Two weeks ago I stood on the stage of the Waterside Theatre and sang. I sang as part of a two hour long concert put together by the members of the choir I joined in February.
I even danced a little. I bobbed my way through a Sound of Music Medley. I stomped ferociously through the African chanting of the Lion King. I looked suitably disgusted at our men folk as we gave ‘Fairytale of New York’ some dramatic lilty and I put a little love in my heart.
This time last year I could never, ever, in my wildest dreams have imagined I would do such a thing. (Short of the occasional day dream in which I suddenly developed the voice of Lea Michelle and dueted with Mr Schuester in Glee).
But 2011 has definitely been a year of feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
I admit I’m a comfort zone kind of a girl. I like routine. I like security and safety and not challenging myself too much. I find day to day living challenging enough at times. But this year, perhaps like never before, I have pushed myself to do things I never thought I would.
Buoyed by the notion I didn’t have to audition or sing on my own, I joined Encore in February. I sang very quietly for the first six months at least but I surprised myself by enjoying the craic and realising that I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Following that up in March I travelled to Dublin to take part in an Eason event to celebrate women’s fiction in Ireland. I found myself talking to so many of my heroines - to Cathy Kelly, Sheila O’Flanagan, Cecelia Ahern and Patricia Scanlan.
I didn’t make a total and utter eejit of myself. (I made a minor eejit with myself to Patricia Scanlan - more in a “You inspired me to write” way but she didn’t call security or laugh in my face so that was good start.)
In terms of writing, I scrapped one novel just four months from publication and wrote a completely new book in the space of just 10 weeks.
I slept, ate, dreamt, drank and cried that book for that intense period - writing thousands of words at a time while still trying to hold down work, arrange the husband’s 40th birthday and making tentative and foolish steps to potty train my daughter.
By the time September arrived and the book was finished, the wee choir which had taken up just one evening a week had decided to put together our first show in the Waterside Theatre complete with 10 choral pieces all to be learned by December 18.
It’s only now, sitting back and looking back at the year that has passed I realise just how far I’ve come and how far those around me have come. I’m pleased to say when I look back on 2011, for the most part I am looking back on a happy year.
Yes, it was hectic at times. Of course there were upsets along the way but I feel truly blessed to be able to sit at this time of year and see that my blessings have far outweighed my troubles.
It gives me hope for the year to come. If I can push the boundaries one year - achieve more than I ever thought possible - then there is no reason I can’t push them that little bit more in 2012.
There is so reason I can’t have a year when I feel more in control, where I challenge myself to reach a little farther and a little higher.
I already know that next year will be one of mixed emotions. The boy is set to make his First Holy Communion in May - as per the usual new year’s promises I hope to have lost weight by then so that I don’t fear the pictures quite so much.
In September my baby - who I will finally have to accept is growing up - will hopefully start pre-school. I know that day will be a strange one. I’ll be exceptionally proud of her, but exceptionally emotional as a mammy seeing her little girl start to make her way in the world.
I know there will be challenges I’ve not even thought of yet - but I’ll do my best to meet them in the best way I can - to smile, to laugh and to keep positive whenever I can.
And if God is good to me, maybe I’ll find myself back on that stage at some point - singing, laughing, revelling in the limelight and feeling proud of myself.
I hope the new year is as good to you, and that you can look back on the past year with more happy memories than sad. For those who have had a tough year I hope 2012 puts your troubles behind you once and for all.