Friday, 2 January 2015

New Year: raising my game

Everywhere I look there are people setting goals, making resolutions and girding their loins as, inexorably, the New Year rolls in once more. The New Year's apathy of the old familiar days where the mood came down with the Christmas decorations doesn't seem to prevail any more; there is purpose and determination and energetic insight right, left and centre.

I've been asked a couple of times what the New Year looks like for me. What does 2015 have in store?

Well. On one level, I wish I knew. As usual, the New Year stretches ahead of me like a blank page, pristine in its unsullied whiteness, waiting for my footprints, scufflings and scribblings. I have hopes and dreams and fears and expectations, but ultimately there is only One person who has already familiar with this year and all the others and knows how the plot unfolds, and it's not His way to give too many clues. I have a tendency to want to know things up front so that I can prepare myself, but even that's all a bit of a fallacy; a grappling for control over things that are in nobody's control but His. But - He has never let me down.

Last year was a vintage year for me - one that I'll remember as a Great Year. Not easy by any means, but I have changed more profoundly in the last twelve months, I think, than in any similar period in the whole of the rest of my life. I have done things that I never would have had the courage to have done because I have chosen to trust that God will never let me down; and He didn't. I have asked Him to make changes in me that I have, all my life, been unable to make in myself, and then trusted Him to do it, and He has begun a process that is making a fundamental difference to who I am.

I didn't see any of it coming. This time last year I was doing the 'blank page' bit and bemoaning that I couldn't see what was ahead and God smiled and said, 'All in good time,' and so I am learning, slowly, that it's better that I don't know. Things unfold in their own time - His - and He knows what I can handle and when.

So, I don't have the first idea of what might happen this year, and for that it turns out that I'm grateful.

However, I can see a couple of things coming in my direction this new year; thundering ominously toward me like oncoming trains.

My eldest daughter, Elizabeth, is a talented swimmer. She dives in, starts swimming, and quite often gets to the other end of the pool a way ahead of everyone else. She loves being in the water and in training can often be found doing a somersault in the middle of a lap just because she's happy. We have had a fantastic year watching her begin her transformation from swimming lessons to competitive swimming and the inevitable has happened a little earlier than we anticipated.

She's been promoted to the next squad. This is brilliant!  Her hard work, commitment and talent have been recognised and it is indeed time for a new challenge as her current squad had little left to offer her. Time to move on. Time to raise her game.

And mine.

Time to move on to a much more rigorous training schedule that involves five sessions of swimming a week plus land-training, plus travelling to different pools to train, plus weekend galas, to say nothing of the hours spent rinsing swimsuits, drying towels and producing bananas and muesli bars from handbags and glove compartments.

The piece de resistance? Two of these sessions (mercifully only two - the next squad up has five of these) are scheduled for 5.30am. AM meaning 'in the morning'. Five o'clock. Oh-five-hundred hours.

Most people grimace when I tell them this, but I have met nobody who has reacted with the same unbridled panic that I did on first hearing that this was imminent.

There is nobody in the world who likes their sleep more than I do. Nobody. Not a soul. So, I think it is with some amusement that God has put me in this position, and I think I know why.

I am afraid of not getting enough sleep. 

I never used to be; back in the pre-children days I was like anyone else in that occasionally I had a late night, went to work the next day and the world didn't end. I got tired, I carried on, I had an early night, it was all ok. But then I had a baby and found that first year as a mother so, so difficult.

I don't know why exactly - probably many reasons. Elizabeth was a baby who wanted to be held constantly, not the self-sufficient kind that could be placed in a cot to gurgle contentedly.  I was freshly bereaved (my Dad died the week before she was born) and deeply depressed; I am the kind of person to make heavy weather of everything... all these things and the completely normal new baby stuff make tiredness inevitable - but I reached a level of exhaustion that I hadn't dreamed of in my wildest nightmares.

I don't make any claims to being the only person in the world ever to have been tired, and it slowly improved a little only to happen again when Katy was born. Crippling exhaustion that took control of me and made the world a hostile place and me incapable of functioning properly in it. Now that the girls are nine and seven respectively I have a deeply held conviction that I am in possession of a ten-year sleep deficit that may not be corrected until the kids have left home.

