There's no doubt I'm feeling reflective. December has arrived. Yesterday I battled with the scratchy branches of our Christmas tree to decorate the house.
I have been squirreling away Santa presents for months, and making the children have as magical a Christmas as possible (including Elf on the Shelf activities, which seemed a good idea when I started it).
But I suppose like a lot of people I'm finding it difficult to get fully into the festive spirit - because, as for many people, 2016 has been such a turbulent year for me.
I have been trying to process everything that happened - being one of those hokey sorts who believes every thing in life is a learning experience - and figure out what way I'm supposed to have progressed through the shit storm that 2016 brought.
World affairs aside (because, seriously? That's beyond depressing) - this year has been a challenging one personally for a host of reasons, many of which I have mentioned on this blog before.
Not least of course has been my decision to leave the relative safety net of my 18 year strong journalism career, to focus on my writing career, my family and my health.
There have been so many (SO. MANY.) personal challenges that I have felt like a reluctant passenger on a very high, very fast, very boke-inducing rollercoaster.
From personal relationships to friendships, to illness of family members, to concerns about challenges facing those I love - it has been one hell of a c year and I'm well aware it isn't over yet.
But it has taught me a number of things, which, if you don't mind, I'd like to share with you now.
I know all this is a bit mushy - but if you can't be mushy at Christmas, when can you?
Thank you all for reading, for chatting, for laughing, for supporting.
When I left my career of 17 years, a colleague wrote me a very lovely card. In it she said she had always admired my confidence.
I was a bit taken aback because if you were to ask me, I'd have told you that I was the least confident person on the planet.
Even this move - this pack-in-the-day-job-and-give-writing-a-go move - was not borne out of any sense of confidence that I was about to become the next big thing in writing. In fact it was fair to say that the decision to leave was the least 'me-like' thing I have ever done,
I am not confident. I am not courageous. I am not brave. Like many people I have spent a very deal of my life feeling a bit like an intruder in the room - someone who is there by fluke or as the token quiet Derry girl.
I have spent my life waiting to be found out and - at the moment as I find my way in this full time writing world, I wonder if now is the time I finally will be.
I have never felt more like the quiet, ill equipped, Derry girl in the room.
And believe me, I have made that role my own in the past. I spoke to an old acquaintance recently - someone I was at journalism college with- and we got on to the topic of how quiet and shy I was back then.
Yes, forging a career breaking news stories, interviewing politicians, policy makers and celebs - and I couldn't bring myself to open my mouth to the people I was studying with.
The former class mate told me my shyness was "painful to watch' at times - and I felt like screaming that it was more painful to endure.
It wasn't that I didn't want to fit in - to have the craic, to go out on the nights out with my classmates, to be privy to all the scandal that went on - it was just that I didn't think I belonged. They - my classmates - all were confident, talented folks with the personalities to ask the right questions.
I was the girl on the bursary who did well in all the exams but failed dramatically at the living the university life bit.
I have to say, I've carried that with me for the past 20 years. The whole way through my journalism career. I have always felt embarrassed for the girl I was - who didn't even speak up when someone was making fun of her to her face.
I was awkward and clumsy and really, if I'm honest, a bit frumpy. When I wrote Rainy Days and Tuesdays and wrote about Grace, not sure who she was and a terrible journalist because she hated answering the phone - well... let's just say there was more than a little me there.
I'm not much different when it comes to writing. Why anyone thinks being an author makes you brave, or confident is beyond me. There are few and far between authors I know - from the amateurs to the bestsellers - who aren't frequently crippled with self doubt.
If they are lucky - they can hide it. We're not supposed to say we're nervous. Or scared. Or anything less than utterly confident in our books.
We are supposed to be able to stand up now and shout about our successes. Boast our sales figures. Talk confidently about our craft.
I fail on all counts. I feel if I talk sales figures - people will think me a bore. I figure if I talk about my writing people will laugh and think "who is she kidding on with that nonsense?".
But I'm trying to change - because 20 years regretting a socially painful year at journalism college is/ was a big burden to carry.
I am trying to be proud of who I am. To speak loudly about who I am and what I do. I'm trying not to say "just women's fiction really' when people ask me what I write because that's insulting to me - and more so to my readers. I'm trying to own my story - including sharing the truth of my painful year at college (which actually normally just makes me cry when I think about it) so that I can move on and become that confident person.
The acquaintance I spoke with told me I should be living my best life now.
So I suppose I should give that a try for a change - and go forward bravely knowing that even if it has hurt along the way I've not given up.
I'm still trying.
I'm still doing.
And perhaps one day soon when I walk into a crowded room with confident people I will be able to stand up bravely and make sure they know me too. The real me. Not the token quiet girl from Derry.
On Monday of this week I did something I never thought I would do.
I walked away from the security of my job - from the career in journalism I had worked very hard to achieve and from the place I had worked for 17 years.
The following day, I turned 40.
If there was ever a time for a big change, I imagine turning 40 was it.
Or at least I hope so.
The thing is, I'm not an overly confident person. Making the move to go full time as a writer both thrills and terrifies me. This week, perhaps, it terrifies me more than thrills me as the reality of not having that monthly salary popping into my bank account each month hits.
But when I think of being my own boss - of spending my days writing, or blogging, or on the Twitters, or helping people tell their own stories I feel giddy.
I feel as if my life's purpose is coming to fruition. That my years as a journalist have been preparing me for this moment.
For this big leap into the unknown. For taking chances.
And I never take chances. I am the most un-chance-taking person I know. I like to live in a little predictable bubble of routine - I always have liked to live in a little predictable bubble of routine.
So what changed?
Perhaps a downturn in my health showed me how precious the good days are.
The day the opportunity arrived for me to move on my career also marked the day my granny, to whom Still You was dedicated, passed away.
I know us Irish wans love our grannies - and I was convinced it was her way of saying: "Don't hold back. You are guaranteed nothing. Do it now, for me."
So I'm doing it for her.
That's not to say leaving the Derry Journal was easy. It was hard - the place has been my home from home for 17 years. I have seen a lot of change, told a lot of stories. met a lot of people. I can never be anything less than grateful for the experiences working there gave me.
But habit and security are no reason to stay somewhere that no longer sets your soul on fire.
And thankfully (and I do know I am very lucky) we as a family were in a position to allow me to take this chance.
This is a whole new chapter - after eight books.
It will be interesting to see what comes next.
But so many people have asked me to keep 'Skirting the Issue' going - so I intend to do that. I will post a new blog post - a new opinion piece - here every Wednesday. I hope you come on this journey with me.
Why Skirting the Issue?
For 14 years I wrote my Skirting the Issue column for the Derry Journal each Friday - I may have moved on, but I still have opinions!