Writing posts at the end of the year, after precious days of close family moments, feels a bit like filling a time capsule with the last special things you want to remember before closing the cap. I do a lot of where-have-we-been-where-are-we-going this time of year, within the post-Christmas calm, within the slowing down, within the lapping up of the most important things in life — those I love, all together. It’s an overly sentimental default of mine, this calling for deep reflection, but it serves as a tool not only for deeper gratitude, but for the simple act of awareness. Of paying attention. Of noticing.
Now that Christmas music has been properly disposed of (R.I.P., dear Bing–we’ll reunite next year), my thoughts turn to the year we’ve shared and the growth I’ve experienced. I remember where and who I was at this exact time last year, and usually, I’m surprised at how much has changed even when I haven’t noticed it along the way. It’s like osmosis. It just happens.
2013 was the very last year of my twenties. I will be thirty next April, and in many ways, 2013 was a defining year for myself as a mother and for myself as a human. It was important for me, this year, but they all are really–even the busted-up years, the ones we don’t want to remember.
I’ll always, of course, remember this year.
The year I flung my arms around Joel’s neck when we found ourselves staring at a positive pregnancy test.
The year we finally packed up our house and moved to the place we always said we would. The year we found the neighbourhood we always dreamed of and the environment we wanted our children to grow up in.
The year I finally felt immersed in the joy and momentum of motherhood.
The year I can honestly say has been the happiest of my life.
No big spiritual breakthroughs occurred, no extraordinary flashes of light were cast, no fortunes were won. I will remember this year simply as the year I realized that in order to live fully inside my life — to find greater happiness — was to notice the small things. To document them. To celebrate them. To get to know the tiny things I love and bring more of them into my life. And it was as simple as having candles burning in our home regularly. As simple as putting on cute red shoes because they made me feel happy. As simple as saying “I love you” just one more time, of holding my daughter that extra little while before putting her to bed each night. It was less about doing things, and more about being aware.
I have stock-piled my little mental go-to list of Small Happies, and while I have drawn on many of these things when I’m having a bad day and need some fresh inspiration, I think it’s also useful for me to write them down — to make them physical — so I can return to them as I need.
So here goes — fifteen little things which have mattered this year. Little things that, when added up, have created richer days and more enjoyment and satisfaction in my life. The little things I now look for or create so my life can become more beautiful.
- Cupping my daughter’s face with my two hands and kissing her between her eyes.
- Night time walks spent looking at the stars.
- Twirling. Music optional but highly recommended.
- Walking outside in bare feet.
- Collecting leaves and rocks and flowers.
- Chalk drawings on the pavement. Rainbows, especially.
- Candles, candles, candles.
- Nighttime stories under fairy lights.
- Lying on grass and looking at the sky.
- Watching my daughter sleep.
- Touching trees.
- Painted toenails.
- Putting flowers in our hair.
- Neighbourhood sunset walks.
- Music, music, music.
Of course, there have been bigger, more monumental experiences we’ve savoured this year. Things which have shaped our lives for the better. Things which have made our lives richer, bigger, happier. And I’ve stored them away in the pockets of my memory, ready to be called upon whenever my days are not as shiny.
The trips away. The adventures had. The ‘firsts’ we’ve shared. Her first plane ride. Her first time at the zoo. The places we’ve seen for the first time, together, as a family.
Lord have mercy, the birthday I will never forget. My 29 Good Deeds Birthday — a holy, holy, happy, so very happy day. I spent the day doing 29 small random-acts-of-kindness things with my soul sister Renae and oh goodness me, the memories. The first time I really saw how true it is that the giver is the actually the receiver. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face for days.
That blessed month our boy was conceived.
The jumping out of the bath tub, the running to the late night pharmacy for another pregnancy test to double-check, the two pink lines, the tears in my eyes. I will never forget that day. And the sheer euphoria I’ve had in feeling him grow and preparing for his arrival. I’ve loved being pregnant this time around. Maybe because it might be my last time. Maybe because I know now what is waiting for us at the end.
As much as this month was up there in my Worst Times Ever file, due to horrific morning sickness and the packing of a million boxes, July was the month we finally moved our little family to the bay. To our new home. One nestled within a neighbourhood community I always dreamed of. We pass kids and toys and beers over our back fence to and from our neighbours every day. We have street parties. We say hi to everyone who passes by our house when we’re out the front drawing on the pavement. We walk down to the beach nearly every day. We listen to live music stream through our window from the cafe two doors up. We buy seafood straight from the trawlers near our house, and we smile. Holy freaking hell, we smile.
Coromandel. Oh sweet Coromandel. Ella’s first overseas trip and one of the best two weeks I’ve ever had. New Zealand is a beautiful place, sure, but the friendship we fell into there? The most beautiful. Caitlin and Matt are stored deep within my heart and even though miles of ocean separate us now, I know that the minute we fall into each other’s arms again, we will pick up exactly where we left off.
Which is to say, in the kitchen.
Well who in blazers can forget October this year? Not me, that’s who. Pumpkins and crafts filled our home. We threw our first ever Pumpkin Carving Party. We went trick-or-treating through a neighbourhood so alive with Life and Children and Happy that I about nearly fainted. Ella’s first Halloween. A favourite new annual tradition now added to the growing abundance of my daughter’s childhood memories.
This month just goes without saying, right? Christmas this year was the best Christmas I’ve had. It was the first one that felt alive since I was a child. She gets it. She finds magic in the efforts we go to. She soaks in the joys of wonder and make-believe we create for her. It was, of course, the perfect way in which to celebrate and end a fantastic year.
And since this great ol’ sentimental heart still needs a smidgen more out-pouring, with no further ado…
2013: The Things I Learned This Year
1. I learned that it’s okay to define the kind of mum you are as you go along. And that it might look different to everyone else’s definition.
2. I learned that when a woman is throwing up violently and vowing never to have more children, it is perfectly valid to deem her insane when she insists, after it has all passed, to have more. Call her insane, but go with it, you hear me?
3. I finally learned that life is better when you let go of the idea of what it should be.
4. I learned that my child’s behaviour is her language and that her actions are telling me something about how she is thinking and feeling. I learned that what she needs is not a frustrated adult, but an adult to help her express her feelings more constructively. She does not wake up in the morning intending to plot against me. She wakes up intending to explore her world and her boundaries, and so I’m learning to listen more to what is true about her heart and spirit and personality, rather than solely trying to mould her behaviour into what is convenient for me.
5. I learned that I no longer walk into a room and wonder if people like me. I now wonder if I like them, and it has made all the difference.
6. I have learned (re-learned, re-learned, re-learned) that the secret to a happy marriage is to let several things go unsaid every day.
7. I like to travel. But I like coming home just as much.
8. I learned that it’s never best for me to spend longer than 30 minutes in the kitchen at any given time. I do quick and easy and that’s totally cool by me.
9. I learned about the little things which made me happy and I did more of them.
10. I learned things really do taste better when drunk from glass jars.
And now, here we end, and start again. Excited for new life, new experiences, new challenges and new love. And renewed with fresh energy to suck out all the marrow of life – every last drop.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…To put to rout all that was not life… and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Wishing you a happy new year. Thank you for sharing this little space with us.