In my head, my year begins with spring. I always feel surprised when I notice friends suddenly talking
about the end of one year and the start of another as the end of December nears.
It makes me feel rushed. “But wait!” someone inside my head remarks. “I’m not done yet! There’s still more to come!”
Spring is where everything starts for me. I organize my years from spring to spring. Springtime is when I try to go on an adventure because it’s usually the best time of the year for that sort of thing. Spring comes, I go on a wonderful adventure, come home, wind down, have a fabulous summer with my children, start wondering what I should do next year, and then I start training for it through the winter months until springtime and my next great adventure arrives.
Right now I’m smack in the middle of my winter training regime. In the spring of 2014 I went on a properly grand adventure. I cycled for two months across Europe almost completely on my own. It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my whole life. It would be great if I had the money and the time to be able to commit to that sort of an adventure every year. But I don’t. So my current big plan for the spring of 2015 is to try to run a marathon. I have a one-day adventure planned that is taking me months of training to get to. I have no idea if I’ll manage to make it. I’ve been struggling tremendously with the running. I get aches and pains and minor injuries. I easily “hit the wall” on longer and faster runs. And I don’t have a visa for the country I’ve signed up to run the marathon in. I still need to go through the long application process. No matter what happens, my one-day adventure is keeping me excited about having something to do over the winter and something to look forward to in spring. My husband and I might also manage to squeeze in a couple of other adventures between now and next summer as well. We’ve got a couple of great ideas and plans up our sleeves that I’m sure I’ll blubber on about when the time comes.
I wonder if it’s good for people to arrive at the bleakest time of the year, in the depth of winter, and to take a look back on the previous year. So many of my friends are going on about how awful 2014 was for them. Was it really awful, or is it the time of year that makes us think of it as awful?
I suppose we all go through our hard times and our better times. On a personal level, there is one big thing going terribly wrong in my life right now that I never write about in public. On the other hand, there are so many good things that have been happening and continue to happen to me and to my family.
I feel most blessed that I am gradually finding a way to feel content with what life brings. I’ve always known that I cannot always have life the way I want it to be. But knowing that and feeling content with it are two things that haven’t always come hand in hand for me. Then something happened to me on that cycling trip. It got me to realize what was really important to me, and that is my family. As long as they are well and healthy, that’s all I really need. It also made me realize that I have an inner strength that can bring me through the really rough patches in life. And that to feel happy I don’t need to go on frequent grand adventures, although that would be an awesome way to live life. I can’t live my life that way. I can’t afford that lifestyle. But I can certainly keep doing what I’m doing: working as hard as I can to save up for another grand adventure sometime in the future. In the meantime, I have my family time to enjoy and my much smaller but just as exciting adventures to look forward to.
I’m certain that being able to stand a few steps away from what is happening in Egypt has helped me develop a more positive outlook on life. With hindsight, I can now see that I’ve gone through some really bad post-traumatic stress disorder since the 2011 revolution. The revolution threw my personal life, my career, and my country into complete disarray. I can see that I am still going through a healing process. But I can also see that I am able to heal because of the physical distance I’ve managed to place between me and my country. There are too many people in Egypt who have not been able to do that. Life is truly not easy for the majority of my family and friends as a result. Perhaps they are right to think of 2014 as an awful year. They would be right to think of many years as bad years.
I often wonder if people who live in Western democracies realize just how fortunate they really are. Everyone has worries. No one gets through life without passing through real difficulties and hardships. And no country is heaven. But I have experienced a certain kind of peace-of-mind recently that I can’t remember feeling before. I think the healthcare system in the UK is horrible. Yet I know that if there’s an emergency, I’ll find a hospital to go to and I won’t need to worry about the costs. Horrible crimes happen in the UK everyday, yet I know that I can quickly and easily get hold of the police if I need to and that the likelihood is that they will get to the scene in a reasonable amount of time to try to provide real help. I know that Brits complain a lot about their governments, but I also see that there are means for Brits to create real change should they see the need. No one’s life is easy. But provide certain conditions for a people and watch the country prosper. I wonder when Egypt and its people will prosper.
This year I spent a significant amount of time talking to people, most of whom I do not know. That is the wonder of social media. I post a status with a lesson I learned through my own life experiences – call it a small personal wisdom – and I find messages in my Facebook inbox, mostly from young Arab women, telling me about some of the issues they face in their personal lives and careers. I’ve mostly been struck how most people just need someone to talk to without feeling judged. Why is that so hard to come by? I don’t know how much or if I’ve managed to help anyone. But I do know that I’ve been so inspired by people’s stories. And I have learned that I love listening. People coming to me and revealing part of who they are through their stories has been one of life’s greatest gifts to me.
For me, 2014 is just a number. So is my age: 46. They both hardly mean anything to me. I’m enjoying cozy, long, dark nights with my husband in very cold Britain. And I have spring and its adventures in my head to keep things bright. My life is far from perfect. But I manage to savor the moments when it feels like it is. And those keep me going. Today I rode on a bus into downtown Edinburgh, Scotland, where I’m spending a few days and I managed to find a seat in the front on the upper deck. I was very excited. My husband laughed at me. “It’s the little things, Colin,” I smiled back with child-like happiness in my heart. “The little things are all that we need.”
May your years be full of big spring plans, trusting people, and an abundance of little things.
Happy every year, everybody!