Friday, 31 December 2010

Out with the old; in with the new!

31 December 2010. The last day of the year: it's that moment when you're caught between looking back and looking forward. It's been a good year for me, on the whole. My 2010 horoscope told me Pluto would stir things up and make major changes happen and I kind of scoffed at that but for whatever reason, major changes did occur for me. The biggest was finding out I couldn't live without taking synthetic steroids to replace the ones my body's stopped making. (The official diagnosis came in a letter from Hairmyres Hospital yesterday - 'The test confirmed that your adrenal glands have stopped producing the steroid hormones'.) At first, I was a wreck when I tried to come to terms with that but now, after two and a half months, I've accepted it. I'm still a bit afraid of slipping on ice and breaking a bone, since that would bring on shock, then an Addison crisis, then ultimately coma if not treated promptly, but other than that, I'm back to 'normal'. Except that I'm salting crisps and savouring bacon, olives, sundried tomatoes, blue cheese and anything else that'll give me a salt kick, given I've a sodium imbalance in my blood.

Enough of that. Let's say I'll face 2011 with new confidence.

And what of the good things? Looking back, there were lots. In March, my daughter Alison became engaged to Lucas, while he was visiting her in Tokyo. In May, I attended my first Open University graduation ceremony, taking my place in the procession and sitting in my robe with the platform party. Great to see the students being rewarded. They work so hard, packing OU degree studies into the neuks and crannies of their busy everyday lives. One of my former students, Jenny, was among them. She did very well.

In June, Alison came back from her year spent in Japan and it was great to see her again. I saw her briefly before I left to spend the month of July in France on the RLS Fellowship. I've written extensively about that time; it was indeed a one-off, life-affirming experience for me and one I'll not forget.

In August, my wee cat died, only two weeks after I came back from France. That was a sad time because she and I had lived together here for over thirteen years. My daughter Mairi asked me yesterday would I be looking for another cat and I said, 'No.' I'm not ready for cat ownership again. There's a negative and a positive reason for that. One is that cats and other pets tie you down and I've decided I need to be free of restrictions for a while. I'm not ready to give love to a new pet, yet, either.

Two weeks after Willow died, life gave me another good experience: my oldest daughter, Ruth, came home from living in Mexico City and came to stay for a few months with her dad and me, bringing her partner and their new baby. It was so good to have her back to stay for at least some time. She's now moved into her own flat not far away. Technically, becoming a granny to Mhairi fell outside this 2010 review because she was born in October 2009 but being a granny became reality this year because she was here, not on Skype but in three dimensions, filling my, at that time rather gloomy, house with baby noises, most of which involved laughter and singing. And lots of cuddles.

In October, I took ill. I was so glad Ruth was here, then. I don't know how I'd have coped emotionally if she'd still been in Mexico. It felt as if she was given back to me - returned to me, and to Keith, Liane, Mairi and Alison.

Being ill brought so many consolations. I had meaningful conversations and contact with so many people at that time. My family became closer. One week after I took ill, most of us gathered to celebrate Mhairi's first birthday and that was a very special day, in the circumstances. That felt like the year's real end and beginning.

On the writing front, I've had a quiet year, if you discount the month at Grez in France. I gave up my agent and am looking for a new one. It's the same old story. Waiting for responses; waiting for something to happen. Since August, I've hardly written anything. Since October, I've been recuperating emotionally and physically. I've gone from throwing myself into applications for jobs I don't stand a chance of getting - just to make me feel alive - to despair at having to continue to live for yet more years. Amn't I finished yet? Can I not just go, now? One of my daughters told me I haven't done everything yet. I may have raised all my children to adulthood, had some successes with my writing, loved a man and been loved in return for over thirty years and lived to become a granny, but my daughter said, 'You haven't become a granny to my children yet,' so I think I'll try to stay!

So, what will be my projects for next year? In terms of writing, I'm going to have to push myself to create and to promote my work. For Christmas, Keith bought me Dragon voice recognition software, which I'm training to understand my Scottish accent. I'm hoping that will help me combine, very simply, the condition of being a layabout and all the images, thoughts and stories in my head. I'm also hoping to be able to go to visit my daughter Liane, who'll be travelling to France to spend an academic year there, after the summer. And I've taken up knitting for the grandchildren who might be born in the future.

To all who read this: please take care of yourself this coming year and try to fulfill some of your dreams. Or at least take a baby step towards them. Happy New Year!