|Sunset, South Yorkshire (all words and images author's own)|
We don't have to search very hard for reminders of why 2016 has more than its fair share of reasons to be lamented loudly and then forgotten. Nightmare politics and propaganda, media meltdowns, financial uncertainty, deaths of a golden host of celebrity friends we thought we knew like family, unfathomable tragedies, war and hatred we children of the sixties once dreamed the world would be too wise and too compassionate for by now.
Sometimes just checking in on social media, letting our eyes scan a newspaper or fix on current affairs on the screen, can trigger a tailspin into hopelessness, cynicism, bitterness, shrugged shoulders, hardened hearts.
|Coral and apricot skies|
Today I decided. Time to focus on things I might have missed if I hadn't lived through this rollercoaster year. Time to allow myself to be thankful. Thankfulness washes world-weary shredded nerves like a gentle spa of healing for the heart.
Thankfulness doesn't mean you're suddenly Pollyanna. Gratitude doesn't cocoon you from empathy with those suffering or excuse you from giving a damn. But it can help you find your footing on the slimiest slope. It can remind you of the motive that coaxes you to get up for another day.
|Spot the pigeon|
Here are my treasures gleaned and gathered from 2016:
-taking the plunge of going gluten-free, dairy-free, nightshade-free to try and give my body with its tortured neuroimmune system a chance to heal itself. Gradually glimpsing a life beyond the constant fog of exhaustion, pain and sickness. Doesn't mean I'm miraculously cured of a lifelong knot of autoimmune illnesses, but it seems to have allowed me the blessing, at long last, of better days. I've even had to reduce my blood pressure pills down to the very minimum and my insulin cartridge lasts me a week! A couple of dried dates can bring me back from a low blood sugars now instead of 30 years of severe hypos rescued by jelly babies and lucozade! Result!
-discovering water Kefir grains, brewing homemade probiotic ginger beer and soda and enjoying what a positive effect it seems to have on my digestion. Plus I'm so attached I think of my little jellified chums as pets now, giving back so much more than they get from a shot of sugar and mineral water! Still going strong after six months, they're currently having a little rest and recuperation in my fridge over the holidays! They so deserve it!
|Water kefir in spring water|
-being well enough for my first longed-for holiday, five days in June in fabulous Flamborough to restore my soul and get inspired for my novel which is set along that stunning coast.
|North Landing, Flamborough, East Yorkshire|
-reconnecting with my bestie from schooldays after she resettled in the UK after decades living abroad. Our weekly Skype adventures, texting, laughter and far-ranging heart-to-hearts till the early hours are a joy to my spirit. The years fall away and we're in our teens again, but even closer with the richer perspective of the years apart.
|My bestie and I conquering the Skype gremlins|
-teaching myself how to bake the most moist, rich, delicious chocolate cake I've ever tasted, using coconut oil, almond flour and ingredients that no longer make my blood sugars spike, with the joy of never needing to deprive myself of my ultimate salted caramel treat! That is, if I've ever got any left after sharing it with eager friends and family!
|Gluten-free salted caramel chocolate cake|
-dog-sitting a variety of furry friends of friends who fill up, temporarily, that dog-shaped hole in my heart since my own lad passed away.
|Cocker Spaniel sisters discovering treat puzzle ball|
-inching towards the publication of my second novel, “Cloudhover Solstice” with all the attendant pleasures of plotting, researching, dreaming, writing and editing, plus the privilege of knowing how much my characters have found their fond place in the imaginations of my readers. So thankful to the kind few who support me by leaving a review, sharing posts, tweets and spreading the word. You are worth more than gold to me, even if I never earn a penny from my passion!
|Work-in-progress novel. Not the *actual* cover!|
-adventuring on a fungus foray by day and a bat walk by night in local woodland and having the quiet thrill of being at one with the wonderful natural world that surrounds us in this lovely corner of Yorkshire.
|Orange Birch Bolete on the Fungus Foray in October|
-soap! After night after night of sciatic twinges and cramps, googling in sheer desperation for help with agonising, sleep-shrinking restless legs, I came across what sounds like some mad old wives' tale of putting soap in a sock in your bed. I bought a cheap tablet of soap from the Co-op the next day, stuck it in an old knee-high, shoved it sceptically between the sheets. I haven't had full-blown cramp since that first night! No more idea why this works than anybody else – maybe I'm a mad old girl, too, but who's counting?
|Soap in a sock|
-acquainting myself with my new all-singing, all-beeping insulin pump, Humph Mk II and his handset, the rather feisty Rita the Second. Yes, I still scream at Rita when I'm hypo and she's nagging me to eat. I still roll my eyes at Humph when he decides he needs new batteries in the middle of something more interesting. But you've got to love technology and ingenuity. They're keeping me alive from one moment to the next. My great gran was dead at 42 for lack of such inventions being widely available in the 1920s.
|Me and my portable pancreas|
-the birds, the Moon, passing planes, the trees, the flora and fauna, the clouds, the sunsets, the faces, the patterns, the colours that have kept my camera clicking throughout this year and the privilege of reliving eternally these moments frozen in time and sharing them with friends the world over.
|Full Grain Moon over the wood|
-friends, old and new, online and with flesh on, who remind me how many truly wonderful and special people are on this planet, fighting to ensure that love will always win over prejudice, bigotry and hate.
2017, you're welcome! You might not be gentle. You might not be all we hope for. But I'm coming to make the best of you, ready or not!