For the fourth time, I have ended my year with Susannah Conway’s Unravel the Year Ahead, a little workbook full of questions for reflecting on the past year and finding inspiration for the year to come. This time, I needed it more than ever. It helped me see the beautiful moments of a year that has been quite dark for many of us, and now I can’t wait to make 2017, a little wiser and much more gentle with myself.
As some of you have seen on Instagram, I joined Susannah’s December Reflections project, where people all over the world share a picture a day in December, in response to a list of prompts, with the aim of looking back at the year. Here are my 31 pictures, some old, some new, each telling a tiny story of my 2016.
Day 1: On the table
Pushing past bedtime until the needle breaks, reminding me there is still tomorrow.
Day 2: Light
Catching flickers of hope from each other’s eyes, we build a flame to guide us closer.
Day 3: Fave photo of 2016
A moment in March, reminding me of how we rush through this world, even when it reaches for us. How we could sit down instead and breathe it all in.
Day 4: Circles
Circling my mind, collecting loose ideas to fix into something brilliant.
Day 5: Best book of 2016
”I don’t know exactly where I was born. A hospital, I suppose. Surrounded by spotlights and freshly laundered bed-sheets and a trolley of sterilised birthing tools. I find it hard to picture some scrubbed-up stranger wielding my naked, squawking self about as though I were a broiled ham. Instead I like to pretend I was born all alone without any fuss, without any gore. And right here, in my father’s house. I like to believe the house itself gave birth to me, that I slithered down the chimney, fell ignobly into the fire grate and inhaled my first breath of cold, swirling ash.”
– Sara Baume, Spill Simmer Falter Wither
Day 6: In the air
I fall out of bed into crisp mist, filling my lungs with firewood smoke and clouddust.
Day 7: Five things about me
I fall in love with places, languages and books far more often than with people. As a teenager, I was so obsessed with vampires I once took a four-hour train to Volterra to run across the town square at twelve o’clock. My arms are unproportionally long, so I blame them when things fall over, which they do, often. When I drive alone, I talk to myself out loud to practise English or untangle my thoughts. Dancing barefoot in the forest is like medicine to me.
Day 8: On the ground
A year of barefoot runs through morning dew. Mud between my toes and splinters too deep to catch. My back against stones and tree trunks and moss. A whisper from the earth to lean closer.
Day 9: Best day of 2016
Leafing through my journals, my heart expands until it hurts to fit all the memories. I can’t pick a single day. I just know that my best ones were those when I could look into the sky in the evening and tell myself I had really been there.
Day 10: I made this
This morning, I finally opened my folder of clips from my months of volunteering at a retreat centre in the forest, composing a tiny reminder of the magical moments and the fact that I made it through the most stressful summer of my life.
Day 11: Biggest lesson from 2016
Still learning to let go, letting life float into place instead of chasing the lost pieces.
Day 12: Precious
A morning walk with my mother through glistening fields, my heart glowing with gratitude for the test results that calmed us a week ago. Gratitude for the fact that she is here and all is well.
Day 13: Soundtrack of 2016
The creaks and whispers of the forest.
Day 14: Texture
The sweet spicy smoothness of golden milk.
Day 15: Best decision of 2016
My decision to bring nothing but a small backpack on a four-month adventure, letting my curiosity guide me to places I had never expected to go, was a life-changing one.
Day 16: A secret
No matter how much I challenge myself, I still feel out of place.
Day 17: Five years ago
Five years ago, I felt safer on a stage than in a classroom.
Day 18: Reflection
The moments when we dare to let our light echo through the darkness, every flickering breath reshaping it into something beautiful.
Day 19: Something I love
I love to explore tiny places in the middle of nowhere.
Day 20: Snuggle
Learning to ease myself into the mornings.
Day 21: Solstice sunset
No sun today. Just a milky sky silently slipping out of itself.
Day 22: This year was…
This year was like wildfire.
Day 23: Sparkle
Sometimes we just have to open our eyes in the darkness to find the sparkling hope.
Day 24: Traditions
Another snowless Christmas. A heart aching for the cracks of the Earth, then softening with gratitude for being here. At home. Safe and warm.
Day 25: Today is…
Today is the first day of my last week in Sweden for a while.
Day 26: Nourish
Unravelling my 2017 tonight, longing to fill it with mornings like this one, when I slowed down just enough to catch a golden sky instead of rushing into the day.
Day 27: My smile
While I am slowly coming to terms with the body I used to hate so much I hurt it, I am still mad at my childhood dentists for never even bringing up the subject of braces. But here, in an article about my journey from social anxiety to creative freelancing, is my smile, crooked and unhidden.
Day 28: Quiet moment
This afternoon. A single star. A silent surface to slow my undercurrents.
Day 29: My wish for 2017
I just wish for the world to be a little softer and lighter next year.
Day 30: Thank you for…
Thank you, forest, for holding me and teaching me so much.
Day 31: My word for 2017
Presence. Being here, wherever I am.