I’m seeing a huge amount of enthusiasm for the end of 2020. Which makes perfect sense given the difficulties of 2020, but the date is an arbitrary construct invented for political expediency (not faith, despite the ‘AD’), and the hard parts of 2020 had nothing to do with the number and everything to do with disease, foolishness in government(s), an arrogance that believed epidemics were limited to ‘poor’ countries, and an underlying refusal to acknowledge mortality; a failure to entertain illness, loss and death in both our personal and collective imaginations.
And that’s just the overall picture. For those grieving the losses of their very closest ones, a new year means moving into a date that has not held their person. Like many of us, some of my very dearest people died this year, others have been deeply damaged by illness – Covid and other diseases.
These things will continue. Loss is always with us. Telling ourselves a story that says 2020 will end and a new year begin that does not contain loss or hurt or upset is understandable – especially for those of us inculcated in the western tradition of the overly-redemptive Hero’s Journey version of story. But there are other stories, equally valid, where love does not conquer all, where death is a true break in a life, where loss and illness do not result in a ‘What Katy Did’ learning but simply in an understanding of what they are. Illness. Loss.
When we don’t plaster over the cracks with a false ‘redemption’, when we don’t see the old year out wiping our hands of its sorrow, when we allow what is, however hard, then we also get to allow the joy and the quiet soft ease of the times when there is no loss, no illness, no brutal worries. Allowing what is difficult and not fitting it into a frame that insists every difficult experience has ‘learning’ or ‘gifts’ (some experiences are just rubbish, really, they’re just crap, and that’s ok) means giving those experiences their due. It means letting the hard be.
Because giving the hard times their due also means that the good times, the easy times, the simple times where nothing much is happening and it’s just all ordinary (how gorgeous is that?) also get their due. Their real weight.
So maybe we don’t need to rush to farewell 2020 quite so speedily or put so much pressure on 2021 to be better, maybe we can take some time to acknowledge the hard stuff of 2020, to acknowledge our resilience in getting this far and to note the toll it has taken.
And maybe we can go quietly into 2021, not just hoping for better because it’s a different number, but knowing that each of us can make a difference, based on our own choices and the situations we find ourselves in – that difference might simply be in attitude or acceptance, but attitude and acceptance can create personal change, and personal change always ripples out.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I wish you a gentle new year.