Can I wish you a “Happy New Year” this year?

I had been starting my emails with a bold “Happy New Year!” but it was not ringing true. I’ve had to stop today. It felt ironic, or painful, or inappropriate. Here in the UK we find ourselves in lockdown once again this morning. Schools closed for all but the vulnerable and keyworkers’ children. Businesses shut, except for essentials. We’ve passed over the doorstep of the old year and entered a new one but much is still the same. For some people, it may be worse. Perhaps they lost a loved one or a job last year. Perhaps they are in dire financial or personal circumstances.

What then do we wish for this year? That the vaccine will be the end of all our troubles? That we will win the lottery and escape our circumstances? (Lots of us have been there.) That the Spring will come and all will be well with the world? I guess I hope for that last one, but I also know in my heart that all was not always well in the world before.

How do we approach the world when all is not well? How do we meet others, or greet them, when we fear that everything is not right with them? Or when everything is not right with us? Oh dear … as I start the year I find I am full of questions again and unsure of the answers. The only ways I know how to deal with that are these:

  1. Write it out in my journal, in any way I like. Just doodle it. Or draw it. Get it out of my head and onto the page. Leave it there for a while.
  2. Talk to trusted others about how I’m feeling. Friends. Family. If it’s really difficult, someone at the end of the Samaritans phoneline or a therapist.
  3. Get outside and walk it off. Especially in nature.
  4. Plant something cheap and cheerful. Preferably daffodils because then I will know when it is Spring.
  5. Put some music I love on really loud.
  6. Finally, when nothing that usually helps is working, I know to give myself a break. If there are moments when I can’t do anything other than lie under a duvet and watch TV or feel sorry for myself, I can give myself that break because I can acknowledge that there are NO EASY ANSWERS to any of these questions, that somedays it is ok to just give in to how you feel and be with that. There will be plenty of other days we don’t have that luxury, where we have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going, but no one can keep walking forever. Sometimes we have to just rest. It’s important to be able to recognise that.

So what do I wish for you instead this year? That you find a way to make peace with life as it actually is, a dose of radical acceptance perhaps. That you take the time to notice at least one moment of happiness or joy or appreciation each day despite the circumstances. That you find connection with others in whatever way you can this year: online, in person, down the phone, by reading something that some else has written that resonates with your own experience, by listening to the songs that remind you that other people have felt this way before or the songs that remind you of how life is when it feels good. Most of all, that you start a journal and it becomes your friend in the best and the worst of times.

I guess I shouldn’t finish this post, without at least a small plug for my writing workshop at 7 PM (UK time) this Thursday evening: Start the Year Write. It might be a place where you can explore how you want to be this year, gently and compassionately through writing.

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