The joy of a quiet New Year’s Eve

It took me until nearly 5pm on New Year’s Day 2024 to start wishing people a happy new year on my various social media apps. The WhatsApp groups had been busy since around 9pm the night before, but I didn’t feel inclined to reciprocate until now. It’s not that I don’t wish everyone a happy new year. I just wasn’t feeling full of hope and excitement. Instead, I felt quiet, and peaceful.

After some smoked salmon on the sofa and half a film, my family began to peel away – to bed, the xBox and a drinks party respectively, and I was left with the dog and my book. I watched some TV (the luxury of the living room to myself is something I always appreciate) and considered whether I wanted to put on some make up and a dress and join my friend at the pub. I didn’t. I wondered whether that said something sad about my life situation – in middle age, and with older teenagers it can be easy to sink into victim mode and label myself irrelevant – but I didn’t feel sad. I felt peaceful.

I could hear my daughter and her friends in the kitchen, where they were making cocktails and playing the sort of games I used to love in my 20s, and I wondered whether to feel envious. But I didn’t; I was just happy they were happy, and grateful they were nearby. When I grew tired of my TV show, I turned it off and thought about going to bed, but I wasn’t tired. So I picked up my book and absorbed the silence, the dog sparko on the sofa beside me.

At midnight, I heard the girls counting down to 12am. I had a sudden flash of sadness that I wasn’t sharing that moment with someone, but it was gone as fast as it came – a knee-jerk reaction to a stereotyped expectation of euphoria that has rarely lived up to the hype, in my experience. It was immediately replaced by the warmth that only comes from knowing you’re in exactly the right place, at the right time.

I texted my son, who was watching TV alone upstairs, “Happy New Year” and smiled at the AI confetti buzz it generated in my phone. When he came down to reciprocate, I gave him a hug and explained I didn’t want him to feel alone if he didn’t want to be. He was fine. My daughter put her head round the door to wish us a happy new year too, and I savoured that moment of knowing I was important enough to be remembered.

Then I was once again alone with my book. It was 2024, a new year. Should I go and join the girls, pour a glass of fizz, post something on Instagram, make some resolutions? I thought about all these things, and then decided I’d been on the sofa so long that my hips would complain if I stood up now, and besides – I was at a really good bit in my book. I didn’t feel deprived of alcohol, lonely, or like I was missing out. I was content.

The next morning I woke with a clear head and took a long walk in the park with some good friends who’ve been the most incredible support to me throughout a very difficult 2023. Then I came home and had some lunch and a nap. Only then did I feel like I wanted to check my messages and respond. I posted my own photo online, tired and make-up free. I looked relaxed. Peaceful. I wished everyone peace.

I don’t feel the need to post about my wishes for 2024, or the changes I want to make. The last two years have been a time of incredible growth, made possible by my training as a counsellor and my personal therapy. Much of it has been very painful, but I wouldn’t change any of it. I’m more at peace with myself right now than I’ve ever been. All I want for 2024 is to continue that journey, ideally with calmer waters and more acceptance of myself.

I read a post by a friend whose only wish is to be more present – in less of a rush. And I messaged her “YES!! It’s all about contact and connection.” And so began a flurry of messages to important people I haven’t seen in a while. Contact. Connection. Peace. Add in a bit of physical strength and wellness and I’ll be very happy in 2024.

The quietest new year’s eve I’ve ever had as an adult turned out to be the loveliest because I listened to my body and not my phone or my inner FOMO. I did what I needed to do for me and appreciated the joy of a quiet new year. Sometimes quiet is every bit as rewarding as exciting. Come to think of it, maybe the 9pm New Year messages were from people doing due diligence before they went to bed. Perhaps the new me is not so unusual after all…

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