Taking time to reflect on the past 12 months might sound a bit woo-woo to the average busy mum, but Heidi Scrimgeour reckons you’ll be glad you did.
As another year draws to a close, it’s all too easy to get caught up in festive preparations without stopping to think about what the past 12 months have brought. But pausing to reflect on the outgoing year could be a more meaningful – and magical – practice than you might expect.
I totally get it if the very thought of mentally rifling back through the year to ponder its gifts and challenges makes you feel ill. Me too. I couldn’t be less mindful if I tried, and my default is to hurtle from one deadline to the next without stopping long enough to catch my breath, never mind meditate on the wonder of the moment.
I’m the mum that forgets to pick her child up from school (sorry about that again, darling…), not the mum who starts her day with a spot of yoga and some deep reflection. And I’m not the bullet journal type – who has time to doodle in a diary? The only bullet I know my way around is the one that pulverises your five-a-day into a smoothie because I don’t even have time to peel a banana.
So hear me when I say this is not just another fluffy feature designed to make you feel bad because you plan on seeing out the year with a vat of sparkling wine rather than indulging in a sacred, spiritual ritual.
I’m simply saying that slowing down for long enough to think about the year that’s coming to an end is a good thing to do before rushing headlong into a whole new calendar of things to juggle.
My friend calls this taking a moment to watch the highlights reel. I was telling her about a particularly challenging family trip abroad, which my son later described as the best holiday of his life. I was so shocked that what felt like a disaster to me was nothing but delight to him, that it prompted me to wonder what else I’d been missing. Because I wasn’t looking at life like he does.
She told me about an article she’d read whereby the writer had a similar life lightbulb moment. In the middle of a thunderstorm, the author was dragging her screaming kids from the beach to their holiday house. She passed an elderly man, watching this debacle unfold, who said aloud to himself: ‘Those were the days’.
She wrote, according to my friend, about realising that the small, unremarkable moments we take for granted are the very moments we’ll one day relish. That elderly gentleman, watching the chaos of a disastrous family holiday scene unravel, knew it was the stuff of which future fond memories are made. It was a highlights reel moment.
‘Here are your best bits’ they say on reality TV shows when a contestant has been voted out. And all of a sudden every sucky minute, every embarrassing encounter and every shameful statement becomes a moment to treasure.
It’s the same with family life. Sleepless nights spent pacing the floor with a teething, inconsolable baby eventually fade from misery to cherished memory. Fraught mealtimes with picky eaters become the stuff of funny family legends, and disappointing holidays ultimately blur into charming experiences we’d give anything to relive.
As the famous saying goes: the days are long but the years are short. What we rush through today might one day have a starring role in the highlights reel of our lives. So why not slow down, even just a little, to make sure we capture them in full high-definition?
For me, this means taking quiet moments to myself to soak up the messy moments that I might otherwise miss. It’s a resetting of my perspective that means I linger to read just one more more book at bedtime, instead of rushing off to do something much more mundane, like load the dishwasher or catch up on the latest thing on iPlayer – things that will never make the highlights reel, yet which somehow get prioritised.
These are the days, and the ending of a year is the perfect time to take stock. What joys did this year bring that are worth reliving? What moments worth capturing have you not yet got round to printing out – and can you frame them for a wall as a festive present to yourself? What dark days did you survive this year, and how have they made you stronger or tightened your family bond?
Taking time out – in the busiest season of the year – to think about what’s made it onto your life highlights reel this year might feel counter-intuitive. Actually, there’s no might about it. You’re bound to be wondering how on earth you’re going to find the time to slow down and savour life’s precious little moments. But let me just say this: I promise you won’t regret it if you simply make the time.
The things that occupy so much of our time and attention at this time of year are so rarely the things that actually matter. We know our kids won’t remember what they got for Christmas the year they turned seven years old. They’ll remember how childhood Christmases made them FEEL. So why not forget about the financial pressure to buy more than we can afford? Instead, focus on the small things that will eventually become the moments our kids will replay on their own highlights reel in years to come?
Pausing long enough to reflect on the triumphs and challenges of 2018, before hurtling at speed into whatever 2019 has in store, might just be the best gift you could give yourself this Christmas.