It is the last day of 2016. A memorable year for many reasons.
On the international stage it seems the year has been full of alarming events (Brexit, Trump’s election, heightening of the Syrian refugee crisis, Standing Rock, truck attacks in Nice and Berlin, the rise of right wing party popularity across Europe etc.). In New Zealand our prime minister standing down mid term was also rather surprising.
On a more personal level, I have had THE most amazing year one could really wish for… memorable for all the right reasons. I feel extremely grateful for the incredible places I’ve been, the lovely new people I’ve met, good friends I’ve caught up with again and for the wonderful husband and travel companion I have in Antony. Aside from the current issue of itchy flea bites, life could just about not get better! I feel very satisfied, happy and fulfilled and look forward to what 2017 has to offer.
That said, at times I feel almost guilty for having such a sweet life and wonder when the tide will turn. This year has been a tough one for some of my friends, with marriage break-ups, illness, financial strains, miscarriages and loss of loved ones. I am grateful that our marriage is easy and cruising along nicely, our health is good, the mortgage has been paid off and my family are alive and doing well. I’ve thought often of those who have not had it so easy this year… and many times have wished I was near them to offer some kind of support.
One friend in the States, actually an old friend who I don’t have so much contact with these days, lost his mother in the middle of the year. He was incredibly close to her, no-one I know has such a close relationship with a parent as he did with her, so needless to say he was completely broken by this. He’s very open about the shadow of grief that has clouded his life since. His mum was just 64 and an absolute sweetheart. I won’t forget my stay with them way back in 1999, her openness and kindness really made an impression on me. Can’t quite believe that such a wonderful person has been taken from those who loved her far too soon.
A few days before Christmas a friend of ours also in the States lost her husband suddenly, he was just 50. Her world has been turned upside down and we can’t imagine the challenges that now present themselves for her.
Then two days after Christmas a friend of ours from home was biking the Otago Rail Trail, had a heart attack and died suddenly, aged 58. He was the loveliest bloke- always smiling and so incredibly kind. His wonderful wife will be absolutely devastated. They are a couple we really respect and look up to; they loved to travel and dance together – we will miss him as will so many others.
Death is of course part of life but when it hits, especially decades too early, it is so shocking and unreal. So final. News of these deaths this Christmas provides a bit of perspective on things and makes me determined to really live life to the full … you never know what tomorrow will bring. I want to love well, live well, squeeze the essence out of each day, do what good I can with the time I have and be grateful.
I reckon this new year whether you feel like the one in the W.H. Auden poem wanting to banish the stars from the sky or feel pretty on top of the world, I say embrace it. Embrace the grief, the joy, the adventure, the mundane… love, loss, the dark night of the soul, wherever you are at. Embrace life… and all that it is. When life is awesome, love it and be grateful and when it hurts, when it’s raw, keep it real and be kind to yourself.
To whoever ends up reading this… I hope you have good people to share this life with, whatever it may hold this coming year. I am grateful I do.
Bring on 2017.