Reflections on 2018: A Year of Reading, Writing and Other Stuff

 

My previous two posts have been about the books I’ve read and enjoyed this year and about my own writing. And, in this my final post of the year, I thought I’d take a quick look back at how this writer’s life has been in general.

On a personal level, for me, 2018 – as it will have been for everyone – was a mix of ups and downs. And, out in the big wide world there has certainly been plenty to rant about. But I want to concentrate here on the smaller stuff and on the good stuff.

Here in the house, the 18 months of renovations finished earlier this month. Hurrah! It’s been stressful but worth it and our ‘new’ house at long last feels like ours. We have carpets! We have pictures on the walls! We have a home!

There have been parties to go to, music concerts and theatre trips enjoyed. There’s been quality time with family and friends – not least of which was the trip from our home in Scotland to Australia taken by me and the husband to visit our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. We had such a wonderful time and have so many precious memories. It was very hard to leave, but I’m already saving up for my next trip.

I also particularly enjoyed my visits to the Borders Book festival and to that other one held in the big city – the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

2018 was also an important anniversary for me. It is now 20 years since I had cancer – 20 years that I realise I’m fortunate to have experienced – and for which I’m very grateful.

I’m also very grateful to be able to spend so much of my time doing something I love. I don’t know what I’d do without my writing. I certainly can’t see myself retiring any time soon. It was wonderful to have Settlement – my new book – published in September, wonderful too to have it so well received by my readers. And I must also express my gratitude to my editorial team, to all the book bloggers and reviewers who took the time and trouble to comment, and most of all my loyal readers.

Next year I plan to do lots more enjoyable things, to read lots more books, and just to treasure still being here. And of course there will be lots more writing…

And so it only remains for me to say thank you to everyone who has followed, read and or commented on my posts during 2018. I wish you all a very Happy New Year when it comes.

As always, do feel free to comment below on how 2018 was for you and what you hope for in 2019.

Resolved and Resolute

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No new year resolutions, but three inspiring initiatives to share…

First of all I’d like to wish all the readers of the blog a Happy New Year and to thank you all for your loyalty, interest, likes and comments.

This year I haven’t made any traditional resolutions as such – no promises to myself to get slimmer, fitter or wiser. Although if any of these come to pass I’ll be delighted.

However, there are three New Year related initiatives that have caught my attention and they’re all ways of bringing a little joy into our own and other people’s lives – something much needed after the battering of 2016. So let’s hear it for the power of positivity and individual action in 2017…

#ScotSpirit of Kindness

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Firstly, I’m quite taken by the idea of 21 days of kindness being proposed by Visit Scotland.

The idea of the 21 days came from the fact that on the 25th January Scots, and indeed many non-Scots, celebrate the birth of Scotland’s national poet and bard, Robert Burns and in 1788 Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne, a song still sung nowadays, often as part of the New Year celebrations and other celebratory occasions. The song praises the value of friendship, and one of the lines in the song is we’ll tak a cup of kindness yet- a lyric which expresses a promise to be kind.

Visit Scotland is suggesting that on each day from the 5th of January until Burns night on the 25h people commit to doing one random act of kindness per day and sharing it with the hashtag, #ScotSpirit. Suggestions include complimenting a stranger, feeding the birds in your garden or paying for the coffee or bus fare of the person behind you in the queue. Apparently it takes 21 days to change a habit or form a new one, so the hope is the kindness will persist after the challenge itself is over.

Happiness Jar

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The second suggestion that I like the sound of is the setting up of a Happiness Jar. Again it could be a good way of defusing stress. The idea here is to write down one thing each day that has made you happy and to put the note in a jar. So you not only take a moment to focus on the positive every day, but you can also recall all these moments at the end of the year when you re-read them.

Reflective Reading Challenge

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And the third suggestion is the 2017 Reading Challenge. There are a few of these challenges around, but I particularly liked the sound of this one as it’s ‘only’ 26 books and doesn’t necessarily require a commitment to read more. It’s more about reflecting on one book per fortnight over the 52 weeks of the year and then to ‘inspire your world’ with your reflections. The full list of suggested categories is below and it comes from Hannah Braime at hannahbraime.com So I hope to inspire you as members of my blogging world with my own reflective recollections.

