Turning 40 in the midst of a pandemic has its advantages: the time and inclination for self-reflection has been optimum and contributed massively to a significant upturn in my blog output. This is good for me; you can choose whether or not you read it!
Anyway, all this navel-gazing has resulted in this…
Discomfort is real, regardless of how it compares with the discomfort of others (this child is genuinely distressed). How we feel isn’t a competition and it’s entirely natural to feel rubbish sometimes, even if life is relatively fantastic. Equally, those experiencing genuine difficulties might find joy; this does not mean that their difficulties are less significant.
Reliving discomfort can be useful (it teaches us not to touch hot things, for instance) but regret is a complete waste of time, because that time has gone. If sci-fi stories only teach us one thing, it’s that changing something in the past, no matter how small, never ends well.
I’ve written about resilience before. I find it a troubling concept because thriving should always be the aim. For me, resilience isn’t about being able to cope when things go wrong (and they will), it’s about recognising what we can do when they do.
Take, for instance, the wonder that is Marcus Rashford. He’s a gazzilionaire now, but he wasn’t. He came from a family which struggled financially, in a country that was more than capable of supporting his family and supporting them well. Rashford knows that his family was living in a place where political will kept them poor; the same political will that allows him now to be rich.
Rashford’s resilience is the very best of the word – here is an injustice; this is what I can do; this is what I am doing. He’s not complaining about the circumstances he came from or championing a ‘rags to riches’ narrative; he’s actively doing something to stop children from being hungry. (As for the ‘he’s doing it for the publicity’ brigade, they clearly have no idea what publicity Manchester United and England footballers are gifted.)
I’ve lost friends this year.
I’ve been to a COVID funeral. Not being able to hug my friend’s widow or our mutual friends was heart-wrenching. This was a life that should have been remembered with a packed crematorium and a gregarious wake, not with ten friends afraid to get too close to one another. We will celebrate when we can and I’m certain it will be a spectacular party!
Less-dramatically, I’ve had fun times on the socials, too. I hadn’t realised that there are people who count how many times I post positive/negative things and then decide whether or not to stay ‘friends’ with me. It prompted a blog post or two and a bit of soul searching. It didn’t take long for me to remember that I come into contact with an enormous number of people, some of whom are genuine friends, some of whom I coach and some are a happy mixture of the two. The rest, well, adios! I make no apologies for this and thank the ever-marvellous Brené Brown for putting it far more eloquently than I ever could.
I’m very excited to have discovered the work of Mona Eltahawy. A clip (gloriously filled with ‘swear’ words) appeared on my Twitter feed and she said so much so beautifully. While I know that the accident of my birth has given me enormous privilege and being part of ‘the system’ amplifies my voice, it is not by working within that system that I’m going to effect the most change.
I will need to shout and swear and I’ll encourage others to do the same. Bloody do-gooder.
Absolutely everything that has happened to us puts us where we are now. Just like the growth rings in trees, all the events in our lives lay down markers and memories. Even our genes show that we come from a line which has endured ice ages, volcanic winters, plagues, wars and famines. We are already survivors.
2020 will just be another of those rings.
Whatever your 2020 ring shows, it will be yours. Take from it what you need and for your own sake, let go of the things you don’t.