New Year’s Noodlings and Ramblings

By Emma Pearson

May 25, 2024

Photo by Jamie Fenn on Unsplash

1st January 2024

I am still in a funky space. The “between Christmas/25th Dec and New Year/1st Jan” feels particularly challenging this year. I am still not sure why that is. I have my theories but none leap out at me saying, “hey chica – it’s because of this”. When I feel funky, I need to write. I haven’t written as much as I wanted to over the break and might start catching up just as I should be getting back to work (tomorrow). So – in no particular order – reasons why it feels a particularly funky time of year:

  • It’s way too warm for the time of year (yes, I struggle with climate change anxiety)
  • There’s not enough snow on the Jura and I miss not cross-country skiing in my backyard
  • There’s too much sun which makes me feel I shouldn’t be sitting inside on the sofa – if it were terrible weather I could just sit and play music and read and knit (yes – really, I now knit – even if all I can knit is scarves), and cook and write and watch a few things on my ridiculously long “things to watch on Netflix” list
  • Megan and Ben have both left already (as indeed they should have, as indeed I would have left my parents at Christmas at their ages…. They should, of course, be with their buddies for New Year celebrations. And I miss them so)
  • Megan and Ben were here… and lovely as it is to have them, there’s a simplicity to living alone with the cat and the dog…and when they are back… lovely as it is (I realise I am repeating myself), the absence of Mike and Julia is so much more enormous. Weird that I notice their absence much more when others are around than when I am on my own. It’s as though I still kid myself that they are on a long trip. But that level of magical thinking is less possible when Ben & Megan are around
  • I am receiving too many naff memes and messages and videos stating that this new year will be much better than the previous one… I have written before about the violence of those memes and this time of year. I just re-read two posts from long ago… I feel I could write much the same today. Bah Humbug and Where my life goes on are two pieces that come to mind
  • Julia and Mike are still dead. Oh and Edward too. And Don. Moving into yet another year without them.

I was out on a run earlier today – (side note – for as long as I can remember – somewhere between 25 and possibly even up to 40 years, I have no idea), I have gone on a run or mountain walk on Christmas day and on New Year’s day. Even if I barely run anymore, I still get myself out for a run on these two notable days. It’s in part a pathetic act of defiance towards the passage of time. And in greater part a nod to the joy of just being out in nature when most people are still in bed or eating too much food. Even as an older teenager, with our Christmases spent in the Lake District, we’d invariably be out on a stiffish mountain walk on Christmas and New Year’s day. When I met Mike, I discovered he was so fully up for going on a run or walk on those days. In our life before kids we got ourselves out – often in howling gales and freezing rain. In France, post kids, it was a precious moment on a precious day. If we didn’t have an au pair spending Christmas with us and the kids were still too little to be left alone, we would take turns to go out on a run. As the kids got older, we went for a run together – and revelled in that hour of togetherness before the craziness of a house full of people. All of these difficult past years, even when Mike was really ill on Christmas day 2016, I still got myself out on a run. I cannot remember a time that I haven’t gone on a run both on Christmas day and New Year’s day. It feels like a gift to self.

When out on a run, I think things over quite a bit. I am getting increasingly slow. Sometimes, on steep uphills, I am barely faster than someone walking. Indeed, I am slower than fast walkers. Today I sent video messages to a couple of girlfriends. I took photos. I thanked Black the dog for being able to come with me – particularly given his recent pancreatitis. Every year I think it might be the last Christmas and New Year run I do with him – but he’s finished 2023 strong and started 2024 strong. What an amazing dog. Go Black!

I also got to thinking of all my nieces and nephews. Thinking of them all takes longer than the duration of my run sometimes. I have 9 niblings on my siblings’ side and another 6 on Mike’s siblings’ side. The youngest four on my side were all born in 2008. Four of them that same year. Three of my four siblings – William, Edward and Laura – had babies that year, and one even had twins. These were the last of the Pearson babes. All of them are now over 15 ¼.  The age Julia was the day she died. Soon they will all be 16 – the age I clutched on to as the “end of the awful part of adolescence”. Back when I was naïve and innocent, and as Megan (then Julia) got rather more tricky – around age 13 – I had a belief that the truly awful parts of girls’ adolescence was between 13 and 16, and that on reaching 16, girls magically became nice again (at least to their mother – they were invariably nice to their dad). For Megan, it was exactly what happened – though her dad dying 9 days before her 16th birthday might have had something to do with it. Mike died 9 days after Julia’s 13th birthday, catapulting her not just into unfathomably hard grief territory. I believe it also exacerbated the adolescent chasm between us. 13 was hard. 14 was harder. And when she was 15, I had just one hope – “please let her get to 16… it will get better, it will get easier, once she’s 16”. But she didn’t get there. Did Megan revert to being more civil with me as she turned 16 because she’d just lost her dad and somehow reckoned she needed to make things work with her remaining parent, or was it because she turned the magical corner to 16? I could ask her. But for Julia I will never know. I like to think that things would have got easier had she made it through the horrors of years 13-16. I like to believe that by now, aged 19, she’d have found things to love about her family, her life, her studies, the world, despite it all. There is such sickening sadness and pain in the not-knowing. It’s not just about holding not-knowing and uncertainty. It’s about holding unknowables. It’s hard.

Anyway – I ramble. Such is the way when I noodle. I feel clearer though. Lighter. There is much to be grateful for as I slide into 2024.

I (still) have two living breathing children who are amazing, wonderful and terrific (I am allowed to gush)

I (still) have two living breathing parents who love me and love each other, and on a good day, love life

I have Medjool who truly gets that it gets harder not easier. Never have I sensed him hurt or irritated by my overt missing of Mike or Julia. He understands that “as time goes by, there is even more to miss – even more that I have missed out on – especially as regards Julia”. I don’t have many people in my life who understand the non-linearity, the non-upward curve, of grief relief. One of Medjool’s appreciations of me is my “constancy” – by that I think he means that I am steady, maintain an equilibrium, even when things are not easy. And guess what – I appreciate and love his constancy – his presence, his witnessing, his capacity to hold me as I hold it all. A rare gift and talent

I (still) have my dog (snoring gently on the sofa with me) and my cat (sleeping on the ancient hi-fi)

I have old friends venturing back into my life more determinedly after years of absence (I’ll be writing something about which friendships made it through these last years and why that might be – I have not figured it out yet – I remain utterly flummoxed by how seemingly rich friendships vaporised)

My health is (still) good (as far as I know) – and by golly do I know that that is crackingly vital

I am excited about my work, potential projects, new ideas, developing a new website, new offerings, new learning programmes

I’ve dusted off my cello and played it three times this past week – I’d played so little since my brother Edward died in 2016. It’s a precious gift for me to be able to play music. I am far from a great musician, but I get such pleasure from playing, and love that there is so much progress to make. I still aspire to capably perform the first movement of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 during this life-time

And there is much more to take into 2024 with me.

Yes – hard as this time of year is, I still choose life. With gratitude, love and passion.

About Emma Pearson

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