2014: A recap on those resolutions

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Happy New Year! At the beginning of 2014 I overhauled the look and feel of this blog, and resolved to be a bit 'better' at posting. Last year, I managed a whole 12 posts. I didn't write about nearly as many of the things I would have loved to write about, and I felt as if I missed the boat on many other things due to just having too much on. But I was proud of what I did manage to produce. However, I'd made some other resolutions for 2014 as well, and I wanted to chronicle how I got on with them.

Be hospitable (and a good friend)

If you're a Christian you get to hear a lot about being hospitable. Christians just love people who are good at hospitality. They are everyone's favourite. They are the people at church that everyone just adores. We're told that it's a special gift that some people have, but we're also told how hospitality has been a key aspect of the church since ancient times. So, you know, we've got to do it. When you're an introverted couple with a non-sleeping baby and living in a flat it's not all that easy. Plus I was convinced I hadn't been at the front of the queue when the gift of hospitality was bestowed on God's people.

Everyone knows a woman (or women - and it is always women), who's a pro at sorting out a buffet or doing the refreshments for everyone. She's good at bustling round a kitchen. And when there's some sort of party, several of these women will just get everything done. They just get on in there and bustle. Now there's a very important conversation to be had here about gender and why, exactly, it's women who are the ones that do this, but my point here is that I never got this gene. When everyone with ovaries starts doing that bustling around thing and being hospitality pros, I ask if there's anything I can do. And invariably, there isn't much I can do. So I get a drink, and feel slightly guilty.

In 2014, a few things changed. We became an introverted couple, with a toddler who finally slept at night, living in a decent-sized house. Having been really rubbish at socialising for well over a year, and having moved to the periphery of church (more on this later), I really wanted to get better at hospitality. And you know what? It's still hard, but it's been working. We like cooking, and people appreciate that. We're really trying to open up our home a bit more - subject to everyone else's busy lives as well as our own, so it doesn't happen all the time, but I hope we can build on this in 2015.

Sort out The Church Thing

On 2 January 2014 I gave myself a bit of a talking-to and decided I was going to attempt to move forward on my long-running struggle with church. The year, in this respect, was full of ups and downs. I read things like A Churchless Faith and read a lot of blog posts by post-evangelicals and disaffected people and people seeking authenticity. In the process I think I learnt a lot about myself. When we say we're seeking authenticity, are we merely seeking more people like us? And what happens when you're reminded that creating communities of people like us is, really, pretty exclusionary? If those who ask questions are currently the people of the moment, surely, at some point, some answers would be helpful? Or at least, some ways to move forward. And if we have issues that we need to discuss, it's always better to discuss them rather than simmer over them and expect people to understand why we're upset, when we haven't actually told them in the first place (what do you mean, people aren't mind-readers?).

Through the spring and summer, following the (extremely disheartening) disbanding of the midweek group we were attending, I was dipping in and out of visiting a couple of other churches. But when I thought about it, I just didn't feel led to make the move anywhere else. I was feeling as if I was going to become a 'done'. What ended up happening was that we discussed it and decided we needed a fresh challenge that would help us get more involved and enable us to build community again. This challenge came to us in the form of an opportunity to become the new leaders of a midweek group, and at the moment it's going really well. I still have a long way to go when it comes to Sundays, but at least one thing has changed and one thing has made a difference.

A new resolution for Twitter

I got really disillusioned with Twitter and internet activism in 2013 - more specifically, the way that a community I had once loved seemed to become primarily about performative 'call-outs' as activism, the monstering of women trying to make a difference because they haven't yet managed to focus on or solved all the world's problems, and the readiness of people to brand others  as 'vile' and 'disgusting' over things that may not have happened and may never have been said. In 2014 I pledged to do what I could to support people, signal-boost good things and be encouraging instead. I didn't entirely do away with having a bit of a rant on occasion, however (one friend I met for the first time in 2014 mentioned my 'controlled rants'!). This also meant getting rid of a lot of negative and unhelpful voices from my timeline - and in return a lot of people did away with me, often for something as simple as being seen talking to particular people or sharing their writing, which pretty much proves my point about the way things have gone.

