Life has made me wary of looking too far ahead. Even before the turmoil of 2020, my road was one of uncertainty. New Year has long felt like standing on a cliff edge and looking down: twelve whole months can be too much to contemplate all at once.
Reminders of time passing can be hard to accept in the context of chronic illness. Upon reaching a year’s end, I can’t escape a fleeting sense of sadness. Another year gone, with me still not where I would wish to be. Though realistically, after all this time, I couldn’t define where that place might be, nor accurately measure my distance from it. I am where I am.
This New Year carries the additional complication of the coronavirus pandemic. 2020 delivered a harsh reminder to us all: no matter how carefully we manage life, it is never fully within our control. It can be unpredictable, chaotic and even cruel.
Where then, does that leave us as we embark on a year that will contain many of the same daunting challenges as the one ending?
The division between December and January is an artificial one: there is no junction at the year’s end on which fortune hinges.
I try to avoid attaching too much significance to calendar time. In reality, the division between December and January is an artificial one: there is no junction at the year’s end on which fortune hinges; no window of transformation, either for good or ill. Instead, within each and every day lies the complex spectrum of human experience, with its potential for both darkness and light.
Holding both polarities at once, particularly in times of great suffering, can be one of life’s greatest challenges. Twelve months ago, in New Year Reflections, I wrote:
“My life is mixture of loss and sorrow; of happiness and fulfilment. Of overwhelming restriction, and of important gains within those parameters. I have grown immeasurably as a person, though I wish that that growth had not been shaped so greatly by suffering. I feel gratitude and I feel anger. I have hope and I am afraid. I am in multiple places all at once.”
At the dawning of a new year there can be an urge to tidy up these contradictions. To attempt to make sense of the past and attach expectation to the future: everything will be better from now. While there can be a place for such an approach, there is also a time simply for letting everything be.
At the vertiginous start of a new year, as my mind tries to race ahead and prepare for everything I might have to cope with, I aim to make my focus more immediate. Today, here and now, is where I will place my emotional energy.
In the same piece twelve months ago, not knowing quite how difficult the year ahead would be, I wrote words that seem especially relevant now:
“I find it helpful to think in terms of seasons. To see myself as part of the continuous cycle of nature as it moves between darkness and light; dormancy and growth. The blackest night does not preclude the onset of dawn; the most bitter winter contains the seed of spring. All are part of the same whole.”
Even within a world of chaos, and a life of many difficulties, there can still be peace. In acknowledging loss and endeavouring to make the very best of whatever remains, no matter how small, there is the opportunity for growth. That is where hope begins.
Thank you to everyone who has supported my writing over the past year. If you haven’t already done so, do subscribe below for email notifications of blog updates. You can also follow me on social media by clicking the icons at the bottom of the page. All your shares and comments are greatly appreciated.
Some of my most popular pieces from 2020:
Life in Lockdown: What Matters When All Is Lost
The Uncertainty of Life After Lockdown
Image: Greg Rakozy on Unsplash. (Description: A silhouetted person looks up at a star-filled sky.)