At midnight on 31st December last year, I lit a sky candle and sent it up into the darkness, full of symbolism and hope for the future. 2012 had been a terrible year for me and I wanted to say goodbye to all the sadness and illness and tears and regret. I felt optimistic and ready for change, ready to embrace new things and new challenges. I loved seeing that sky candle filling with light and heat and pulling away from me into the night sky. I watched it rise up with a happy cheer, a silent wish and a secret prayer.
The sky candle immediately got stuck in the branches of a tree, and stayed up there for weeks, tattered and forlorn. I saw it every morning from my kitchen window, and felt haunted by its failure to fly and what this might symbolise for my year ahead. Everybody laughed and told me not to be silly and everything would be fine and it was just a sky candle stuck in a tree, nothing more. Finally the rain and wind loosened it and one morning it was gone, so I forgot about it.
And then a few days ago, I remembered it. And I saw that actually it had spoken the truth, for I have been stuck in one way or another for the whole year, and indeed still am. Our house took forever to sell: months and months of fruitless cleaning and tidying and showing people round, never feeling able to spread out or make a mess for fear of the next viewing, my life on hold. Then eventually in September moving out and putting all my things into storage and taking a few essentials and, aged nearly fifty, with a little granddaughter, becoming a lodger. I expected to rent a room for a few weeks while my house was extended and refurbished... but I'm still here. The builders have taken forever and driven me nearly crazy in the process, and a catalogue of expensive disasters has unfolded. The end is not in sight. I am still living out of a suitcase and surviving on ready meals.
But yet, I am hopeful... at least a little bit. I know that one day soon I will be able to move in, and a new chapter of my life will begin... a lot later than I expected, and it does feel like I have wasted a whole year waiting for it. But I am painting my shelves so that I can unpack my books, and that feels good.
I'm not lighting any sky candles this New Year's Eve. I'll be babysitting for my granddaughter, and I'll probably go to bed well before midnight. I don't want to look into the future or even hope or dream. I'll wake up the next morning and it will all unfold just as it would have done anyway.