Joking apart, I live in fear of ever getting that tired again.

So does my husband, and by that I mean that he lives in fear of me ever getting that tired again. I was horrible to live with, and even now, if I'm in need of sleep, he is careful to give me opportunities to nap rather than turn into the miserable, brittle, despairing, snarling woman that I can be when I've had insufficient sleep.

I was mulling this over with a friend a few months ago and I concluded in hushed tones (so that God wouldn't hear) that there was a chance that I had put sleep in such a position of importance in my life that  I'd elevated it to the status of god.

I'd made a god of sleep. Oh, shush.

So here I am, mother of a nine-year-old who wants to be a swimmer, and so I need to get her to the pool at silly o'clock twice a week. Do I think God heard that conversation?

God, are you smiling? Are you planning something?  Last year, with your help, I conquered several lifelong fears. Is this next on the agenda?

I'm really not looking forward to it, but I can see that from your point of view, it's necessary.

I'd love to be unafraid of being tired. Seriously, it has a hold over me, the fear of insufficient sleep. I lie awake sometimes watching the clock and worrying that there are not enough hours left before morning and there's no chance of tomorrow being a Good Day; it's already too late. There are things that I don't do because it would mean a late night or an early morning. Sleep isn't just something necessary that happens at the end of the day; I spend far too much time thinking about it, planning it, and probably too much time doing it, though it rarely feels like it.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be climbing out of bed at 5am to wake my slumbering nine-year old, cajole her to eat a banana and a muesli bar while being unable to stomach anything myself, drag my hands through my hair before scraping ice from the windscreen to get her on the poolside for 5.20am to do her thing with her team-mates. 5am holds no fear for her - indeed she's beside herself with excitement and can't wait to start the new programme.

The cafe isn't open until 8am so I'll have to take my own coffee.

We said that as long as she's enjoying herself, win or lose, we'd get her where she needs to be, when she needs to be there.

She needs to be there early.

So, that's one of the things that this year holds.

Last year I trusted God and He did amazing things. I'm still trusting Him.


  1. I get this. 5 am wouldn't terrify me, but getting behind on work scares the daylights out of me. I'm looking at the requirements for the two classes I have coming up in a few days, and the hyperventilation begins....

    1. I am really looking forward to the day when a 5am start doesn't terrify me, and I'm not constantly planning when I might have the next nap! I'm praying peace for you as you prepare.
      Thanks for stopping by. x

  2. Yeah I would say that God probably did hear your whispered comment. Watching with great anticipation what He has in store for you this year as He takes you on adventures you're not even dreaming of at the moment. Happy New Year Helen!

    1. Happy New Year to you too! Yes, I think He probably did hear me. Chances are that He knew before I did... :-)

  3. Helen, I think Keren and I might give you a run for your money as contenders for sleep need and deprivation too! Although I may not have the reasons to rise when you do, believe me when I say I get it about the sleep thing. It doesn't become any easier to handle when you have a chronic illness for over 20 years that leaves you pole-axed on exertion (minor mental or physical) and horribly insomniac at the same time. So you have my deepest sympathy, dear friend, and my prayers for adjustments to your schedule not causing you such angst.
    You made me smile too at how God hears every comment we make, whispered, thought or otherwise. And I was foolish enough to ask for patience once... and spent months regretting it as I felt set up to be impatient by all that happened thereon! Wouldn't it be lovely if the attributes we seek simply dropped on us like a warm comfort blanket? Sadly, they usually take some mining and hard work to be accomplished in our lives. On that cheerful note:Happy New Year, Helen! May it bring as much joy as it brings challenges. Bless you. xox :)

    1. Joy, I know that you and Keren are sadly more than familiar with weariness and exhaustion. My early morning struggles with sleep aren't in any way comparable, except to give me the smallest of insights as to how life is when debilitating tiredness is just a fact of life. I admire you so much for your grace and generosity when life is so unrelentingly difficult. I won't stop praying for healing, my friend.
      Thank you for your encouragement and your kind words. Lots of love. x


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