Learn a new skill
Perhaps, like me, you have a musical instrument gathering dust somewhere that you’ve always promised yourself you’ll learn. Maybe you’ve always had a desire to try painting outdoors, or you dream of dancing the cha-cha or cooking the perfect paella. Whatever it is, make 2013 the year you learn a new skill. Mastering something new requires patience and a level of equanimity – accepting that you may not be perfect but enjoying the experience all the same – and opens your life up in untold ways. Perhaps by joining a class you’ll meet like-minded folk, or by making time for regular weekly practice sessions you’ll nurture parts of yourself that have been lying dormant.
Be the change you want to see
As Gandhi so wisely said, we must be the change we wish to see in the world. Make a commitment this year to take one step to make the world a better place for your children to inherit. Perhaps you’ll try meat-free Mondays, a zero-waste approach, buying local, an off-grid day a week, Fairtrade food choices, car-free travel, clothes swap parties or alternative education. Whatever it is that floats your boat, do it with a sense of love and joy, knowing that you are making a difference to the future.
Discover your local landscape
So many treasures lie outside our front doors. Why not invest in a local map, or borrow one from a library. Libraries often hold records of old maps which can set you all off on a voyage of discovery. Finding out that the house at the end of your road used to be the local schoolhouse invites further investigation, and opens up explorative family adventures. Or you might want to set about finding out about the trees and wildlife in your locality, keeping a record of what grows when and where, and what birds and animals are your most regular visitors. Keeping these kinds of records as a family is a fun way to discover about the seasons, and is also useful for foraging.
Make new friends
It’s easy to stick with the friends you’ve always had, even when you find that you’re singing from different song sheets. But cultivating a group of friends who have the same interests and hopes and dreams for their families validates our sense of self and helps us to be the kind of parent we want to be. Join forums and invite other families to meet up for local walks, or get involved with a community project that sparks your interest. Or maybe you’ll reach out to fun, inspiring people through learning a new skill (see above). Being actively engaged with people, mindfully listening to them, and cultivating a sense of fun are all ways to overcome nerves and create a positive and welcoming environment in which new friendship can blossom.
Cultivate a garden
Even if it’s just a few pots on the windowsill, growing your own is a wonderful way to connect with the cycles of nature and feed your family into the bargain. Check out the seed swap events taking place across the country in February and get yourself along to discover local varieties and organic seeds to get you started. Even the most un-green-fingered person can grow a proliferation of edible delights (I should know!) and the burgeoning plants pushing through the soil in spring is guaranteed to fill the heart with joy.
Keep a journal
Journals can take many different forms, but the aim is to reflect on where we’ve come from and where we want to go. Maybe you’ll keep a family scrap-book of fun events and activities, or a nature diary of the changing world around you. If you’re not keen on writing, perhaps a photo diary tickles your fancy or a sketch book of special moments. A gratitude journal is a wonderful way to take stock at the end of the day, especially when we feel like we’re running from one thing to the next and don’t really have time to connect in to the sacred moments of life. Or you might want to use your journal time to release pent-up emotion and refresh your thoughts; just getting anxieties and stresses out on paper can be enough to help resolve them. A dream journal is an illuminating way to discover your hidden hopes and fears, and can help connect you to your deep self. Another way to record your memories and reflect on your family’s life is through blogging, with the added benefit that it’s a good way to interact with other like-minded families. For real journaling pleasure and insight, I love these beautiful and thought-provoking journals.
Connect with community
Getting out in your local community can open your life up in interesting and expansive ways. Perhaps where are already groups in your area you’ve been toying with joining, like a reading or gardening group. Or maybe there’s a cause dear to your heart and you need the backing of a few more people to get it off the ground. Local papers and magazines are a good place to advertise for like-minded folk. You might fancy transforming a local green space with a bit of guerrilla gardening, or turning your town into a Transition Town. A child-friendly walking group might also do a monthly litter pick, or get together to paint a community mural (check with the local council about areas they’d like brightening up). Or you might fancy creating some safe spaces for your kids to play in, where your community can get together to relax. One of the great things that came out of the jubilee year in 2012 was a sense of people getting to know their neighbours because of street parties and engagement with local trades-people. Set your aim to bring people together – it’s amazing what can be achieved when combined energies are channelled. Together we can change the world!
Caring for and nourishing your family can take all your reserves of energy, leaving very little for self-care. But the wisest and most effective way to keep those reserves topped up so we can serve our families is to care deeply for ourselves first. One of the easiest ways to avoid family meltdowns is to keep our blood sugar levels stable with regular small meals throughout the day: packing snacks for ourselves as well as our children is important. Make time for the things that bring light into your soul. The psychotherapist C.G. Jung once said that the greatest tragedy of the family is the unlived lives of the parents. Children love to see their parents happy and fulfilled, and letting them see you do the things you enjoy sends out a powerful message of self-love and awareness.
Last year, a friend of mine set herself the goal of running a half marathon. She’d never been a runner before, so the sense of achievement when she burst through the finish line with her partner and two young sons cheering her on was palpable. Months later, she’s still buzzing from the fact she did something she never thought she’d do, and she feels it’s opened her up to new possibilities. ‘I’ll probably never run another half marathon,’ she says, ‘but I feel more aware of what I’m capable of, so who knows what 2013 will bring?’. Who knows indeed? Always dreamt of climbing a mountain, writing a novel or deep-sea diving? Go on, surprise yourself!