2014: not my favorite year, although I think it may have looked otherwise here. I was happy to hide under the duvet, bedsocked and pyjama’d in my dad’s rather chilly bungalow New Year’s Eve, and wake up to a shiny new year. Not that, hey presto, everything will change, but, you know, it kind of gives you a lift, knowing that it’s a new beginning. I am quite into new beginnings, which is very likely why I move around so much, even when sometimes I stay in the same town. Still, 2014 was instructive, if nothing else. I learned a lot, and one of the keystones of my life is that we should never stop learning!
Lesson One: Back Up Regularly!
This year, for instance, there will be no “postcards from 2014” post, which is how I’ve marked the end of each blogging year, since, I think, 2008. The reason for this being that my hard drive thoughtlessly died and I just hadn’t backed up that many photos……and yes, it very likely was the Chardonnay what killed it. I do, at least, back up, but clearly not nearly as much as I should. Huge, huge lesson, especially in regard to photos. Worst is the loss of the personal photos, those moments which will never come around again with family & friends.
Lesson Two: Carpe Diem!
My favorite Latin words, often used too casually, like, “Yeah, Carpe Diem!” reciting them without relishing the full meaning. Not a new lesson, more of a reaffirmation. This year I lost my lovely Auntie Dot, who has been an inspiration, my flag-waver, and my second mother forever. She was 91, and, in all honesty, she was ready. I have a lovely last memory of her birthday in 2013; she frail and tired, lying on the couch, but kicking her leg in the air in celebration of a friend arriving to wish her happy birthday. She even repeated it for me to video. I hope that isn’t lost too. It was on my broken phone but I think it’s backed up on Google.
2014 was a year punctuated by death, as well as Auntie Dot; a friend, though not close, who had shown me much generosity, and whom I admired both professionally & personally; another whose moral compass and intelligence had been very important in my sons’ lives; someone else I’d never even met, but whose death affected dear friends very much. And then the news that another friend is terminally ill. None of them should have died this young.
And, you know, there isn’t one of those people who wouldn’t tell me to make the most of every moment left. Of course, how you do that is up to you. Some of us choose to write, swim, run, take photos; others to cook, read, watch movies, hike; or others to climb mountains, travel, paint; and others play football, sing, dance, dive, fly. The thing is not waste it, to do what fills us with joy. The more joy in the world, the better.
Lesson Three: I am not a Nomad
I’ve never been sure about this. When I’m in one place for too long (and that isn’t very long) my feet itch,I find it hard to concentrate on the present, because I am dreaming about somewhere else. When I am traveling I don’t worry too much about possessions left behind, so long as I feel that I’ve left them securely. I miss Trixy, but happily, last year she traveled with me most of the time. Friends and family are spread throughout the world, so in a sense it doesn’t matter where I am. Plus traveling brings new friendships.
That said, the same thing happened this time as the previous two occasions I sallied off without a specific return date, or even plans to return fulltime, around the 8 month point I began to miss my “stuff” ……. I downsized completely this time, keeping absolutely only clothes, technical stuff and things with sentimental value. Perhaps that’s the key, perhaps getting rid of nomadic tendencies is better done whilst young, because I have, of course, a ton of stuff which means a lot because I’m a mom…….. Yes, I do have a box full of pictures my “kids” did when they were in kindergarten.
Acknowledging that I am not a fulltime nomad by instinct does not diminish my love of travel. I think some part of me thought that it did, so it’s a relief to accept that! Yes, I do not want to be weighed down by possessions, but, in fact most of that is in the mind. I got rid of non-essential material things, and yet, what I was left with was of enormous sentimental value, far more important to me. I have a better perspective on that, because now I regret selling all those cds – thinking I had them all copied to my computer, and I miss my favorite set of coffee mugs, and those nice wine glasses, and especially that comfy throw in this chilly weather. It’s much more about the perception than the things themselves, and my perspective has changed…….’bout time too, of course. I should have known this long ago!
I am ok with this. In fact, it came as a relief. A part of me has, for a long time, felt held back because I’ve not been in a position to wander at will. The truth is that I can – I simply need somewhere as a base, somewhere to where I can return for a month or a year, or whatever period I need, without spending half of that time unpacking! I still have to find the place, but I know I need to find it.
Lesson Four: Don’t Take Your Health for Granted
I am largely responsible for the frustrations about my health. I had it good for too long, so when the knee began to hurt I assumed it would just go away with time. Of course, it didn’t. Coming back to El Médano was the right choice for this. Although the waits for X-rays and MRI scans and specialist appointments are as outrageous as they are everywhere in the world if you don’t have private health insurance, it has all been within easy reach, no ferry rides, it hasn’t taken all day for an appointment, and the service has been excellent. Now waiting for the next specialist appointment in February. My own doctor thinks keyhole surgery to repair ligaments and correct cartilage, based on the MRI. So I wait.
I also had another reason to be grateful to be just around the corner from my local medial center. At the beginning of December, having been feverish on and off for four days, and in quite a lot of pain from a sebaceous cyst on my back (the removal of which was a seemingly minor thing I was waiting for on a scale of things), I stumbled around there, and discovered that I had septicemia. The cyst had become infected, and I had to go to the ER urgently to have it removed. I hadn’t connected the fever to the cyst. I thought I was going to see my doctor about two, separate things. I’m still having the wound it left dressed on a regular basis.
I may have to give in here and say this is down to age, but I think the reason I delayed going for help was that my brain was saying, “OMG not AGAIN. You can’t have something else wrong. For god’s sake, woman, you’re British. Stiff upper lip. Suck it up, and all that.” Apparently, had I delayed longer, well, let’s say, I wouldn’t be sitting here now typing this post. So, well, my doctor may well be sick of the sight of me by this time next year!
Of course, it wasn’t only my health, but Trixy’s too. She is on heart meds for the duration now, had five tumors (all happily non-malignant) removed, and her back legs get visibly weaker. Again, the vet is around the corner, and they have all turned out to be just marvelous carers. So that’s been good too.
Of course, this post hasn’t encompassed all of the happy stuff I did last year, some of which I haven’t even written about yet! I made some great new friends; I wandered four islands I either didn’t know or knew very little; I came to appreciate Trixy even more a we traveled together; I ate some excellent food, discovered craft beers and artisan cheeses; I had some precious moments with both of my sons; and I was soooo lucky to be at the receiving end of their generosity, especially at Christmas. I don’t have words. They are the very best. I am grateful to great friends who loaned me their couches, and made memorable meals for me, and generally made my travels smoother.
The lessons I learned have paved the way for a whole new year. I am back to posting on a regular basis now, and more about the 2015 plans next time. Meanwhile, I wish everyone a really happy, successful and rewarding 2015.