I hope you all had a peaceful Christmas and are enjoying Twixmas, or Chrimbo Limbo - that strange time between Christmas and the New Year and when no one knows what day it is.
As this is my last column of 2021, I thought I’d indulge in a bit of reflection.
At this time of year, my brother always looks back over the year and sums it up in three words.
I can’t repeat the three he used for 2021 but mine would be Covid Grief and College.
Covid knocked me for six at the end of February and long Covid has put the handbrake on the rest of the year without a doubt.
Sadly, it will of course have left an indelible mark on a lot of families.
At the end of March my two little pet pigs passed over to the big pig-sty in the sky and I still can’t fully connect with that period or the loss.
It’s just too painful. They were brother and sister, I watched both of them come into the world but just wasn’t brave or strong enough to be with them when they left.
My brother stepped up in the most incredible way.
The thing with animals is that although you only get them for a part of your life, they give their whole lives to you.
Frank and Edna were such a huge part of my life for 12 years - and also part of a lot of other people’s lives too. They had lots of regular visitors, who travelled from as far as Cardiff and to their delight - always with food. I think grief is like glitter, once spilled, you never get rid of it completely and it will turn up when you least expect it.
I suppose the trick is to try and appreciate the sparkle of the memories.
And my third word of 2021 is ’college’. A return to college surprised me, and most people who know me.
It was a brave thing to do. I am not a fan of that environment and didn’t go very often 40 years ago - but I’m really glad that I overcame a long list of reasons not to go this time. It has been a steep learning curve, and a hairpin bend in places, but I have loved learning the anatomy and physiology and nutrition side of it all and have even managed to pass five exams - despite a menopausal memory.
I just have the final section of practical tuition and practice to go and will qualify as a personal trainer in April.
My own fitness journey has taught me so much over the years and to then have the ’proper’ knowledge on top of that has helped with my own health and nutrition immensely.
Post menopause, I struggled to find the motivation to keep going, let alone keep fit.
Post Covid I struggled to find the energy.
It’s been frustrating and tedious to wade through it all but has added to my understanding of the psychological aspects of improving health. Whilst mental health is so fragile and topical at the moment (and long overdue), there is no avoiding the correlation between exercise - or just ’movement’ - and improved mood.
And yet, taking any steps to address that can seem impossible when you feel low and lethargic.
Ironically, whilst my gardening career has meant that I am no stranger to tiredness and I have often made myself ill as a result of training on top of a solid physical workload, or been bent out of shape because I’m to tired to train, I realise and appreciate how much being outdoors and ’moving’ has definitely helped my own mental health over the years.
People have referred to this as a new beginning for me, (of course I will keep gardening) but just like ’the end of the year’, it is neither an end nor a beginning really. It’s just a ’going on’, or a continuation.
To quote the American poet, Maya Angelou, "My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who you are, and to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness."
Wishing you all a happy and more importantly - a healthy - New Year.