Well, we’re officially three weeks into the new year.
So tell me how you’ve been doing at ‘giving up’?
Last year, thanks to health concerns, I gave up, with varying success, alcohol, sugar, and wheat.
I gave up making reliable plans and two dreams, hard fought for and then left for health reasons.
I abandoned my dream of living on a boat after a few months of realising, reluctantly, that my body wasn’t robust enough for a winter of storms on the water – no matter how stubborn my spirit was.
I tried, as 2023 passed, to give up my expectations for my health.
I tried to give up denial (can you give up denial?) about the fact that I was so chronically sick.
I did not give up fun or trying to find joy, though goodness knows sometimes I felt like I should or would.
I still remember speaking to my brilliant editor, Alex Watson, about whether I might like to contribute to my hometown paper.
I was sitting outside a Prague playground while my then one-year-old little boy played in the sandpit and found it hard to breathe during the phone call. I thought I must be more nervous than I realised.
When I pitched my first column to Alex, about the impossible standards reinforced by mothering forums, and how they could be the most negative places possible for a vulnerable new mum, I was on the train home from an appointment with the ear, nose and throat doctor sitting with a nebulizer on my lap, like a little birthday gift.
Not knowing that appointment would be the first of many dominoes toppling to an emergency, life-saving surgery, coming home to Glasgow to be diagnosed with another autoimmune condition and realising that life was going to have to change.
My little boy is three now and I have loved sharing all the adventures, joys, challenges and triumphs of early parenthood for the last two years.
But in 2024 one of the things I’m reluctantly giving up is this column.
My new memoir Newborn: Running Away, Breaking with the Past, Building a New Family comes out on February 1st.
It’s a book about being a mother when you have no blueprint.
About being a mother when you have a chronic illness. About how beautiful being a mother can be even in the most challenging times in a foreign city where you know no one and speak no language.
‘I am deeply proud of my book’
I’m deeply proud of the book. Something I put my whole heart into when I wasn’t sure if I would live out the year.
It’s a testimony of love to my son and my husband, my smelly dog and my frankly indifferent cat.
But now, I have decided I would like to spend less time writing about my life and more time living it.
I will still write, not least the two thriller novels drumming at my fingertips to get out, but I want to spend my days with my little boy watching him grow up.
My energy and time are finite and as much as possible I want to spend them out in the world, not squirrelled away in my head analysing and turning my every day into a yarn for others.
We plan to travel more this year. It might sound counterproductive to say that if you’re sicker than you expected to ever be you should push yourself more to be in unfamiliar spaces, but there is something invigorating about remembering how wide the world is, even when your own has been limited, folded ever smaller by illness.
While you’re reading this, I’ve been in Porto. The flu before I left meant I basically limped into the city and spent much of it sleeping in an Airbnb room with porcelain swallows flying up the wall.
But we’ve also had flashes of great joy. A golden sunset over the Douro River while my little boy dipped his hand into an ancient fish pond.
His first bite of soft, sweet pasteis de nata and watching him devour a whole packet of Portuguese ham.
We watched the wild waves and took a tram past a rainbow of tiled buildings leaning on steep hills.
It has been freeing to not be observing as a writer but living as a mother in the flashes of energy I’m afforded.
Quite simply, when you have a chronic illness, there is just not enough of you to go around.
I am giving up everything that is not essential in favour of living joyfully
So, I have chosen to give up everything that is not essential in favour of living as joyfully as possible in those little pockets of physical possibility.
I can’t thank all of you, readers, enough for your generosity and for opening your hearts and your minds to our stories.
It’s been an absolute honour to write for my hometown paper. A local girl done pretty good, I think.
My deepest thanks go to Alex and all of The Press and Journal team for keeping me writing when I thought I couldn’t even keep living and for letting me tell the story of these two eventful years.
And with that, I say obrigada, I’m off to watch my son line up pebbles on the seashore.
Kerry Hudson is an Aberdeen-born, award-winning writer of novels, memoirs and screenplays