A Hopeful January

January is where the hope is.

Here we are again; in January. Here we find ourselves once more, with the perception of a new beginning, a new year, new you. It’s like after you get home from a holiday and see your home through fresh eyes again, see the painted walls properly, remembering the names you chose from the colour palette – French Turquoise, Dark Truffle, Cider Rose, Nancy’s Blushes. In the past few years you’ve spent so much time in between those walls that you began to see them just as blue, brown, pink and mauve. But it’s a new year now so the house is vibrant again, filled with promise of French Nancy’s Dark Cider.

My boyfriend hung up the 2022 calendar in our kitchen on the 4th January. He hung it on the same hook as last year’s calendar, directly over the top of 2021’s calendar. Some may see this as laziness. I saw some beauty in it. He didn’t remove last year, hide it away in a drawer or throw it away. He just layered this year’s hope and potential directly over the top of last year’s experiences. Ultimately we aren’t replacing the year or ourselves. Each year builds upon the previous ones, layers and layers of who we are. Sometimes you need years of Magnolia Not-White before French Turquoise will take hold.

For me, this January I have started to look for hope and understanding about not having had my own children. As I stare down the barrel of turning 45, reality is hitting me, and I’ve realised that my childlessness is not because of one standalone reason. It’s like the calendars, multiple layers and years of various reasons, building on each other to arrive here where I am – reasons like life choices and explorations, health, travel, career, loss, healing, an expensive society, relationship messes, relationship standards, fate, freedom, finding love and stability late. Some days it makes sense. Other days it’s like the gods go distracted, forgot to lay the stepping stones beneath my feet and now I’m landing face first in a filthy grief pond. Regardless if it’s a good day or a pond day, I’m holding tight to hope.

I’m not processing this all alone, I didn’t find the hopefulness hiding under the bed. I found it in the first few pages of a book by Jody Day, called ‘Living the Life Unexpected. How to find hope, meaning, and a fulfilling future without children’. The Introduction helpfully begins with acknowledging “This is a book about hope. Right now, that’s probably not where you’re at. Maybe you’re holding this book at metaphorical arm’s length thinking, ‘Really? I’m going to read this?’ when actually it’s the last thing you want to do…” She goes on to write about how we can bury our hope, how hope is quiet, and about how letting go of dreams and therefore letting go of hope can be terrifying. Ultimately she advocates for letting go of hope for one (important) thing, falling into the darkness, but finding hope for another (also important) thing – light in darkness kind of metaphor if you will; process and feel the loss to move forward. Eek. Wish me luck. For my fellow childless wild women, I see you and I hope you have support around you to grieve, process, reflect and find re-newed hope.

Thankfully, hope has been floating all around me this January. My peers in a writing for wellbeing group used Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the thing with feathers” as a writing prompt in January; a friend who runs a writing group explored hope in her January session; and, well, we have a new calendar up in the kitchen.

I know January doesn’t always feel hopeful. It can feel dark and damp, and meaning can feel allusive. Let’s lean into the winter together, explore the undergrowth, re-root ourselves for the year ahead. Let’s think about where we can repaint our Magnolia selves to be French Turquoise; not replacing ourselves with a fabricated ‘new me’, but building on the layers of ourselves; strong and hopeful.

January is where the hope is.