“It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.”
― Sarah Kay
The end of December, and 2021, find me satisfied in some ways and, admittedly, deeply disappointed in others. In my work and my relationships, my home and my hopes, so much progress has been made.
I feel leaps and bounds beyond where I was this time twelve months ago, but the anxieties and uncertainties are still weighing just as heavily. That isn’t even accounting for the griefs that hurt all the same and I fear may never diminish.
Still, December is only a month, not a year, and perhaps should be counted up alone.
It’s been a strange winter so far and this December is unlike any other. Normally, I’d be well into a seasonal depression. The end of December is a time of hopelessness, a time of bitter and biting cold that feels as though it will never end. I had expected to be struggling through that usual despair and fighting pandemic fears, but this winter has been kind and this December is among the happiest of my life.
Autumn settled in months ago and simply never left. It seems, sometimes our wishes come true, and, I’ve learned, sometimes when we get what we want we find we never really wanted what we thought we did. All month we’ve been well below snowfall averages and shockingly high of average temperatures. At first, it felt good, but as the autumn warmth wears on, I become increasingly disturbed. I never thought I’d say it, but I hope for snow soon, and lots of it!
The threat of Covid and the rise in gun violence across the city have me more afraid to leave the house than ever. I’m happy I took time away from work this holiday season to be home, with people who matter and doing the things that make me feel good. It’s necessary to shut out the world every once in a while.
A year of stress and fear cumulated to burnout in December and I have been running a peak unproductivity. Not that I have been doing nothing at all. Besides the holiday festivities spent in the company of friends and family, December has been a month of relaxing, reflecting, and reevaluating. You have to know what went wrong to do it differently next time, right?
I have plans for the turn of the year, much more modest and manageable expectations this time around. Politics and pandemics make it hard to focus and personal griefs have left me disoriented and directionless. This coming year I want to get back to basics and learn again who I am and what motivates me.
This year I’ll be giving more of my attention to the present rather than letting the confounding future paralyze me. I’ll let the past inform the future rather than dictate it. This year I’m giving space to the person I become day by day, hour by hour…
But before I do, here is what I am currently:
Writing all the time. I have come back to my focus by means of timers and stimulants, mindfulness, and a complete abandon of purpose. Letting go of grand goals has allowed me to feel joy in writing again. It’s easy to forget that writing is my passion and I do it for myself before anyone else.
Making entries, notes, lists, and records of my daily thoughts, discoveries, comings and goings. I have four notebooks now (a fifth if you count the new sketchbook) each with its own purpose. To aid in my memory and remind me of all the things that are important to me. These notebooks are an extension of my mind and they provide a path forward.
Planning for another self, my future self. She is often selfish. She loathes to concern herself with past wants. Still, the present must allow the future to be its own time. What does she owe me? My job is to give her all the tools and motivation I can, but she has to do what is best for her when the time comes. I am planning not to want the same things I want today.
Reading The Mirror of My Heart: A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women translated by Dick Davis, Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert, All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks, and The Odyssey by Homer translated by Emily Wilson. That’s a lot of books, but it works for me. When I get bored, I can move to a different read rather than quitting altogether.
Watching a lot of shows that feel like guilty pleasures: Gossip Girl, Legacies, Evil, and A Discovery of Witches. I had a small Spiderman marathon and made it to the theater for No Way Home. It was genius and I highly recommend everyone see it. Matrix: Resurrections was everything I thought it would be and Don’t Look Up was a surprising discovery.
Learning about Human Behavioral Biology, from Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky, again, still. I haven’t been able to get past some of the more complicated lectures and I admit that when it got hard; I quit—a common pattern with me. I’m picking it up again today.
Anticipating a fresh start. I don’t believe the turn of the new year is any special time to start over. It’s only a time that we all start again together. Knowing you aren’t on the path alone makes the going easier. When you can’t be accountable to yourself, it helps to be accountable to others. I’m looking forward to sharing my start with you.
Reflecting on the last 12 months, of course. What else is there to think about come the last day of the year? I’m doing my best to hold on to all the good and let go of all the bad. I did some things right, that is the truth, and I like who I have become overall. That being said, I see a lot more clearly now what needs to change this time around.
Fearing what the next year will bring. We only ever plan for the best, but these past years have taught me there is as much unhappiness as there is happiness waiting just out of sight—oftentimes more. I’m afraid of the coming losses and the inevitable disappointments. I’m afraid of adding to my grief.
Hating capitalism. They say you get more conservative as I age, but the older I get, the more radical and socialist I feel. Life is just too precious for us to spend it laboring, producing, and fooling ourselves into thinking we are so individualistic. Meeting our basic needs universally makes happiness achievable for all.
Loving this feeling of contentment I have finally found. I have made a place that is truly a home. Home, I have learned, is only a place of safety. It is the safety you can make a life in. You can’t love, create, or change unless you feel safe. I wish I had known this sooner, but I am happy to know it now.
Needing more months like this. More months with more time in them. More chances to shake off expectations and obligations and get to what I truly need for myself. Other months have their days but those days are largely spent before I can even flip the calendar page. Decembers have whole weeks!
Hoping 2022 will be a little less painful than 2021, and a lot less than 2020. I’m hoping for less disappointment, less fear, less uncertainty. I’m hoping that everyone I love starts to find their footing. I’m hoping everyone in the world finds hope again, especially me.
All in all, despite the holiday stress and the end-of-year regrets, December was a good month and there was a lot of good in the year to look back on, too. I found time for my friends and family and for myself. I made time for celebrating and withdrawing, for looking back, and for looking forward.
But what about you? How did you spend the holidays? What has the weight of 2021 come to for you? What has the second year of the pandemic taken? What has it given back? Do you have someone to kiss tonight when the clock tricks 2022? Have you listed your resolutions yet?
Let me know in the comments.