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  • Emma Nichols

Reflections on a Decade

I don’t know if you ever did this as a child, my children look forward, they plot what it might be like to be thirteen with excitement and wishing they were there already. I remember being a twenty-five-year-old and chatting to mum who had just turned fifty. Not plotting and wishing I was a middle-aged woman, who the hell looks forward to that! More that, just the thought of the year 2020 filled us with horror because I would be fifty-six and she would be seventy-nine. It was so far ahead it was inconceivable; almost fantastical, so much so we laughed and shook our heads, though I have no doubt now, she had a far better appreciation of what was to come then I did at twenty-five.

Mum didn’t make it through this decade and as I sit as that fifty-six-year-old woman reflecting on the past ten years, with more than a little sadness, I find myself wondering not just where the last ten years has gone, but where the last thirty years have gone. Time flies they say though that statement makes me laugh. I don’t think it does. If it flew, I’m sure I would have seen or heard it passing. However, I appear to have moved through it in the blink of an eye, far too quickly to grasp hold of and truly treasure. All those little things that irritated, that I thought were important at the time that I can’t even remember now. The things that I have fought over, stressed over, frustrated over. Those things that never did make a difference…I would kick myself if I could actually remember them!

So, this last decade has brought with it: loss, love, birth, death, success, failure, stress, challenge, insecurity, happiness, and joy. A normal decade I suppose, so here’s what I have to be thankful for:

  • I am older. Those of you who are older than me will be thinking, you’re still a spring chicken (or maybe not!) and that may be true. I am one of the lucky ones to get this far in life.

  • I have two beautiful children who are smart, kind, and loving.

  • I have a partner who I love dearly and who supports what I do.

  • And let’s not forget the latest edition to our family – Indi – who tries to take my feet from beneath me every time we go walking; nothing like being kept on my toes!

  • I have a house in which I feel safe. I don’t want for food or security.

  • I have also been blessed to find that I can write. I am still learning the craft and to be able to share stories that bring pleasure to others is a gift I will respect and cherish. I doubt the teacher who red-inked the stories I was so proud of as a child and who put me off of writing for thirty-two years is still with us, though if you are, I forgive you for destroying my confidence. To those of you who have supported me on my writing journey, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Writing has led me to a new group of wonderful friends who have discovered that I really am not very good at keeping in touch! I’m sorry about that, I will add it to my list of personal improvements for the coming decade. Be patient, it might take me that long to nail it.

  • I have learned a lot. Especially, that life really is very tough. It is always challenging, even when times are easy. Bringing up children is hard. Working life is demanding. Money is a worry (unless you are financially independent – and even then, I know many who still worry about money). Meaningful relationships are frickin tough. Tougher than life itself, actually. It can be so hard to meet other people’s expectations without compromising your own to the point of self-destruction and whilst it may be easier not to try – the “fuck-em” mentality as I call it – I was raised to care about my impact on others. (Did you know, in the British Army a measure of our performance as a soldier was based on: ‘Impact on others’. I’ve never seen that as a performance criterion in any civilian job measurement systems!)

  • I have discovered, painfully, that love alone is not sufficient for us to survive the challenges that come with trying to grow inside our relationships. We are holding a deck of cards we may not be fully skilled to play. We play our hand the best we can but in doing so we may unintentionally hurt those we love the most when we least expect to. I have found that talking helps, but communication is still one of the greatest challenges we have yet to master as a human race. I don’t know whether you have ever talked to someone close to you thinking you had been very clear, they had agreed with you too, only to find out they had a completely different interpretation of what you had said. WTF! Yep, it happens – a lot. Unresolved conversations can be destructive if left to fester.

  • I am wiser. I am still horrified at finding myself sitting here at the start of 2020, of course. I don’t know exactly what the next decade will bring but I know that I have changed over the last one and, for all my mistakes, I celebrate the person I am becoming on this journey. This decade, of all of those that have passed, has been the most gruelling for me yet. But it has also brought with it the most intense joy. I am not a goal-setter (I’m not a plotter either) but I will strive to be a more accepting person, an attentive mother to my children, a more supportive partner, a more effective writer and a more communicative friend. Undoubtedly, I will have good days and bad. I will fail before I succeed. Because that is the nature of life. I promise to stop and smell the roses at least once a day, with or without the dog. And, I will take a moment to be grateful for my experiences whether I enjoy the feeling that comes with them or not.

As I look forward to the next phase of my life and treasure the memories, I hope you will continue to join me on my journey. It is our journey.

So, as we begin 2020 with or without failed resolutions (who really cares about those), I wish you love, joy, and all that your heart desires. May you find the strength to ride the storms that will inevitably surface and the courage to be true to yourself.

With love,

Emma x

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