A sense of belonging.

All the times, all the myriad but matching, twin-like times when you feel as if you are the odd one out and no matter what company you seek, sooner or later you will be separate from them. Those times when you have that sensation of wrenching, as if you have pulled away too soon even though you stayed in the same place; then realise the pull came from them as they moved away.

These lonely times, when it crosses your mind it might just be worth pretending forever so you can fit in and not be wrenched back out of place, they push you along and leave you eddying about on the edges of the great pond, brushing up against the side, no handholds, only the sensation that if you could look properly, like other people look, you would see the way out and the way in and know how everyone makes their journeys.

And then, the relief, when you come to the point in life when this part, this outside feeling, this looking through the glass and being on the wrong side, it slides away and reveals the truth: you are on the right side, where you are meant to be and you simply did not understand at the time. The fitting in is not meant to happen with people who make you feel as though they wrenched away and left you. The belonging is not an automatic response to thinking you ought to belong. True belonging comes from actually being in the right place with the right people, in being where you are meant to be.

It takes true courage to keep trying though, to endeavour to be the person who can still go on and meet others, speak to them, be open enough with them that they see the real you and open up in return. It can be so hard to keep at it when you have the memories of the times when they barely noticed you spoke and then turned away to the fascinating person entering on stage left.

It takes even more courage to believe belonging is possible, without feeling you also have to sign up to sugar-coated, meme-inspired, greeting-card-glittered beliefs of everyone being special to someone. After years of being invisible, sugar-coated gets you nowhere, which is why those of us who are steel-coated take a while to find where we belong.

It does come down to one unfortunately illogical truth: to come to rest at your safe harbour, to step onto dry land and not be the only one there, you do have to keep on having faith that this is possible. Whether it is possible thanks to other people or thanks to yourself, is all individual to your life.

Chance or a carefully laid plan to make it all work? The right job leading to everything falling into place or finding the strength to leave the wrong job and it being the right decision? There are as many ways to find your true place as there were to realise you were in the wrong one again.

Sometimes all you can do is let yourself be carried round on the eddies, trusting that they happen because of a greater current, swirling round our lives and the lives of others, hoping you find the right way and knowing that it is the same for everyone, no matter what the view from our eyes.


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Don't talk about the new year, talk about your new beginnings!

It starts innocently enough with fireworks on TV and people being ecstatic because it's the New Year and people have to be ecstatic about it. You 're allowed to dislike Christmas, being Scrooge is acceptable, but there is no opt-out for New Year.

It's the start of new and better things and we are all going to be new and better people. Hurrah!

It is a time to be really, properly sociable and greet total strangers as if we all live in a tiny, microcosm world where we have to get along or die (this one is true but not in the way New Year revellers think it is).

We have to be happy about the New Year.

We have to appreciate it.

We have to be positive.

As a back-handed compliment to the New Year, we are allowed to say the last year was complete rubbish, so long as we go right into how the next year is Our Year (I want to slap every last person who says this).

We must be revived overnight and see ourselves and our lives as glowing treasures at the centre of the universe.

And we must share it all with anyone who asks, no matter how little they really care about us.

Yes, for one night only we are all reborn in a secular frenzy of hope and visionary expectations. We go to bed as tired, used-up shadows of ourselves and wake the next day reborn. We may look the same and act the same but we are not the same! We are new for the New Year and we will be completely different, this time.

I am in favour of Grand Plans, readers, but I wish people would think of them all year round and reinvent themselves when it is a good and needed thing, not for the sake of a man-made date on a calendar. Become new! Become wonderful, glorious, shining. Become everything you want but do it on your own time, with proper effort and no extra push from the clock ticking past the midnight hour.

Do-over your life into a fragile new wonder because to not do it would diminish you. Do it because you are in love with your future self and need to meet this person or your heart will turn to stone. Do it now, when the dream falls like a feather into your waiting hands.

If you must have a new start set for you, then set it for yourself and say Tomorrow is a new day and I will become something other than I have been before. Or set the alarm for five minutes from now and then rush to meet yourself.

Take away the pressure to do it all at once because the planet turned and became January 1st. Do it when it is the right time, even if that means getting up in the middle of the night and rushing downstairs to start the day, just because the day cannot wait one second longer.

Happy new start, readers, whatever the time of year.


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Christmas Number Twos...or how to manage Christmas a little differently.

One of the difficult, unrelenting things about Christmas is that it only comes once a year, so if it doesn't go well, or well enough, you're left until the next time to make it right.

First, it's debatable whether trying to make it right is even worthwhile. Surely we should just be enjoying the day as we see fit and not trying to make it into something gloriously wonderful, as per the latest made-for-tv-movie showing on the backburner channels.

Christmas should be what you want and maybe sometimes what you actually get instead of what you think it should be.

Having said all that, after spending this Christmas in a paroxysm of discomfort and emotional fatigue, I felt particularly cheated. It is my favourite holiday! The thought of waiting a full year and hoping that chance might throw me a decent Christmas just seemed so...harsh.

That was when it hit me. I looked at our two little trees, bought in a fit of inspiration when the massively big one looked too unwieldy and I thought, Why not have two Christmases as well?

Yes, two Christmases, just because.

Imagine, if you will, Christmas without all the hype and the expectation. Without feeling the need to buy enough presents for people or to make lots of food in honour of the day. Most importantly, without the pressure to make it just exactly right.

Imagine instead a Christmas where you have a small amount to spend on each person (we're buying more presents!) and can decide on an economical meal of what you would like to eat, minus the extras. The lights are lit on the trees and the decorations are still willing from the day itself.

So there we are, tomorrow is Christmas Number Twos. To the rest of the street it will be the Monday between Christmas and New Year but to us it will be a special day.

I'm very much looking forward to a lack of presents and pressure, food and forced enjoyment and a definite, absolute lack of Shoulds. Let the sleigh bells ring, readers, even if it is for the reindeer as they trot out to play in the snow-skimmed fields.

Tonight I feel the glow of Christmas Eve and if we are doing this one without Santa, well, I have a feeling he would approve.


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