Forwards and Backwards

When I met my half-Danish husband eleven years ago, he introduced me to Danish culture. Denmark isn’t somewhere I’d been before or knew very much about – I was more of an Ikea girl, myself. Fast forward a few years and a huge explosion and celebration of all things Danish happened in the UK and suddenly everyone was talking about Hygge and candles and a seemingly endless list of reasons to bring out more food and drink, and all the other things I’d been hearing about since 2009. If only I’d realised how big Denmark would suddenly be over here, I’d have written the damn book myself. Hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing. I didn’t write a book about Hygge and share this secret Danish cosiness with the world, but hats off to those who did.

Besides Hygge, a favourite Danish insight my husband introduced me to is the saying, “frem og tilbage er lige langt”, the sentiment doesn’t translate exactly, but in our house we refer to it as simply this, “Forwards and backwards is the same distance.” Often it crops up on long journeys when we’ve taken a wrong turn and have to retrace our steps. It makes sense literally, if you take a step forwards it is the same distance as if you take a step backwards, but I mostly enjoy the sense of acceptance and calm which it brings. It doesn’t matter which direction you’re going in, rather that you simply are going.

It’s the end of 2020. What a year. Go backwards 365 days and imagine being told what your year would be like. Back then, it was just a great piece of fiction – I’d read it. I’d watched it in countless post-apocalyptic films (another passion my husband introduced me to). I have to say I’ve enjoyed candles and good food much more than apes and space travel, but that’s probably for another discussion. Now skip forwards 365 days. Suddenly making New Year’s resolutions (as a list lover this is a favourite past time of mine) seems daunting…futile… or perhaps we are just worried about tempting fate again? Who started 2020 announcing that “this will be my year” – how on earth do we begin planning for the next one?

Yet plan we do. Something must keep us going and plodding on or we would just end up standing still. So I have duly taken out one of my favourite notebooks and written 2021 at the top. What do I want to achieve in 2021? So much of this year has felt like adapting, responding, damage limitation, survival – for some, these are feelings which might have sparked creativity and passion and energy, for others they have caused anxiety, worry, confusion and the rest of us, perhaps, have muddled along somewhere in the middle.

For me, I had grandiose ideas about becoming a published author in 2020. Back in January I thought a year was generous, a safety net of 365 days but how long do these things really take? Much like the rest of my ideas about 2020, I was wrong.

I have made my own website, approached literary agents and publishers, joined writing forums, shared my writing with other writers, been awarded an honourable mention, got to the semi-finals of a major writing competition and most importantly, I’ve written. Not every day and not always consistently, but I have produced stories and poems and blog posts of which I am proud, which have kept me motivated during the harder parts of 2020 and created hope that one day this is something I will be able to call a career and not just a hobby. Perhaps a year to be published was too ambitious? Perhaps in this particular year, even more so, just because it didn’t happen in 2020 doesn’t mean it will never happen.

We’ve heard so much this year about hope and kindness and generosity and how much good can stem from so much sadness. I think at their core, New Year’s Resolutions are about being hopeful and optimistic which is probably why I have always loved writing them. I’ve never lost the two stone I write down on the list every year but that doesn’t stop me writing it down and starting the year eating healthily and off the booze. Maybe 2021 is the year I have a healthy BMI and a published story and maybe it’s not, but I don’t want to give up trying and hoping and working towards my goals because I’m scared I might not meet them.

After all, if forwards and backwards are the same distance then it doesn’t really matter where you end up, as long as you keep moving.

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