This year, just before Christmas, with nothing wrapped and some things still unmade, I did something I'd never normally do at such a time: I bought myself a present. It seems a little selfish when it's a season dedicated to thinking of others, but there are some moments which call out to be marked and this was one of them.
Around this time last year, as we left 2013 behind and stepped cautiously into a fresh annum, I posted Neil Gaiman's New Year Wish. It was perfect, and summed up many of my hopes for my friends and family. I knew my year was going to be tumultuous to say the least, but adored this little wish and dared to claim its sentiments for myself, and for you.
The post was from his blog, here.
"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."
"I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think
there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind."
"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't
good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever."
As I have already detailed in previous posts, one of Gaiman's books had become particularly important to me during difficult times that year, so it seemed very fitting that I welcome the next with words of his instead of any other. Of course, I then forgot about them almost immediately as living took over from dreaming and was quite unrelenting in its dominance.
That's not to say that 2014 was, for me, a bad one, just that it required an awful lot more determination than usual to think of it as good. It has been a year of extremes, and all that brings with it. Each moment of pain was matched with laughter, and for everything that came to an end something new began to grow and change. I had to learn to accept help and embrace the vulnerability that had made itself so unavoidable and left me unmasked and unsure.
And yet, in doing so I rediscovered my strength, and reconnected with who I am and how I became what I think of as my self. I spent much of this year not feeling - or indeed looking - much like myself at all because of side affects from the medical treatment, but in many ways am more connected with my body than I have ever been before. As the fresh scars heal and I feel myself begin to re-emerge from the pudgier, pastier form in which I felt trapped for so long, I am much more aware of how I feel and how I move. I appreciate the battles - some won, others lost - which it has held fast throughout, and have a much deeper understanding of the ones yet to come. We are no longer enemies, my broken body and I. We are allies, brothers (or sisters) in arms, in a war that has ravaged us both.
As I wished you all a happy and healthy new year, I knew not to hope for the same things myself. Disappointment is not easily conquered, and I did not anticipate having the necessary time or energy to sulk properly.
Then, one perfectly ordinary day, I spotted this on Facebook. The website Neverwear had collaborated with artist David Mack to produce a series of prints, bringing Neil's New Year's Wish to life. Re-reading and remembering it for the first time in nearly twelve months brought to my attention a quite magical and unexpected thing.
Despite all the twists and turns and darker days I, too, had managed all of the things on the lists of hopes and dreams I had for you. Many of them were only accomplished with the help of the people around me, and others I'd had to find it in myself to create or pursue.
At that moment, as the warm thrill of the realisation fluttered in my head and my heart, I cemented the final wish. I had, indeed, surprised myself.
Several of the people dearest to me in the world already know their coming year will be a complicated one, and aren't sure how to greet so much uncertainty, or how they will begin to untangle it without unravelling themselves. Much as I would like to, I can't shield then from the tumult that awaits, but I can pledge to face it with them, and I do, so very faithfully.
For you, as for them, I hope that 2015 brings each and every one of you the love and support I have been so fortunate to surround myself with when I needed it most.
And I hope that you, too, manage to surprise yourself, by being kinder, stronger, happier, and braver than you believe you can be. Let's do it together.