The new year is here.
As I write this, it’s December 23rd and a new year is coming. The vLife new years blog is due, but I keep putting off writing said blog because every time I think I know what to say, EVERYTHING CHANGES AGAIN.
Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling pretty good. I’d had the best sleep I’d had in weeks and Christmas prep felt under control. A weird Zen had descended upon me… the hard decisions were made (no cousins for Christmas dinner, no maritime travel, and no more trips to the Halifax Convention Centre or Halifax Central Library for rapid tests) and what was done was done.
But in the past 36 hours, the world seems to be tilting further and further on its axis. The relative chirpiness of my December blog seems like a distant memory. (Although at the time I thought that blog was a little serious. Ha!)
A new year of shifting plans and surrender to the unknown.
In the past couple of days, a large number of my friends have tested positive for COVID-19. Many are in isolation waiting for results. Some continue to be separated from family and friends they haven’t seen in two years or more. Still other families are rolling the dice and gathering anyway because they know it’s a grandparent’s last Christmas. Some are quarantining in their own homes away from their children and partners.
Nova Scotia travel restrictions may not have changed, but we’re being asked to use our good sense and stick to our usual folks, and it seems most of us are taking that responsibility very seriously.
Chirpiness doesn’t feel right. Not now.
My new year message for you.
It’s tempting to say nothing at all if you can’t say anything nice, and there’s not much nice to say right now. But I think it’s important to strike a balance between hope and pragmatism. (And there will be no toxic positivity here, my dears.)
Yesterday, I wrote a Facebook post for my friends and family. My loved ones seemed to appreciate it, and I think the vLife community might like to hear these thoughts, too.
Grief is the emotion of the moment, and absence is the theme.
At this time of year, absent friends and family — either temporary or permanent — crowd around us, more tangible in some ways than the living, breathing people next to us. This is more true for holiday 2021 than most of us have ever experienced.
Absence. It’s all around us. We miss people, we miss traditions, we miss the moments from the last two years we can never get back. We miss the loved ones who have died — and I know so many people who’ve lost parents and siblings this year. We maybe even miss the Christmas obligations we used to resent, the exhaustion of traveling from divorced parent to divorced parent, the endless food prep, and the impossibility of making everyone happy.
But mostly, we miss our old selves.
We miss the people we were before all this: Before masks, and home schooling, and no hugs, and unrelenting low-grade anxiety, and death — and now before omicron symptoms. We miss ourselves, because we know we are forever changed by what’s happened to us, and those selves are never coming back.
Friends, please let me tell you something: Trauma and grief does change us. It rewires us. It wears new and often bumpy paths in our brains and hearts, but don’t wish it away, because it also brings us closer to who we really are and what really, really matters to us. If you stop for a moment and breathe, you can feel it.
I’m not going to tell you that this trauma and grief will make you stronger.
It might, I guess, but it might not. Instead, let it make you weaker, more vulnerable. Let it lead you to ask for help and accept that help. Let it spur you to say “I love you” not just to your family, but your friends or even your colleagues (you know you love some of them). Let it crack you open.
I think a lot of our sadness right now is coming out as anger. But you need to be sad. It’s okay to be sad. You need to feel it to process – as hard as this may seem and as tempting as it may be to avoid. And, if you need help with processing, reach out and ask for it. No one said you have to process all of this on your own. Or even that you should!
We are social animals, meant to lean and rely on each other. It’s quite literally how we evolved as a species – by social learning and collaboration leading to innovation. If you’re looking for a fascinating read on this topic, check out ‘Wired for Culture’, by Mark Pagel. You can check out the Guardian’s review of this gem of a book here.
It’s okay to need help — please ask!
I can’t list every service available, but 211 Nova Scotia is worth a visit or a call if you if you have unmet human or social needs and don’t know where to find help. Their Community Resource Navigators can connect you to the programs, services, and resources your family needs. The holiday season is hard for a lot of people at the best of times, and this is not that.
5 things NOT to do this new year:
- Make resolutions. Nobody needs that. You’ve more than adequately shown your resolve for this year. No need to prove it again. The new year will bring plenty of things to adapt to without holding yourself to a standard that may shift beneath your feet as soon as you set it.
- Set high standards for yourself — or others. Let it be. Breathe. Make your own rules. One friend I know suggests that getting ONE thing “done” a day is enough, and I agree. Don’t measure yourself against anyone else’s standards… or maybe any standards at all.
- Wrestle a wolf. My daughter suggested this when I asked her for ideas. You can take it literally or figuratively.
- Be afraid of change, or the unknown. Honestly, we know almost nothing. We can predict almost nothing. Let it go.
- Forget that small local business needs your support. Yes, I had to get this in here. As the world shuts down again, spare a thought and a dollar or two for your local restaurants and local independent businesses. They will not all survive — especially without our help. Take another look at our vLife local small business vStores to see what’s what.
Set the bar low on doing and high on self-acceptance this new year.
That feeling you’re feeling — that grief and longing — is temporary, I promise you. The changes in who we are as people and as a community are not. But that’s okay. We’ll make something new. In fact we already have – and are continuing to do so.
This new year will be quiet. Surrender to it. Take the time to think, dream, and wonder. Stop feeling the need to be constantly doing. Make time to just be. Your worth as a human is not contingent on your productivity, emotional toughness, or ability to “stay positive”. YOU ARE WORTH IT — even if you’re tired, sad, overwhelmed, and haven’t worn hard pants in weeks.
Let’s take this quiet new year to care for and get to know the new people we are becoming, to care for each other, to pay attention and dream of what could be better when this is behind us.
I believe in us.
Peaceful new year, friends.