A fresh new year brings with it an opportunity to begin again. I have always loved New Year’s Eve for that very reason and welcome January, even with the dark and gloom that heralds the start of 2024 in the UK.

This year, for me, feels radically different. I feel less optimism than I have felt in a long time. Partly, because the last two months of 2023 were so difficult for me and my family. My husband received a cancer diagnosis out of the blue at the start of November. Incurable (but treatable), extremely rare (but we caught it early) and with that have come a host of unwelcome thoughts, difficult conversations and huge fluctuations in emotions.

And the start of this year feels like the beginning of a whole new journey.

In other years, I might have set some fresh intentions, thought about what I want to let go of but for me, 2024, is an invitation to start again. To have a true beginner’s mind. Everything I thought I knew or had expected might be happening this year has been challenged. Everything comes to an end. We are mortal beings.

Does that sound macabre? I do not mean it to. What I do know is that when you are dealt a massive curveball like this, it teaches you many things. I had times when I thought I would never stop crying. Times when I grieved for the “carefree” times of our amazing trip to Japan. We received the devastating news the day we got back.

I’ve learned to sit with my emotions – every single one of them. And sometimes it’s felt unbearable and sometimes it’s felt like nothing can ever feel right again.

Yet life goes on. There is joy and life is so precious. As a family we are learning to navigate great uncertainty but actually, life is always uncertain. Tomorrow is not a given – we just think and assume that it will be.

In simple terms this is what I now intend for 2024:

  • finding gratitude – I have kept my gratitude journal going and each day there really is something to be grateful for: a kind word, laughter, unexpected sunshine, our pets, kindness from others and from unexpected sources.
  • finding space – in daily walks, movement and exercise which have become totally non-negotiable for me and give me valuable time to process stuff and to be in the moment and to feel the healing power of nature.

In this deeply moving talk, Lucy Kalanithi reflects on life and purpose, sharing the story of her late husband, Paul, a young neurosurgeon who turned to writing after his terminal cancer diagnosis. “Engaging in the full range of experience — living and dying, love and loss — is what we get to do,” Kalanithi says. “Being human doesn’t happen despite suffering — it happens within it.”

  • finding joy – tears of joy when my son won a big music competition recently, one he had worked so hard for and was so determined to win in the face of everything going on.
  • finding peace – learning to cherish peace, stillness, silence, being with what is rather than what we wish it could be.
  • finding acceptance – knowing that no matter what the next stage of this journey holds, we will be ok and we will find a way.

Happy new year. There will be happiness and there will be sadness for us all. Let us hope for strength and fortitude to navigate the hard times and wisdom to savour and enjoy the good.

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