In honour of #HurrahForGin’s classic cartoon (and if you don’t want to marry her, what is WRONG with you?!) I’m dubbing the time between Christmas and New Year’s, “Cheese Week”.
I mean, I’m perpetually confused; I only know what day of the week it is in term and even that’s hardly reliable. And it’s probably fair to say I’m usually more full of cheese than I should be.
But during Cheese Week? Phew.
The house is trashed, full of boxes and packaging and proudly-displayed new Lego builds; we’ve been out too much for me to have time to tidy any of it up and where will the new stuff even go? Everyone’s sleep has gone to shit in various ways. And nobody knows what we’re doing at any given time but it always seems to involve crisps, friends we haven’t seen for ages, and board games, so everyone’s constantly either over-excited, over-tired, bored, elated, hungry, disappointed, or all of them at once.
It’s hard to imagine a worse time to try and get one’s shit together.
And yet, you can’t help it, can you?
I mean, it’s a New Year, and all that crap.
Even I cannot resist. Sure, resolutions are just setting yourself up for failure, and yes, I still come over all snarky around motivational words.
Nevertheless, I’ve spent large chunks of the week unravelling our finances in the hopes of finally figuring out where the reins are and grasping them. In between I was reading “writer’s life” type articles, pondering writing and financial goals. With nothing in the calendar and hubby home to keep on top of the laundry, I determined that *this* year, dammit, I would DEFINITELY start with A Plan.
Needless to say, that didn’t work out.
Instead, a beloved pet became very ill and I spent three solid days finding help, supporting the kids, and then dealing with all the grief once she’d passed away. I forgot we had the pest control guy booked and dear friends we rarely see found an unexpected opening in their diary. The week cost us damn near a thousand bucks.
So we’ve arrived in 2021 our usual way: tired, papers all over the table, my screen open to my novel, dirty dishes in the sink, and I can’t find my glasses.
And yet, I’m okay with that – it’s just life, after all. Of course nothing changes on New Year’s Day.
The trick, as Neil Gaiman put it so beautifully, is to just keep walking towards your mountain.
Gaiman’s genius – unlike SMART goals, five-year plans or any of that protestant-capitalist bullshit – is acknowledging that we don’t have control. Because the universe unfolds according to its own, profoundly unknowable plan, we cannot see the whole road ahead. Bulldozing one will likely end up in the Fire Swamp.
Ditching a set route lets you respond to opportunities as they arise, rather than fighting to stick to the path, despite them.
Ditching the time limit allows you to slow down for fellow travellers, or because it’s dark. It allows you to stop and smell the flowers. It acknowledges that despite the best-laid plans, sometimes the Fire Swamp opens up right there under your feet.
By keeping the mountain centred in your field of vision, you can still find your way.
We may have left 2020 behind, but we are still in the Fire Swamp, and the R.O.U.Ses are still in charge. All we can ask of ourselves is to keep fit – eat salad, exercise, ablute, sleep – and keep walking.
Anything else is a bonus. Be grateful.