I'll be carrying my 2014 Twitter resolution over into 2015 and keeping up with some of the wonderful people I've been talking to and getting to know over the past year. In 2014 I had the opportunity to meet some longtime Twitter friends for the first time (quite a few of these at Greenbelt).

Get fit again

I used to run half marathons, remember? The guilt of my paid-for and unused gym membership motivated me to get back to working out last year. For a time. It was all going so well - and then a particularly busy period at work happened, and my lunchtime trips to the sports centre tailed off (although I've continued to do plenty of walking). Like nearly everyone else this month, however, I'm hoping to get back into exercise for the new year.

Be kind

I didn't always manage it, particularly in the first few months of the year, but in 2014 I've been working on being a lot kinder to myself. This has involved a few different things:

- Identifying some avoidable causes of feeling anxious and/or miserable, and trying to avoid thought patterns that exacerbate these. This has had mixed success but is really getting better
- Trying to ignore impostor syndrome whenever it rears its ugly head
- Acknowledging that I do need - and deserve - downtime - and not beating myself up for failing to achieve things 24/7
- Do the little things: use the nice skincare every day rather than sporadically!

I've also been working on extending the kindness through reaching out to support friends and family. 2014 was a tough year for my extended family as both my maternal grandparents passed away (in September 2013 and January 2014), so we've been particularly trying to spend quality time with my mum.

Say yes

At the beginning of 2014 I started to become involved in more talks and get-togethers about the gender imbalance of speaker line-ups at Christian conferences, following this bit of research by my good friend and partner in crime Natalie, and the many discussions it prompted. One of the main barriers to women being more visible as speakers, as 'experts', is that we're much more likely than men to say 'no' to opportunities put our way. Sometimes that's down to a lack of confidence or impostor syndrome; sometimes it's due to responsibilities like caring for children. I was so encouraged that some organisations were really willing to talk about all this and discuss how they could make changes, and I'm really excited that out of all these discussions, Project 3:28 - a new initiative for 2015 - was born.

I knew that in 2014 I had to get better at saying 'yes' to opportunities too. And so I did some exciting things:

- I did another talk at Greenbelt (and helped organise a Christian Feminist Network worship session; and exhibited for my day job there too)
- I wrote a feature on Christianity and feminist activism for Christianity magazine
- I wrote for the New Statesman's series on second wave feminism, discussing Susan Brownmiller's In Our Time and the lessons the movement today can learn from it (particularly pertinent to my 'new resolution for Twitter above). The series generated a lot of controversy, but was also well-received by a lot of people
- I presented on 'Hashtag activism' at the Christian New Media Conference
- And I also got approached about writing a book. This was incredibly exciting, and I did a lot of thinking, praying and planning as a result. Over the summer, however, I had to concede that while writing a book would be amazing, it's not something I can commit to right now - my life is really busy already and I just don't have the spare time needed

However, the past year has really underlined for me the importance of keeping the right perspective as I 'say yes' to things, not becoming too invested in profile and self-promotion at the expense of authenticity and relationships. Unfortunately I've seen this happen to people, and I know how much hurt and disillusionment it can cause.

For 2015, I've decided to carry over all of these resolutions and build on last year's efforts, with one new addition: read more. I have a stack of new books following Christmas, and lots of things I want to learn about too.

Before I go, some mentions for the blogs I kept on reading in 2014 despite a distinct lack of free time: GlosswatchA Room of Our Own; Sarah Ditum; C. Jane Kendrick; Dianna E. Anderson; Messy Nessy Chic; Littlee and Bean; Lulastic and the Hippyshake; Sian and Crooked Rib; Mummy Says...

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