Usually at the end of the year I write a little summary of what happened in the world at large. (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.) This year I really struggled. How do you summarise what has happened this year, other than a absence? It’s been terrible in so many ways. The pandemic has turned everything on it’s head and thousands of people have died unnecessarily through our government’s inaction. Let alone all the other problems that this virus has highlighted as deep rifts within our society.
Personally, I’ve been anxious a lot of the year. I feel like everyone has. Everything has become uncertain, the future is a mist. We have no control on what will happen, whether we will be thrown into another tier or released for a brief window. The rate of change and subsequent normalisation this year has given us all emotional whiplash.
The way I dealt with my anxiety was throwing myself into projects such as rewriting this website, making a pamphlet and doing lots and lots of poetry. It has worked in some ways, with this year being my highest submission rate ever, and getting a few things out into the world. But in other ways it’s clear to me that this mania for work and writing has been a distraction from the world at large, a denial of the lack of control and the despair we are all feeling.
I think the only way to deal with this worry is not to avoid it, but to face it head on and acknowledge it. As we approached the end of this year, this is what I have tried to do, to be more aware of how I am actually feeling and not try to deny it. We need to grieve because we have lost so much this year. We need to notice our anxiety because so much has changed. Denial of the negative is a denial of our current reality.
If we acknowledge the negative of this year, we also have to acknowledge the good. I’ve been very lucky not to be affected by the virus. I’m employed. I’ve had a new appreciation for nature. I’m lucky in a million different ways. More widely, human beings have shown themselves to be helpful and caring, uniting together for the common good. In the last couple of months, with the election of Joe Biden in the US and the development of the vaccine, there’s been a few glimmers of hope appearing like the first glow of dawn.
I’m under no illusions about 2021. Despite what the internet may tell you, things aren’t magically going to change as the clock ticks over to a new year. The vaccine offers an end to the pandemic but I feel the impact of this year is going to be felt for a long time. However, in the last few months, I’ve had this quote by Rebecca Solnit rattling around in my head.
Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future - and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.
From Hope in the Dark
This is what we need heading into the next year, hope that things will not just return to normal but will get better and flourish. The challenges we face as a society and as a species are huge but we need to face them head on.
I’ve also been thinking of this poem by Salena Godden:
It’s easy to despair because its a passive state. ‘Nothing to be done’ we say. We refuse to take steps to make it better. Optimism and hope are active, knowing things will get better. They require constant vigilance and attention. It’s not a denial of the bad things that surround us daily but an acknowledgment of them. It’s saying we will not be defeated. We will rise above the problems, unite, find new solutions and demand a better world. That is the hope I will try to carry forward into the new year.