Today is my birthday and I can safely say this has been the happiest and most productive year of my life. This doesn't mean I've not had rubbish health, worries and a fair few minor disasters. Just that there's been so much good stuff packed around the bad.
So my year in bullet points...
- I absolutely loved being thirty. I hope I will love thirty-one just as much. I have never wished to be another age, but I have particularly enjoyed my age. I do now. I feel like I earned thirty-one. I have a lot of stories to tell, but I've still got everything to look forward to. Oddly, entering my thirties has coincided with being met, for the first time ever, with the assumption that I am younger than I really am. Previously, people were always adding ten or fifteen years.
- This year, things seemed to get done. I'm amazed at what I have just got done this year. Art projects, craft projects, writing projects. This year, it seems, if I put my mind to something, it just happened. Not that I finished everything I started, achieved everything I wanted or didn't have set backs. My health is still pretty lousy and sometimes very lousy indeed. But during good periods, I painted more, wrote more, made more stuff, learnt more than I ever have before in any twelve month period.
- I've embarked on the first tentative steps towards getting my first novel published. This has been terrifying. It is the closest thing I have ever done to applying for a job. Fortunately, when you try to sell yourself as a writer, qualifications and work experience aren't very important, or else I'd be in real trouble. It's still very scary. It's not even fear of rejection. I can't really explain it.
- I've written between half and three-quarters of a non-fiction book, which will have to remain under wraps until it's done. And I've started on my second novel, which just now, I'm very excited about. Just now, I'm thinking, "Well, this will be better than the first!" which I think is a very good thing, given that I had had so many set backs and finished the first against such tremendous odds, and that story wouldn't let me abandon it.
- I have continued to be brave, in all kinds of ways, many of which remain unbloggable. However, I am rather proud that when I needed fillings for the first time in my life, I had five of them, in one go, without annaesthetic. Conclusions? Two of them hurt a lot, but it was brief and perfectly bearable.
- I have worked through and overcome so much emotional nonsense that I carried after leaving my violent marriage last year. At the beginning of this year, I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, that's reduced to a bit of a scar which gets sore in damp weather.
- I've seen three plays, which is fantastic. I love going to the theatre, I always have, but it takes some doing and it was seven years since I'd last seen a play. Admittedly, the productions I saw this year were too long and pain overwhelmed me towards the end. The best was King Lear, performed in an abbey ruin in Wales, complete with realistic storm conditions throughout the second half. It was August, I was very well wrapped-up but I can't imagine I will get as cold as I was then this winter. It was a superb production, but I came to the conclusion that the play itself is overrated - it's often said to be the ultimate Shakespeare, but I can't see it myself. The oddest was Clytenmestra (the Libation Bearers) by Aeschylus performed in Ancient Greek at the Oxford Playhouse (Stephen reviewed it here) and the other, Dangerous Corner by J. B. Priestley, was fairly odd in that neither the audience nor the players seemed to know whether we were dealing with a thriller or a farce – in any case, we laughed throughout.
- The only thing I really haven't done enough of is reading. But I did re-read the His Dark Materials trilogy with Stephen, which was an absolute joy. When we set out to take turns to read it to one another, I thought it would take a few years – especially as neither of us can read out loud for long and both of us are prone to falling asleep when we are read to. But we got through the whole thing in about six weeks. Unfortunately, my Texan accent was so bad that Stephen almost cheered when Lee Scoresby died. We also made a CD of poetry for my nephew Alexander, who is an avid reader but doesn't get exposed to much poetry. At first he wasn't much interested, but now he listens to it so incessantly that his parents must be thoroughly fed up with Roald Dahl's Red Riding Hood, despite Stephen's critically-acclaimed performance as Grandma.
- I'm so proud of Stephen and everything he has achieved this year. It's been the most wonderful thing to share in his life, and to share my life with him. In the spring, we both spent months totally immersed in Greek Drama as Stephen wrote essays about Aristophanian obscenity in the work of Snoop Doggy Dogg and prepared for his final exams. He now has a 2:1 BA (Hons) in Classical Studies (Please watch his vlog if you didn't at the time). He then had to deal with both DLA and ESA forms, both of which we managed without too much trouble. He's also whizzing through learning Latin and has learnt how to play the ukulele, very well, in the space of four months. And together we've mastered the art of making Turkish Delight, pain au chocolat, chicken and black bean sauce and the world's best vegetable casserole.
- We're making a success of the whole having to live with parents for the forseeable scenario. Making this work is an ongoing project and there have been times when we've found my parents particularly difficult. But we're taking responsibility for things, even if we occasionally behave like the desperate parents of children who can't play nice together - like when fed up of their bickering, we sent my folks for a Segway lesson. What can I say? It bought as a period of peace and harmony.
One of this year's negatives has been that the political situation for disabled people in the UK has deteriorated during a time when I wasn't up to doing much about it. Now, as various bills which threaten our independence and even our lives reach the end of their process in the House of Lords, Lisa has compiled a list of mostly very simple things you can do to help.
But for now, I thank you for hanging around and cheering me on these last twelve months and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!