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Outgrowing our stories

I used to think January 1st was a funny time to start a year but as I've more closely observed nature I see that it is less arbitrary than I first thought.

I stepped outside on the 2nd January to discover nature had awoken. I had grown used to being alone on my morning walk bar a few squirrels, birds and deer. Suddenly the trails were bursting with excited life and fresh shoots had begun pushing through the soil. Something does shift here.

The returning light that has been growing since the Winter Solstice is beginning to change the behaviour of the inhabitants of the farm. There's an urgency in the air as creatures sense the imminent spring whilst still preserving energy and preparing for the lean winter months ahead.

I always have a special relationship with January 1st as the day I decided to get sober 9 years ago now and each year as I approach the anniversary of the date that changed the course of my life, I always like to reflect on what has been and how I’d like to continue.

I also love any opportunity to turn over a new page and having grown up in Australia where the school year begins in January and ends in December, this has always felt like a fairly natural point of review and reflection but over the years my attitude to the New Year has fluctuated from militant goal setting and self-flagellation to dismissal and rejection to ambivalence.

This year I welcome the opportunity to start over, celebrate and reflect with open arms. After the year we’ve had I am up for all the opportunities to celebrate I can get. So I’m doing them all, old Celtic festivals, modern holidays, long lost traditions, Spanish celebrations from my youth. I’ll take it all. Why the hell not.

Over the winter break something that has been percolating in my thoughts is the idea of stories. I’ve always been fascinated by stories because they have the capacity to both entrap and emancipate and I believe everyone deserves to live free. Our species loves to decode and navigate life through stories and that includes the stories we tell about ourselves and our lives.

When I stopped drinking and began the long pilgrimage back home to myself, I needed the stories that had led me down the paths I had travelled. I needed the stories so that I could validate my feelings, I needed the narratives so that I could grieve and rage and meet emotions that had been trapped for years under the ice of addiction.

As the ice melted I needed to channel the raging waters of emotion into rivers of meaning and pools of understanding. It felt important to share what I had experienced, endured, overcome and survived. It felt healing for a moment to wear my experiences as a badge and to celebrate who I had become because of where I had been.

But there comes a time when we outgrow our stories and they begin to be more constricting than cathartic.

There comes a time when we must step away from what we have been so that we can become who we might be.

Our culture places great value on permanence, strong mindedness and knowing who you are but to cling to what has been in the face of what is ever changing can diminish our experience of this life. Wildness places great value on impermanence, flexibility and discovering who you are one awe filled step at a time.

The pirahã are a tribe of indigenous Amazonians whose language has no capacity for past or future because in their culture these tenses are of no use or value. It’s even considered a taboo to speak of the distant past or future.

They greet each day without the burden of the past and end each night without the worry of what lies ahead. They live in each moment as it is.

They are in a continual process of becoming. Even more interestingly they don’t sleep, only napping throughout the day and the night as they believe that if you sleep you die and when you wake you are not who you were before. If you sleep you must take on a new name, a new identity, a new experience of the world.

I wanted to arrive into this new calendar year having slept myself anew. So this year we didn’t stay up until midnight, instead we went to bed at 10pm for a good night’s sleep. Starting as we mean to go on. We woke up in the morning, said happy New Year and made a commitment to seeing each other with fresh eyes.

I value my 8 year relationship so very highly and I am forever grateful for a person who knows me so very well but with this knowledge can sometimes come a holding back. We are not who we were at 24 anymore yet sometimes we respond and react as though we’re still those people we were back then. So I asked if this year we could make a choice to get to know each other as we are now rather than who we were then, a beautiful blend of deep knowing and open curiosity that I hope we can hold tight to as the year rolls on.

I have always felt flaky because I don’t always truly know what I believe and think. I’ve often felt torn because two opposing ideas both feel as though they hold weight. I’ve often thought of it as a weakness to radically change my mind but I’ve come to see that not knowing is a gift. Sure I have some opinions about things and it’s fun to share them and explore them in the context of the opinions of others but as I grow older I see that for me it is impossible to say never or forever about anything. Some of the things about me that I thought were permanent and fixed have flip flopped so much so that I no longer feel attached to either side and it’s fucking liberating.

Josh always thought it was the most unromantic thing in the world that I would say; ‘I’ll love you for as long as I do’ but I think he gets it now. I’m saying that I can’t predict what is up ahead but right now I can’t imagine my life without you and I find that incredibly romantic.

This is all just a very long winded way of saying that this year I’d like to live my life like a line in the sand and free myself from the need for labels, categories, stories or identities. Just a breeze rolling through the trees (in a tiara... thanks Lou).

So as I turn my calendar to a brand new year, I'm opening my eyes to a new me. Maybe those 'new year new me' people didn't have it so wrong after all!

Carly x

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