2016 is coming to a close and for many it has been a year characterised by unexpected and untimely deaths (along with some pretty big political shifts).
I have experienced this in my personal life too – my nan, whom I lived with for a couple of years, passed away on 1st December. While it probably can’t be considered unexpected, it did come sooner than any of us had anticipated.
I had been down to visit her in Wales prior to her death and was able to see what is truly important to someone when they know they are dying. The first thing I noticed was how the stuff she had accumulated was causing her stress. Everything needed to be processed. Even those sentimental items, too meaningful for the charity shop, needed rehoming.
Her final pleasures came mostly from reminiscing. She would recall the many special moments in her life and the experiences that touched her and those around her.
Her memories were the only assets that seemed to matter – and there was a sense of; if only we could have one more family party, one more laugh, one more…
…and now she’s gone, I feel the same.
There’s no regret, just a newly discovered understanding of life in the context of death. There is a finite amount of time. It’s very real to me now.
I came away from that final visit with clarity. I arrived home and began calmly and methodically clearing every room of the things I don’t need. Each item assessed individually for its real value.
Simultaneously I started shifting my focus from how to make money, to how to make memories.
My plan was to complete this process by New Years Eve so I could start 2017 afresh.
When the news came that my nan had had a stroke, her life expectancy cut from three months to three days, I flew to Wales to be at her bedside.
I’m now back at home, trying to get back into the swing of life, but also enjoying not being in my usual routine. It’s a chance to think, to consider, to reassess. To see what can be improved upon, with fresh eyes. It’s the same feeling I get when I’ve returned from a holiday, but there’s something deeper there, a knowing that my outlook on life has changed a little bit, forever.
No matter how painful these life events, there are lessons to be learned, signs to be followed, and changes to be made.
So this year, I’m planning my New Year from this new position. It’s been a long time since I set myself resolutions, I prefer to think about the New Year in terms of themes or new focuses. This year, five clear principles came to mind immediately, and these will be what 2017 is about for me.
Simplicity of mind – there is no value in overthinking and over analysing. It only keeps you from being in the moment. I was a terrible over thinker, but at the end of 2015 I discovered how to switch it off, and it’s been life changing. In 2017 I want to continue having a quiet mind so I can see and feel the things that really matter without all the noise.
Simplicity of stuff – that clearing I began, well it won’t be finished by New Years Eve, and there really is no rush. I intend to use as much of 2017 as I need to get to a point where everything I own is something I need, or something I really love. Everything else will go.
I have been on a long journey with stress. When I was diagnosed with crohn’s 14 years ago, it quickly became apparent to me how much stress was a factor.
What I’ve learned recently is that stress is not a thing. It does not exist.
Stress or stressful feelings are a creation of our mind. We create stress or bring about stressful feelings as a means of coping with everyday life.
I have found that with some practise, I don’t need to create stress to deal with everyday life. I can just deal with whatever comes up from a place of calm.
For me it’s a case of mastering my mind and body, so that it reacts to challenging situations in the way I want it to.
In 2017, I want to practise this some more and hopefully come to perfect it as a new normal for me.
Everyone needs to believe something, even if that something is nothing – nothing is still a belief in itself. Whether it be an organised religion, or spirituality, or atheism – I think there comes a time when you start to explore life beyond your own immediate work, family etc.
I seemed to hit that stage in 2016. In 2017, I want to explore some more…
I’ve always been pretty good at following my purpose and not being side tracked into the latest shiny thing, or what others want me to do.
I have some new ideas I want to explore in 2017.
I also want to focus on purposeful spending.
And finally the big one, I want everything I do in 2017 to be contributing to my bank of memories. I’ve seen what the end looks like and what matters, and I want to make sure when I’m there, I have plenty to reminisce over with my own family and friends.
Here’s to 2017 and everything it has in store for us.