2018 has been one hell of a year all round. In the wider world the warnings about global climate change could not have been starker with only one small sign of hope on acceptance of the real mechanisms for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement. And then there was a spell of record-breaking heat in the northern hemisphere … Trump continues to cause chaos and upset in the US and for its allies, challenging the settled order of the post-war consensus in the west. And in the UK, of course, across almost all political parties, from all media, and in homes and businesses arguments and acrimony have continued over Brexit, its form, impact and whether it should happen at all.
In my own life, I have been working hard to establish my new career pathway in the civil service. I have been fortunate to find a role that has allowed for some (for now) temporary promotion, working on aspects of policy in higher education, and I thoroughly enjoy my work, finding it rewarding and challenging. However, at the same time my partner has spent 2018 being treated for cancer. The cancer is at an early stage, treatable and curable, but the therapies and drugs he has endured are intense, with lasting side-effects. He has suffered with great forbearance and general stoicism, but has needed care and attention. Taken together, objectively, these two major aspects of life – caring for my partner and a career change – have been stressful throughout 2018. They have stressed both internal and external parts of my life.
Of course, lovely summers, new careers, and effective medical care delivered without upfront charges by dedicated NHS staff are also good and positive things. And disruption and change offer us opportunities for renewal and reformation. Even if we were not approaching the new year, traditionally when one reflects on a year past and commitments for the future, I feel I have reached a point of reassessment, a time to drop or recommit to the projects and parts of my life I want to move beyond or embrace. So here I am, on December 29th, on a dark and windy day, thinking about what I would like to do with the time ahead.
I am not one for too many resolutions and definitely not keen on revolutions. Revolutions are always driven by the idea that there is an idealised utopia available and achievable, but which can only be reached by destruction of all the values of the past. Nothing is ever simple in this way. Life is full of complex relationships, promises, commitments, desires and motivations. We make better decisions, we solve problems better together, and preserve more of the good, by working with what already is, addressing what needs to be done to help others and improve the world for all beings and for ourselves in the context we have, rather than dreaming of a new personal (or even world) order that we can attain only if we throw aside all that messy, complexity of the past or other people. Of course, sometimes we need to make big changes to improve our world, but change need not be based in a revolution, it need not be radically destructive to be effective. Unfortunately, as an aside, I think some of the national and international events of the last few years point towards revolutionary thinking: rejections of science and the trashing of the accumulation of expert and scholarly knowledge; emotional and divisive decision-making in politics driven by utopian promises that scapegoat the other, the foreigner and the stranger; isolationism – these are all fuelled by a form of thinking that turns away from solving the real problems at hand.
Consequently, these days I tend to look for evolution in my life, a natural selection of those things I know I can do and develop. I have a plan to revive a few things and to let go of some others. I plan to do more writing. This blog is one thing I want to work on more, with more reflections on life, photograph and creative themes. As always, I need to run more. All these I know I can do and enjoy. They connect me to things – the natural world, thoughts, ideas, physicality and health – and give me perspective. I also want to work on some more fiction and I am developing a new ghost story at the moment. These all seem straightforward things, but life is a puzzle and they will all be more interesting and connected activities than I can currently imagine. And letting go? Wasted time on social media surfing: life is far too short for that.
I wish you all a fabulous new year. May 2019 be a year of growth and renewal!