The days are starting to blend into each other; me being so deep into my addiction. I barely slept last night. I have zombie skin, dark rings under my eyes, the house is squalid, the cat hungry.

Watch and learn kids! Don't get hooked on Breaking Bad, it's ruinous. (I know, I may officially be the last person in NZ to see it.) Anyway, here I am, I have torn myself away from the TV crack to write this first column of 2017.

And this year - an auspicious year, the year I turn freaking 50 - I am not making no listicle thing, bitch. (Yes a middle aged Parnell housewife trying to talk gangster is unbecoming. Ahem, I'll get rid of that. Yo) Anyway, I am not vowing that this year I will lose weight, learn Te Reo, pay my parking fines, iron my sheets.

What I want is both simpler, and harder.


A comprehensive study published recently examined human reactions to imminent death.

The report collated decades of air crash investigation with data from the final minutes of the Twin Towers tragedy of 9/11. What it showed was that when death is impending, 85% of people will do nothing. Five percent will become hysterical and only 10 percent will act to save themselves.


The writer DBC Pierre conjectures it is because most people are waiting for someone to tell them what to do. To take charge of them. Ding dong! Penny dropping.

I think I've spent most of my 49 years being a big whiny baby, waiting to be told what to do. Well, stuff that. This year I want to be that one person out of ten who at least tries to stay conscious, to be truly alive.

Andrew Solomon, in his classic treatise on depression The Noonday Demon, writes: "I can see the beauty of glass objects fully at the moment when they slip from my hand toward the floor." You want to love something more, imagine losing it. But does it have to be this way? Can we really only appreciate being alive when we are, like Walter White, about to die?

This is our one and only life, yet I can't escape the feeling up until now I have been sleep-walking through it, in a trance and focusing on all the wrong things (house prices, social norms, well-constructed outdoor furniture).

So now I only have one objective in 2017. It is simply to try to pay attention. Every moment. This is harder than it seems. Pay attention to what? Sometimes everything is too familiar to be visible, hiding in plain sight, we can't even see it. We all have continual lapses of attention that put us out of touch with ourselves. So the only answer: spend every moment of 2017 remembering we are all about to die; that is the only way we can stay conscious enough to notice. "Above all, don't lie to yourself." (Thanks Dostoyevsky, for the gloomy tramp dread.)

Stuff that. This year I want to be that one person out of ten who at least tries to stay conscious, to be truly alive.


You may have noticed it feels far more righteous to focus on big global problems - geopolitical manoeuvres, climate change, Syria, Israel, Trump, Brexit, dead pop stars. You may even feel by expressing despair you are taking some control, of a sort, like a tweedy elbow-patched intellectual, shrugging, noble.

But if you really want to set the world free? Don't join the "isn't it all so awful" brigade. You can't do anything about that. But you can do something about yourself. Try just for one day, don't judge anything or anybody including yourself. Forgive everybody for everything including yourself. When you're caught up in judging yourself, you're missing what is actually happening in each irreplaceable moment in your life. Please! I just don't want another year to slip by, feeling like I was never really quite here.

I just want to be present for my kids, for me also - to be able to notice, to find everything interesting, to find that portal back to wonder. It's everywhere. Zen and the art of cleaning grouting. Zen and the art of picking up tiny bits of Lego. Zen and the art of being a "good enough" mother. "Life is a spell so exquisite that everything conspires to break it," says Emily Dickinson. Every minute of every day we need to remind ourselves to hold the spell of wonder together. We can all continually seek the beauty and sublimity of the world despite its noxious intrusions (Trump, intolerance, clogged soap dispensers.)

How much of the chaos in the world comes from people simply feeling so bored by the lives they have ended up with? If they could find the sublime in the ordinary maybe they would, well, not need to escape.

To quote Walter White: "One of these days I'm going to hear some bad news but until then who's in charge - me. That's how I live my life."

I'm starting now. Even for one day in this new year, I'm going to stay conscious, to notice, to see. Life is extraordinary.