You’re probably not going to want to hear ANY of this and you fully have the right. You fully have the right to proverbially flip the table and say ‘Get off your righteous high horse and fall in a pile of cow pat’. But if anyone is really feeling in the pits of despair right now, all I want to do is offer my nuggets of hope that one can bring into the new year and hopefully start 2021 on a more optimistic note.
There’s a fine line between being toxically positive – the ‘It Could Always Be Worse’ mindset versus the ‘Things Will Get Better’ – and the latter is what I’m hoping to go for right now in this post. Things suck and have sucked for a long time, but please don’t give up yet – if anything I hope you can take something away from this list I’m about to share; what I’ve personally taken away from this difficult year. Here goes.
Collectively, we have been turned into rhubarbs. I know it’s not the most elegant analogy, but stay with me. We’ve all been forced underground completely in the dark, which has in turn stimulated a forced growth of sorts. We may not be a juicy rhubarb just yet, but one day we will make it into a delicious apple crumble and… be proud that we taste good…? Ok, I’m abandoning that analogy.
This year has been like a giant tug of war. Back and forth, hope and despair, good news, bad news, all in a tight little circle with hardly any breathing room. But with that has come a resilience and inner strength we never knew we had. We’ve been able to endure this pandemic right from the start, where we knew hardly anything and were frozen in fear, to right now, where we already have a vaccine, multiple, in fact! Yet still we remain in the same place, it seems. Nevertheless, we are still here. With the multitude of obstacles and setbacks and losses and pain we’ve individually gone through this year, you better believe we are still here! If anyone told you a pandemic would sweep the globe this year, do you think you’d predict you be as strong as you are now? Probably not. Give yourself some credit.
If humans are anything, we are plastic. We are malleable creatures. This year people have had weddings cancelled, funerals of loved ones people couldn’t even attend, workplaces closing down, relatives abroad people couldn’t visit, friends they weren’t able to see, long awaited travel plans in the bin – but with the power of the internet and human creativity, we somehow made most of them work. Now of course the virtual version would not ever replace the real thing, but we found an alternative. We were able to sustain the human connection we now find so valuable, in some way. Which brings me onto my next point…
Human connection has never been more valuable, at a point where everything has never been more virtual – it only takes a pandemic for us to see this! But in human connection is the overarching thing which unites us all – compassion. In having compassion for all of our fellow humans is the kindest gift of all. Everyone has lost something this year, so many of have been devastated by losses of close ones, there has been a mass, collective loss in general and I’ve found that if we can just see everyone as the fragile, sensitive, hurting humans that we are, the world will be a better place, especially now.
God above, if anything has taught us to be patient – with ourselves, with others, with the unknown – it’s this year. We’ve had no choice really, but to have had the opportunity to flex this muscle as well can only be a bonus.
5. Present Awareness
The power of just noticing is so grand. The act of noticing where you are, who you are with right now – not stuck in the past or fretting about the future – is one of the most precious tools we can have in our arsenal against this thing. In the liminal space of the present, that transient space, nothing can really hurt us. We are fully attuned to where we are and can absorb life that is happening right now so much more richly. Also, unconsciously committing oneself to being stuck in the past or the future is to live in a perpetual cycle of fear. Flexing the ‘Present’ muscle little and often (I am yet to try a full sit-down meditation myself, so I’m not talking about this here) and bringing yourself back to earth again will help ground you and make you feel more in control of what’s around you right now, of what you can influence.
Hope is the thing with feathers, apparently, and it’s not til now that I get it. Hope gives us the ability to take flight and move forward, eventually. It’s the prospect of possibility and we simply must believe that there is hope, the alternative is too bleak. Compare where we are right now to where we were in March – there is hope, even though it feels like it’s all been spent. If you believe that things will get better, even if you don’t yet, your mind will be convinced eventually.
I’ve learned over anything this year that we humans are one of three things: hurting, healing or both. So going back to my point on compassion, let’s all be gentle with each other. People do bad things, people hurt others, but deep down, that always comes from a place of hurting.
Or, according to the rough definition from the trusty WordHippo.com: “The state of being subject to death.” Or, THIS PANDEMIC IS NOT FOREVER, FOLKS. This will not last forever, even if it seems like it will. Everything in this precious life is temporary; some things just outstay their welcome more than others. Channel your energy into this and just hang in there, friend, there has never been a storm that has lasted forever, even if it seems like this is it.
Grateful? What on earth is there to be grateful for? You might ask. Totally valid question. Gratitude is like the buzzword that makes you want to slap someone round the face with a wet fish if you yourself aren’t feeling grateful. Gratitude is a muscle and one which must be trained regularly. This year, I started journalling every morning out of curiosity to see if it’d change things up in my life at all – and it really has. As well as writing down affirmations, visualisations of who I want to become, positive traits I’d like to have, what I want to practice more, habits I want to build, I write down at least 3 things I’m grateful for.
I think incrementally over the year, this has been instrumental in shifting my mindset into a more positive one, because I too, used to be the person who rejected the concept of gratitude – it just made me feel more ungrateful, if anything, and it pissed me off. But the more I practiced this notion, lo and behold, the more grateful I felt. And especially as the Corona Chaos as I like to call it set in full swing, it made it easier to ground myself and notice just how much I had/have.
I had a home, I had friends and family who were healthy and OK, I was safe, I had a job, I was able to see my Grandpa, I was able to go outside, I was physically able to walk, cook myself breakfast, to spend time by myself should I so wish, down to the tiniest of things that are actually massive, that we take for granted every day – I could see, I could hear, I could – once the Covid was out of my system – taste and smell again! All of these wonderful miracles that we are blessed with that we just won’t know are blessings til they’re gone – the ultimate human tragedy.
If I can say anything, for crying out loud WORSHIP your sense of taste, friends. Because when life’s really shit and you just want a bloody beer and you CAN’T TASTE IT IT IS POSITIVELY THE WORST. So to sum up, notice what is around you, see the tiniest things as a blessing and when the shittier things happen you can bring yourself back down to earth once more and realise that none of that really matters in the end.
10. Being kind first
Over everything, be kind to your damn self. You have come so far, fought many battles you never knew you’d be capable of confronting, seen parts of yourself you never thought you’d see, learned sacred things about life that have made you flourish into a person you may have never seen were it not for this year’s events. Things will get easier, we’ll be able to hug friends and relatives again, we’ll be able to pop to the movies just because we feel like it, we’ll be able to go down the local for a spontaneous after-work pint with a mate, we’ll be able to do it all again, I promise. We just need to keep hanging in there a little longer and support each other and most of all, ourselves. We are stronger than we know – and 2020 has proved that. So, in the empowering words of one notable scholar, ahem, Christina Aguilera:
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker [lockdown lard is real, people.]
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter [!!!!!].
Now please excuse me while I go and put this on full blast and make a humble cup of English Breakfast tea. WE’VE GOT THIS.