Image for post
Image for post
Image: Adi Goldstein for Unsplash

A birthday is in many ways a new year — at least for the person experiencing it! I rather like my mid-January birthday (which happens to be today), because I’ve gotten through the hoopla of New Year’s and its resolutions with enough time to see whether or not they were the right ones to make — and whether I’m on track to actually fulfilling them.

I didn’t make any this year. New Year’s Day, to be honest, was something of a blur. I was too busy managing pain — and expectations — around the arm I’d broken just before Christmas. So perhaps now my birthday can stand in!

I have a list. I always have a list. I’m not one of those persons waiting for age-related dementia to kick in: I’ve always known that, in my world, if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. I once walked into a sociology class completely oblivious to the fact that it was my turn to make a presentation. I made the presentation (it was an easy class, and I read a lot and can think on my feet), but later thought, “Hmm. Maybe I would have avoided the panic if I’d actually known this was the day.”

As Arsenio Hall used to say, “Things that make you go hmm.”

So naturally I have a list. Goals. Broken down by month. It looks a little daunting, to tell the truth. Feeling already that I’m a little bit behind. Catching up on projects I needed to do in December.

On the other hand, a big beautiful calendar is opening up in front of me. Spaces for writing. A new book in my current mystery series in June, another in October. If a grant comes through (fingers crossed!), a trip to the UK in the spring to research another novel that’s partway written but needs more work.

And silly goals like, “Find the ending for the short story you’ve been stuck on for five years.” As if by declaring it a goal I could summon the necessary inspiration that’s been eluding me lo these many moons!

But mostly I’m reflecting on all this. Reflecting less on what I want to accomplish this year and more on how I want to feel. Thinking not so much about doing stuff and more about experiencing stuff.

The great gift of 2019 for me turned out to be breaking my arm. It was a pretty awful experience, and the pain literally took my breath away. I had to have surgery and I’ve been doing physical therapy exercises every day, and I’m only just now getting to the point where I can refer to what I’m feeling with words like ache and sore instead of excruciating and pain. Yeah, I know: doesn’t sound like there’s much there to be grateful for, right?

Image for post
Image for post
Image: Jafar Ahmed for Unsplash

As it turns out, completely wrong. I called someone in the middle of the night and she came and took me to the emergency room—an hour away—no questions asked. Over the next few days, not only the people I consider my friends but others I know only casually exhibited amazing kindness and an instant willingness to set aside their own agendas to help me. People brought me food and took out my garbage. Someone drove me to the hospital and waited through my surgery; someone else put me up on her sofa for a couple of days to keep an eye on my immediate recovery. People picked up my mail and packages (this was around Christmas, remember), cooked for me, ran errands, drove me all over the place for appointments and just to get out. One friend sent a cleaner to scour my cottage and leave it bright and smelling good; another sent me ebooks and gift cards so I could read and watch recommended novels and movies.

I knew I had friends, but I had no idea the breadth and depth of the kindness that surrounds me. 2019 was a difficult year to feel positive about much of anything on the world stage, and by December I was definitely in a cynical frame of mind.

Then I broke my arm, and everything changed. Sure, the world is still pretty much in trouble, and that has to be taken seriously. But my world is an amazing place.

So as I look ahead, I’m much more inclined to reflect on that goodness, and less to set a series of self-absorbed goals for myself to attain. Seriously: the best part of 2019 was breaking my arm.

Written by

Bestselling novelist of mystery and historical fiction. Writer, editor, & business storyteller at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store