The End of The Year
As we get toward the end of November, I am sure that I am not alone in the headspace of wondering how we got here. It seems as though not so long ago I was at a new-years eve party to mark the end of 2019. I remember all the hopes and dreams that my friends and I talked about, what we wanted from the fresh start that was 2020… and somehow now I find myself at the end of 2021.
My wildest and most pessimistic predictions couldn’t have begun to comprehend what the future really held. And while lockdowns made the last two years feel like the minutes had slowed down, somehow now it seems as though time has vanished.
The markers that we typically use to indicate the passage of time have largely been stripped away. The places we go, people we see and things that we do typically help us to understand how time passes. And as restrictions are now easing we find ourselves with a desire to ‘make up for lost time’.
This can lead to us striving to cram years worth of experiences into this holiday period. Most of us didn’t get to see everyone we wanted to last Christmas, so there is the presumption that we need to see everyone now. We want our new memories to be perfect, to be good enough to cover up the monotony and uncertainty that has consumed our lives over the past nearly two years.
All of this is a lot of pressure to put on one Christmas season. A lot of added stress on top of what has already been a stressful chapter in each of our lives. And putting on a happy face while racing between various festive commitments isn’t actually going to bring us joy.
I have heard a lot of people use the terminology I have here when looking back on the past years. The thing is, the time wasn’t lost, and even if it were, it can’t be regained. So much has been negative over the past two years, none of which can be undone.
But many of us have also learned over this time. We have found out what we value, what we missed most. Some of us have achieved better balance in our lives, found a new hobby or skill. This doesn’t undo the damage or hurt that has occurred, but since we can’t make up for time that has gone, maybe instead we can learn from it and use different markers to acknowledge the time.
Don’t get me wrong, the stress and pain still happened. People lost loved ones, others worlds changed seemingly over night. Things were hard for all. And it’s not a competition or a comparison, whatever it was, everyone was struggling with something that was real for them. For me, 2020 meant my husband Matt lost his job and was in a car accident. This year I had to have surgery for the first time, and I was so scared. I’m not trying to say it wasn’t hard. But I also learned that I like gardening, my lime and mulberry trees produced fruit, I started a new job where I got to meet some wonderful people, I finished my degree, Matt got to go back to study and found a job completely different to what he used to do, but that he actually loves, I read a book that had nothing to do with study or work for the first time in over a year. None of this removes what was hard, but it reframes my understanding to acknowledge that good things happened too.
Instead of adding stress this Christmas, think of what you truly missed over the past two years. Spend your time focusing on those things. For me it was spending time with family and friends, the people who I sat on zoom with when we couldn’t be in the same room. Instead of running between social engagements that I feel obligated to be at and worrying whether my secret-santa present is good enough, I’ll be spending my time with my family and friends that matter most to me.
The lead up to Christmas can be a stressful and difficult time for many, even before the pandemic. But maybe we can learn something about stress. We can’t control the world around us, or every circumstance. But we do choose what we do with our time and our mind. Choose the things that matter. Not everything that we do needs to be done. Don’t make up for lost time, just enjoy the time you have.