How do you even begin to describe the last 12 months? I would say it was ineffable, but David Lynch managed to encapsulate 2020 in a brief sentence during one of his daily weather reports:
“What a great time to be alive if you love the theatre of the absurd.”
David Lynch, Daily Weather Report (August 28th, 2020)
And it has been absurd. There are current government guidelines that dictate when it is and is not okay to sit on a bench in public. Things are looking pretty dire.
I could list to you all of the awful, terrible things that have ravaged people’s physical and mental health during the last year. From national to worldwide, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t suffered more than usual at some point during 2020.
So we come to that age old adage, “Happy New Year!”, but, is it?
Is that a promise? A question? A threat? What is time but a feeble human construct created to make order and rationality?
The real question is, how different are you to the person you were 365 days ago? Are you a little smarter? Did you learn something new during these periods of lockdown and isolation? Or perhaps you were like me, and didn’t “accomplish” much. Maybe like me, you spent an unhealthy amount of time in your bed, slowly becoming one of the layers between duvet, weighted blanket, and mattress.
Maybe like me you spent an inordinate amount of money on unhealthy food, telling yourself “I’ll start eating better next week”.
Maybe like me, your mental health took a dip, or a dive, and you’re still climbing back out of the hole. You couldn’t be bothered to shower everyday, you forgot to brush your teeth frequently, or drinking the tiniest bit of water seemed like torture.
I’m going to write something that might seem, wrong, at first. But here it is: its been a good year for mental health.
Never before have I seen more people talking about their own mental health, no doubt amplified by the fact that many of us have spent countless weeks inside our homes with not much to do. Physical activity has taken a nose dive, therefore physical injuries aren’t in the spotlight this year. However, more and more people are realising that, left alone with their own thoughts, they aren’t as mentally well as they might have first thought.
I’ve been on and off antidepressants. Had crisis points. I’m fortunate enough to be learning and working around mental health, I’m knowledgeable of how to deal with the tougher moments in life. Many people are finding these new emotions like anxiety and apathy hard to deal with or even understand. But the more people who begin to understand, the more people that begin to get help, and the more people that get better, that can only create a more empathetic, kinder society to live in. If we all come out of this pandemic being able to understand and be kinder to one another, regardless of background, situation, or orientation, maybe something good can come from this after all.
As part of my mission statement for 2021, if anyone is having issues with their mental health and would like someone to talk to about it, free of judgement, then I will always have a shoulder for you to lean on.
If you’re here, and you’re reading this, then that’s good enough. If the only thing you did was survive then that’s more than good enough, that’s remarkable. You have done exceptionally well considering the circumstances. Everyone needs more than anyone can give right now, so to be relying upon yourself to get through the day? Amazing. Well done.
The hardest part of any day for me is the physical action of getting out of bed. I’m not even a great sleeper, waking up isn’t an issue when you haven’t really slept. But actually getting out of bed, and committing to the day is a struggle over a decade old and probably one I’ll have for the rest of my life.
Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness.
It took me years to understand,
Mary Oliver, The Uses of Sorrow
that this, too, was a gift.
But once I’m up, it gets a little easier to navigate the day. And I start to realise it was worthwhile opening the curtains and putting socks on. So I’m thankful to socks, and slippers, and dressing gowns, for making the day just that tiny bit more comfier.
I’m thankful to the arts. The programs we’ve spent days watching on Netflix, the music we’ve listened to distract ourselves from the outside the world, the videos we’ve seen on TikTok; they’ve all stemmed from someone’s creativity. If you’re an artist of any kind, never for a second think that what you create is any less important than what medical professionals have been during this pandemic. Art saves lives. Two artists I discovered this year, Cara Rose and Maisie Peters, have songs that were on repeat to get me through the days. I’m thankful for them.
Be thankful to others. I met wonderful people this year. I met genuine people, people who make an impact the first day you meet them. People I want to spend more time with again when we’re back to normality, not having to worry about spreading a virus for the sake of meeting up in a park, or getting a drink together. And I’m incredibly thankful for them, and I hope they’ll stick around long enough for us to have a chance at “normal”. So whether it was a midnight Zoom call, a socially-distant dog walk, or the monthly “Hey are you okay?” message, tell somebody you love them.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.
Be thankful to yourself. You’ve worked hard to get where you are right now. It might not be perfect, but nothing ever is. Whatever you accomplished this year, be proud of yourself for making it this far.
I have some New Year’s resolutions. Less meat, more exercise, stronger commitments, grow my hair back out. That sort of thing. My biggest one, is to let other people help. With anything. Academic or personal. Accepting help isn’t a sign of negligence. It’s a sign of strength.
So here’s to you, reader. Despite the overwhelming odds, the infinite stresses outside of any person’s singular control, and the choice of going down the path of least-resistance, you made it here. So as another year starts, don’t forget to open your curtains, put on some socks, and take the day head on.
So maybe “Happy New Year” isn’t in order this time. Maybe it’s just, new year.
Have a new year, everyone. x
“You need to stay. And you need to stay loudly. You’re afraid of making bad choices but the truth is this: the tiniest actions will influence the course of the rest of your life and you cannot control it. So many factors play a part in you being here today: a delayed train, an extra cup of tea, the number of seconds your parents took to cross the street. This is chaos theory. Sensitivity. Mathematics. You are here. And every choice you ever made has led to right now, reading this. While you exist, every movement and moment matters; those bad choices led you to the best days of your life, if you were to play it all in rewind. So let them go. Change will come. Even if you’re standing still. Butterflies will keep flapping their wings and causing hurricanes. So, make your choices and make them loud. Trust your gut. Trust energy. And if you ceased to exist? Oh the Universe would notice. The mess that would make. The hearts that would break. So just stay. Stay for bad choices. Stay for great ones. Stay. Cause a few hurricanes.”