Rounding up 2021

Today is the Winter Solstice, so last night we watched the Matt Smith “Doctor Who Christmas Carol” episode. You don’t need to know a lot about it, just that one of the first lines in the show talks about this time of year, and how humans celebrate being “halfway out of the dark”. It’s an optimistic sentiment I’ve always been fond of, but coming at the end of 2021, it makes me wonder. We don’t know how far out of the dark we are, right now. We don’t even know if we ARE on the way out yet.

A lot of people post significant lists around this time – their top-played songs, their favourite books or movies of the year. The powerhouse writers can post their published books (plural!), but it’s been nice to see the number of people repeating the message that, in these extraordinary times, just keeping your sanity and health is achievement enough. I started the year with a vague ambition to write a sequel to Eddie and the Kingdom, using the micro-effort method of 150 words a day. I wrote about my failure back in March, as things ground to a halt, and though I managed to figure out the section that had me blocked, I’ve only managed a total of 15,000 words, the equivalent of a third of a year’s writing at 150 a day. I would be disappointed, but this year has been harder than 2020. Back then I was one of the lucky few who could keep working in a relatively normal way – indeed, my job got slightly easier. Going to work every day keeps the shape of the week straight, when the family working from home were struggling to make one day different to the next. I enjoyed my weekends at home, when everyone else was going stir-crazy.

But I’ve seen the effect of long-term worry on my friends and co-workers. More and more people calling in sick, which adds to the pressure on those remaining. My small department has been lucky, but with only three of us, any sick-leave is hard on the others. Then Mrs Dim had her stroke in May, and to the uncertainty of the Covid world was added the uncertainty of her brain injury. How severe was it? Would it heal? Would it happen again? Could she go back to work? The insurance company governing her long-term disability snapped into action and lost her first set of forms, queried the second, held a phone interview to ask a lot of the questions already answered in those forms, then went radio silent for months. The salary they were supposed to be replacing stopped in mid-November.

But I’m sure that’s all going to be sorted out soon, right?

Anyway, I had my breakdown, so I feel much better now. Mrs Dim has made good progress, but the hardest part is learning to stick within her limits, instead of pushing them, like she’s always done before. We’ve had six months of caution, of drawing down, of “what if we don’t?”

So looking forward to 2022 seems… if not pointless, then hopelessly naive.

If you have plans, I wish you success of them. If you only plan to hang on until the world steadies, then I wish you joy of that too. Life is hard for so many people, I don’t think there’s a failure state right now. If you need to cry about the way of things, then it’s not wrong to do that.

I tell you what, regardless of what 2022 brings or takes away, let’s meet back here and share stories and sweets (yes, they’re bad for your teeth, but good for your spirits. Unless you’re diabetic.) I won’t hold any of you accountable for what you do or don’t do in the year to come, ok? Ok.

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