credit: emma.kate on Flickr

Blank pages

There is something that pulls me in about a new year. My stationery fetish may be one reason. Who can resist the lure of a brand new diary? Its crisp pages just waiting to be filled up with coffee dates, holidays, days out and the general busyness of life. And don’t get me started on a new calendar. Oh boy, choosing a calendar for the year fills me with glee (the last few years have been a Cambridge calendar in homage to our college days).

The problem is: You can’t get a new year without a new year’s eve. I have much more mixed feelings about New Year’s Eve. The pressure to be ‘doing’ something, being interesting, celebrating, can be stifling.

This New Year’s Eve was rather odd.

The day started as normal. Me, facedown in the pillow bemoaning the time of day and having to get up. Elis, chirpy as a little robin, bringing me coffee and encouraging me to get going. As I sipped my coffee, letting the caffeine get to work, I browsed through Facebook. I love getting to glimpse people’s lives and share my own with them in return. And now, with Timehop and On This Day, we can look back and relive those memories we thought worthy of sharing. No matter how mundane (note to reader: I am often quite surprised by the sheer volume of statuses which refer to my cats/singing to my cats/generally being a crazy cat lady and lamenting Elis’ lack of interest in the cats). The people who know me well, know how much I love reminiscing. I love re-living funny stories, experiences. And if the moment is right for a speech then I am even happier. Be warned that if you get invited over for dinner then it is highly likely that you will be required to give a speech. We are making memories every day, right?

So, I turned to look at those memories from 31st December across the years, hoping to see a photo of me looking sophisticated-yet-hot whilst sipping prosecco elegantly at a fancy party, but sadly no such photo appeared (it was highly unlikely anyway…the prosecco never stays in my glass long enough to get photographed!).

I found a few things out.

One, I seem to befriend a lot of people on new year’s eve and two, I don’t post many statuses. There was one status, however, which jumped out and gave the caffeine a bit of help. It was from 2012 and said:

‘2012, your highs and lows made my head spin and my heart hurt. You’ve taught me a lot, now hurry along so 2013 can begin with new hopes and dreams’.

Straight away, the 12 months of 2012 came flooding back. The numbness of starting the year with a diagnosis of infertility hanging over us, Elis’ breakdown and time off work, an amazing year 2 class who made me skip to work, colleagues who kept me laughing, going for our interview at Ridley and feeling instantly at home, watching the sun rise and set over the Grand Canyon, Elis’ relapse and more time off work, getting the call from the Bishop to let Elis know he was going to Cambridge to train for the ministry, leaving our jobs, eating our way around Rome, leaving Elis at the hospital after exploratory surgery and somehow getting home before sobbing on the kitchen floor, 27th July – receiving confirmation that we couldn’t have biological children together, 27th July – the opening ceremony of the Olympics, running up our street to watch the fireworks, crying with pride and sadness, a summer spent trying to meet Jake Humphrey whilst falling ever so slightly in love with Clare Balding, being in awe of the Paralympians, leaving riddles in bins for house guests, our leaving London parties, arriving in Cambridge and feeling a lightening of spirits, losing Aristotle, finding Aristotle, becoming a part of The Tent, sharing our story, joining the gospel choir, a painful break up of a precious friendship and the joy of a baby boy being born to dear friends.

I can totally see where that status came from.

2012 was with me as I went through the day and as Elis and I sat down to have dinner before he headed off to church (apparently some curates have to work on New Year’s Eve, who knew?). As is our penchant, a bit of fizz was poured and speeches were made. We both cried (as usual) because 2015 has been as memorable as 2012. In some ways I could write a similar status. That seems so strange. Shouldn’t the year we had our baby be all fireworks and celebration? Well, the evidence would suggest not. I picked up our 2015 calendar and said to Elis that we should keep it, treasure it, put it in the baby’s memory box (if I ever get round to getting one). I opened it up and January to April was filled with notes, dates, memories. But May to August was completely empty. Each box was perfectly bare. Blank pages.

Those blank pages are so misleading. You could look at them and interpret them in different ways. The days weren’t empty but neither were they filled. Like 2012, the memories are clear. Our baby was born in May. We moved house in June. Elis was ordained in June. We went to Edinburgh for a beautiful wedding in July. I sat in a bus stop on the road up to Edinburgh castle and cried because I couldn’t walk without hurting. We spent a week with 50+ teenagers in July. I spent most of the week apologising for being there. Feeling useless. We celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary whilst in York in August. We decided to start marriage counselling so we could stay married another 10 years. And I think I began to feel less pain when I walked in August too. We were in a fog, on auto pilot but without reading the manual. The days were hard. So much harder than I could’ve imagined. Then in September, we began making plans again. Writing them down. Planning ahead. Coming out of the fog.

So what have I learnt? No year is perfect and I am not prepared to pretend it is or was. 2012 and 2015 are incredibly special years to me. I survived them both. They go hand in hand. 2012 wasn’t all bad. 2015 wasn’t all good. The beauty of them both was that joy and sadness sat alongside one another. An ebb and flow of life. The blank pages of my calendar are a reminder to me that life is very far from simple. That the complexity and nuances of life can startle us. Now, hindsight is a lovely thing and I am pretty sure I might’ve punched someone in the face had they told me in 2012 that I was going to look back on that year and treasure it. Thank goodness no-one did say that. But I do treasure it. Not because I get a kick out of heartache but because my memories, woven together with tears and joy are carved into my heart.

So I’m raising a glass to those blank pages in my calendar. To the days of struggle and survival. The days of laughter and lightness. They’ve shaped me and continue to shape me.

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8