December 1: Where it began: Review and reflect – how did 2012 begin for you? Tell us how the year kicked off; start your renewal by beginning again.
I woke up on the New Year in Melbourne, Australia, in summertime weather, having perhaps enjoyed a wee bit too much whisky the night prior.
Which it did: With a sunburn and a hangover. And a trip to the beach.
For the first time in my life, I had no real object, no resolution, except to Begin Again. There was no Peak Moment ahead; no milestone birthday; no Feat of Strength on the docket. And it was weird to be exposed for being without an identifiable angst to which to channel my proposed achievements or my malingering anger about other things. I was, in a way, stripped of all of the things I’d once fussed over and put between me and the world. In other words, my ship had washed ashore at St Kilda and I was a naked, shipwrecked sailor — free, finally, to Begin.
I’d always been drawn to the water, and as Jade and I sat at the water’s edge on New Year’s day, I said: Let’s go in. We waded into the waves. It was a purifying ritual in which we had engaged many times — whenever we were in doubt, we always headed to the nearest body of water. We’d done it years earlier in the North Sea off the coast of Denmark on the day we were clearing out the pain built up around my divorce. On New Year’s Day, though, we didn’t know that we were bathing to make room for challenges to come.
So we were both guarded and naked. To the extent that one can be those things on a public beach.
(While I normally have an objection to bathing suit pictures, I was recently told that my 50something self is going to be furious with my 30something self for not posting more bikini pictures on the internet…)
So I suppose this year has been about The Beginning — being (or feeling) free to finally start living.
And that, too, was how this month began. I’d flown to London from Hong Kong and while I should’ve been asleep in the wee hours of this morning, I was still awake. So I took a bath.
I stepped out of the water for a moment when I realised I’d made it far too hot. And I lingered over a stack of books on the desk. My hotel in London is notorious for stuffing the rooms full of dusty tomes, and also for its weird taste in mirrors on the walls. I caught a glimpse of myself at the desk reading and laughed. So I messaged my best friend:
Am completely naked sitting at my desk in London, reading the Oxford Book of English Verse.
Then I got back into the bath and was finally able to sleep for a few hours.
Later today, I went to lunch with D.
We’ve been here before, yes? he asked me as I looked around the restaurant. Indeed we had been.
But that was a long time ago now.
We were sharing stories of our recent adventures, and he was telling me the tale of a friend who was celebrating his 40th birthday away from his family. The guy’s kids and wife had called him on Skype to wish him a happy birthday — and the 3 year old son had popped into the call and then had disappeared.
Let me guess, when he came back into frame he was stark naked?! I snorted, anticipating the ending.
Yep. And he said, Say hello to Mr Penis.
Clothing is overrated anyway, I giggled.
Yes it is, he agreed.
We dined together for the next few hours before he drove me back across town, and I collected my bags then went to the airport. It was the first time in a long time that D had driven me anywhere — perhaps since that day that he’d picked me up at King’s Cross after he’d convinced me to come back from Edinburgh.
I suppose that this all goes back to the point of how this year began, though, which is that it began mostly naked, half-submerged, open to possibility.
It seemed funny, suddenly, that beginnings and endings were all smashing together at once — flotsam; jetsam; bits of debris crashing on the shore. The year began where the last had ended and where the next would begin, and the thing to do was to strip down to essentials — get naked — and dive in.