probably heard me suggest this before and in the last year it’s hardly been a priority, but I really would still love to learn this part of culture, how words relate to each other and life modern and ancient. It would also be wonderful to be able to pass a little of this onto my child because quite honestly I regret having not taken languages more seriously while growing up. As with the others, this is not something I’m going to kill myself over, but simply a suggestion for something to fill my little bits of time instead of bad TV shows and computer games.
6. Get into music.
It was honestly a little disturbing that this Christmas I spent money on some new music only to realise the last time I seriously looked around was Christmas 2012 where I bought the Mumford & Sons and Emile Sande albums. Both of these are amazing and I love them but I was behind the times then, so having not really paid attention for a year is pretty bad. I figure simply by listening to the radio a bit more and catching myself up with music friends have mentioned (seriously, someone mentioned Vampire Weekend and I didn’t know if it was music, a book, or a new twilight-like film!) I can start to enjoy a little more of the eclectic sounds out there.
My final two challenges are far more serious but also more important to me in the long run:
7. Complete project Eve.
This has been a long time coming and is highly influenced by my pregnancy at this point. There are a few large things to be completed in the next week, and after that it’ll be slower but hopefully fulfilling. My aim is to create a body of work suitable for both exhibitions, and as a theological study. I am passionate about the message and find it increasingly frustrating to not get further faster, but art often doesn’t work that way and with such a complex project I’m giving myself some leeway.
8. Apply and start a Distance Masters.
As I’ve said, I miss theology in a academic setting far more than I expected too (I mean seriously who can possibly miss essay deadlines and stressful exams!). However, it is becoming increasingly important to keep my brain moving and I yearn for an environment in which debate and learning are welcomed rather than avoided as a chore.
Oh and then there’s all the little common things: eat healthier (which I have been far more successful with over the last year anyway), go for more long walks (Guin would definitely appreciate more attention), make time for socials and date nights (Bear & I have been severely lacking in this category), travel more (I miss exploring!), and the most important personally: allow yourself to be loved.
To be honest, all my lessons from 2013, and all my challenges for 2014 comes into that final category: love yourself. Hard times in 2013 were often made more difficult because I expected so much from myself and refused to allow myself luxuries (not necessarily expenses, but time and fun too). I blamed myself for situations, became angry at bad choices or mistakes, and this in turn affected my relationships with people and how I viewed life. In 2014 I am giving myself a break, hoping to enjoy just having some fun trying to really live life, and fighting back against the negativity that often follows. My plans and challenges may seem like massive ambitious plans, but honestly I feel like for once I am allowing myself to freely choose how to enjoy life rather than beat myself into submission.
If you don’t think I’ll have time, fine. But I don’t care what people think I can do, I am only looking at what I could do. That is a wonderful amount of freedom and comes completely from allowing myself to accept love from Bear, from friends, and from God.