The 26-book 2017 reading challenge

  • A book you read in school
  • A book from your childhood
  • A book published over 100 years ago
  • A book published in the last year
  • A non-fiction book
  • A book written by a male author
  • A book written by a female author
  • A book by someone who isn’t a writer (think Paul Kalathani or Richard Branson)
  • A book that became/is becoming a film
  • A book published in the 20th Century
  • A book set in your hometown/region
  • A book with someone’s name in the title
  • A book with a number in the title
  • A book with a character with your first name
  • A book someone else recommended to you
  • A book with over 500 pages
  • A book you can finish in a day
  • A previously banned book
  • A book with a one-word title
  • A book translated from another language
  • A book that will improve a specific area of your life
  • A memoir or journal
  • A book written by someone younger than you
  • A book set somewhere you’ll be visiting this year
  • An award-winning book
  • A self-published book

 

Have you made any resolutions for 2017 – perhaps reading, writing or reflecting related? Have you considered any of the above initiatives? Do share in the comments below.

Now I am Sixty

Happy birthday

Ageing is a privilege and having just had my sixtieth birthday has reinforced that fact for me

In Now We Are Six, the collection of poems for children by A. A. Milne the little boy, Christopher Robin, says:

‘But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever. So I think I’ll be six now forever and ever!’

And I think as I have just turned sixty, I’d say something similar.

I’m not sure that at sixty I’m as clever as clever, but I think wanting to be the age I’m at now at forever and ever is a sign of acceptance and contentment.

Yes, being sixty can seem old, though less so to those approaching or beyond this landmark birthday, than to those not yet twenty, thirty, forty or even fifty.

But I don’t have a problem with turning sixty––for one thing it sure beats the alternative. Having survived cancer in my forties, having my sixtieth birthday was definitely something to celebrate.

To me it’s not the new 40 or 50. It is 60––and there’s nothing wrong with that, nothing to be ashamed of, it doesn’t need to be dressed up as something else.

I don’t want to be 40 or 50 again––been there, done that.

 

My lovely 60th birthday cake complete with photos from significant life stages, my book covers, my parents and round the other side my children and grandchildren. Thanks to Mr Anne and to cakemaker, Nicola.
My lovely 60th birthday cake complete with photos from significant life stages, including childhood with my four wee sisters, my graduation,  my wedding, my book covers, my parents and round the other side my children and grandchildren. Thanks to Mr Anne for commissioning and to local cake-maker, Nicola for baking and decorating.

 

For one thing, at 60, there’s retirement, I took it early after a thirty-six year career in primary school teaching, so I’m now two years in––and I can find nothing not to like about it. I miss the children, but not the endless politicking and paperwork. And I’m still working as a writer but, finally, I’m the boss of me.

And there’s my bus pass which allows me to travel anywhere in Scotland by bus free of charge––I was so excited to get that. Receiving it was the true mark of my long held ambition to officially be an old bag.

­But mainly, there is now time – time to do what matters to me – to write more books – both for children and adults – where the ages of the characters are no barrier to having adventures, hopes and dreams – to spend time with the people I love, to take care of myself – and to just stand and stare.

It’s not an end but a beginning – as with any day, it’s the beginning of the rest of my life. I’m not much wiser or less prone to worry and anxiety than I was before. But reaching sixty has helped clarify what’s important. Our numbered days are not endless and there really is no time but the present. A new day is a present––a gift not to be taken for granted at any age.

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Yes, I have to face up to the implications of approaching old age whenever and whatever that may be. I’m sure I’ll recognise it when, and if, it comes. But every age has its challenges and requirements to plan ahead. Sixty is no different.

And apart from when I look in the mirror, I really feel no different. Of course I’ve aged physically, but my six-year-old, sixteen-year-old, twenty-six and thirty-six-year-old selves along with their forty and fifty-year-old counterparts are all still there inside, all part of the me I am today. I’m happy with that.

And what advice would I give my 16 year-old self?

  • Follow your dreams.
  • Do what you love.
  • Seek new experiences.
  • Have no regrets.
  • Be kind to yourself and everyone you meet.
  • Do your small bit to make the world a better place.

And remember these 3 things

  • You will be strong enough,
  • You will be brave enough
  • You will be good enough.

 

Here’s to getting older. How do you feel about big birthdays and about getting older?