They say that an optimist waits up for the clock to strike to welcome in the New Year, while a pessimist waits up to make sure the year before has been well and truly left behind.
In January 2014, I wanted this year to be over already. I wished it away from the very moment it arrived. And that was new for me. I’ve always been that optimist, passing out party poppers, grinning a wide grin fuelled by too much fizzy stuff and excitement.
But in the early hours of 2014, I lay awake in my bed. My little boy slept soundly next door. And I was terrified to go to sleep, and wake up to my new life. The festive period had kept me safe in an embrace made of fairy lights, messages of goodwill and comfort foods. But the first day of January always arrives and brings high sunshine and crisp air. And you have to wake up from hibernation and start real life again. Which is even harder when you don’t quite know what real life is anymore.
But then it didn’t take me long to realise that I was alive. And that, as hard as I found things, I was actually incredibly blessed.
I’ll be frank – this year, I have worried about many, many things.
I worried about what separation would do to my son. Whether I was a bad mother. I realised how wrong people can be towards single parents. I accepted a torrent of opinion. And, yes, some people haven’t been all that kind to me. I worried about bills, I worried about my job, I worried about starting a new relationship, getting my heart broken.
I am still feeling heartbreak, and there’s really no other word for it, at saying goodbye to William every week.
If you’re a parent you will identify. And if you are not, when and if you become one, the realisation of this fact will smack you so hard it leaves you breathless.
I hate being without him.
And, for the past month, I have mainly worried about my mum.
This morning I got up early and sat a little boy on my knee, to take in every moment before he went to bring in the New Year with his father. And he ate his toast and clementine breakfast, and he chatted away to me. And I buried my face into his hair. And I squeezed him tight.
And we filmed two videos. One to wish his Po (my wonderful dad) a very happy birthday. And one to wish Granny good luck.
Because today, after what felt like an eternity of waiting, we found out that the lump she had found was benign.
It wasn’t cancer.
I didn’t have to prepare for seeing her sick. I didn’t have to try and accept a life without her. Or see two high-school sweethearts risk losing one another.
About an hour ago, I received that message and my knees buckled and I remember saying: “Oh thank God.” And then tears.
Mark held me close. And I cried and cried.
And as I did, breathing in the smell of his aftershave and our laundry powder on that hoody he always likes to wear, I felt relief begin to fall down on me. Big fat raindrops.
And I realised this.
Every year is a gift. Whether the bad days outweigh the good. Whether people hurt you. Whether you win. Or you lose. Whether life isn’t fair. Or you just feel like giving up.
I try my best to find happiness wherever I can. I think, sometimes, it can make me seem as though I don’t have a worry in the world. And that, perhaps, I always land on my feet. Or that I am not aware of the wider problems in the world. And that maybe I’m naive or I haven’t quite grown-up properly.
And I don’t believe much in many things.
I won’t pledge allegiance to a political party.
I don’t go to church every day.
I don’t think people are wrong, because they don’t agree with me. Unless they believe that being a bully (or something as equally as ridiculous) is okay, in which case I will think very hard about my response before I serve it to them on a platter, along with an imaginary punch in the face.
But I do believe in being a good person.
And that actually doesn’t make me naive.
We’re all here in pursuit of one thing – and that’s to be happy. Whatever makes us happy is completely personal.
For me, ultimately, even though a new makeup purchase admittedly gives me a giddy thrill, it’s love.
It’s my son.
It’s my best friend who I got to fall in love with.
It’s my mother. My father. My whole family.
When I was worrying about my mum earlier this month, I shared a theory of mine with Mark.
Maya Angelou once said:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And as ‘naive’ as it may be, I hoped that I had gone through and done enough this year to protect her. I hoped I had been a good enough person to save up enough luck to pass on to her.
“I don’t think it works like that babe.”
And I know it doesn’t. But it’s a pretty good way to live. And, while kindness doesn’t cure cancer, along with many other things, it doesn’t mean it has no worth. I know that this year I have made people smile. And that’s probably the best you can do in a world where you can’t control everything from the future, to which way the wind blows.
And, yes, we all know, deep down, that midnight doesn’t transform us reverse-Cinderella style. Where our pumpkins change to coaches, taking us on magical journeys ahead. It’s actually just like any other day.
But what a gift to have?
In a life that is too short.
365 days to make someone smile.
A whole year ahead of you.
Make the most of it.