The New Year roared into action with wild Scottish gales. I thought the day might be ruined - there were red mare and small children plans - but then the winds dropped and the sun came out and the hills and the woods looked as ravishing as I have ever seen them. My sister and I took the red mare out for a walk and marvelled at the beauty. We passed other walkers and I waved madly at them and wished them a happy New Year at the top of my voice and they politely tried not to do double takes as they saw me walking my thoroughbred as if she were a great big Labrador. (This never fails to make me laugh.)
It was a day for the mares. Two of the beauties won at Cheltenham and I backed them both and I startled the dogs by roaring the brave girls home.
And now my fairy lights are still twinkling and I can hear the storm blowing in again and I am cooking sausages for supper and I am thinking keenly about my luck. A friend was talking about gratitude yesterday, and it reminded me that I want to take it seriously. I’m always talking about appreciating every single piece of good fortune, however small, however ordinary, and I do think that is a bit of a secret to life. Gratitude is a proper thing: it is studied and there are papers written on it and I once read that there is even a Department of Gratitude in one British university. I always imagine blissfully grateful profs dancing about the quads in their billowing gowns.
For maximum effect, you are supposed to do it systematically. I never do anything systematically. Systems make me a bit jumpy, even though I always think I should have some.
I have wild moments of gratitude, and then I think of something else. But you are meant to write it down, every day - three things you are grateful for. I’ve heard that if you want to apply a force multiplier (one of the very few pieces of jargon I like the sound of), you dig for gratitude in situations which do not, at first sight, appear very lovely. For instance, if you are stuck in a doleful traffic jam on the M5, instead of cursing the lorries and the cars, instead of getting frustrated, instead of panicking about being late, you think how lucky you are to have a car at all, and how grateful you are that you can finish listening to your audiobook, and how fortunate you are to live in a place which has good roads.
(I think about roads quite a lot. I sometimes see those videos of people driving along cliff edges in South America - I can never remember which country it is - and I feel fabulously relieved that that is not my daily commute.)
I’d been thinking generally that I would like a plan, for 2022. I often say I should get a plan. I hear those life gurus on the YouTube insisting that the Successful People always have a plan. And then I’m not quite sure how to make a plan, or what my plan should be, or how the plan might work.
I think a daily gratitude list should be part of the plan. I’d also like to do more work, get better at time management, and get up earlier. I would like some systems. The problem with being a creative is that you can fall in love with the idea of chaos. The insidious voices in my head say that it’s only the drones who have rotes and routines and rotas - those are not for those of us who live by our imaginations. I’m supposed to live on instinct, and wild thoughts, and leaps of intuition. That’s all very well, but it’s quite tiring when you are fifty-four and you never get the hoovering done. I could, I dare to think, still let my mind run free and have a bit of organisation at the same time. One does not cancel out the other.
So there, that’s my thought for the day. Gratitude, and a plan. I genuinely have no clue how to make a plan, but I’m going to look it up on the internet, the moment I finish writing this. I always thought of it as a confinement - narrow and workaday and boring - but I have a tiny hope that it might, in fact, set me free.
Oh, and PS. Speaking of gratitude, the photograph of the red mare with her small friends is my Moment of Supreme Gratitude. The winds had scuppered our original plans, but we still had an enchanted meeting, and watching their wondering little faces as they gazed up at her gave me more joy than I can put into words.