At this point in the year…

as the seasons blur from Autumn bronzes to muddy, mild winters I am always, always reminded to slow the pace right down. My body craves something simpler, as though the last leaves falling to the floor, take with them my zing and quest for adventure. Lying in the muddy ponds that collect at the side of the roads, the colours, like my desire for adventure are still vibrant but I no longer look upwards towards them, no longer regard them with the same reverie that I did a few months back. With the spring, new buds will come of course and with them a new lease of life but for now I want nothing more than to slow it all right down.

Christmas often provides a welcome distraction to the end of a summer lived in technicolour and the belligerent blaze that Autumn throws the year out with. This year however, the merriment, fizz and twinkling lights for me, as for so many of my friends and family, signal a complete disconnect to the year that was. Never before has mass consumerism felt as hollow – generally I would say I enjoy a bit of frivolous, seasonal spending but this year, not so much. It’s like a joygasm that I can’t be bothered to fake. The magic in a plastic tree with fake frosting sat in the corner of my living room, has all but gone. Why is that? Is it because we have had the realities of life, the purpose and point of our existence brought into such sharp focus this year?

That’s not to say that I am entirely miserable (although I’ve had my moments as of late). It is simply that I want to minimise, not highlight the year that was. If, as I have seen people say we should, we take 2020 out with a bang I fear that the world may actually implode, and let’s not tempt fate shall we?

I need fresh air, simple walks in the woods, windswept hours on bleak northern beaches. I need hearty, slow-cooked soups and the smell of fresh bread to greet me at the front door. I need to get down on the floor with Sophie and play make believe games with the toys we already have at home. I need way less stuff and way more space to think, create, breathe, write and take stock of where we are right now. I need to put my phone away and stop the mindless scrolling, to break the addiction to doomsday.

Perhaps this level of discomfort that I am sitting with is actually just a sign that my life still needs calibrating, that the world is pushing too hard on a closed door right now, demanding a return to the frenzied normality of 2019. And yet, were we happy back then? It is easy to romanticise a time before pandemics and politics went, to quote my friend, “fucking beserk”, but I remember amidst the endless distractions on offer, feeling little but exhausted. At this point in 2019, I still had two international business trips to complete, I hardly saw my children and I had little to no connection with anything other than my emails.

So much choice, so many places to go, so much to do, have, be, own. And a lot of pressure, especially to have the perfect Christmas. That was my 2019.

And in fairness, we had it alright – we hosted the most perfect, hallmark style, large family gathering in glorious red and gold. And then what? On Boxing Day, once the last guests had gone, I fell ill with the flu, which wiped out the rest of my annual leave and the school holidays, reducing me to a snotty, feverish, grumpy mess. Nothing more than a reaction to about six weeks of squeezing myself into a pressurised can of consumerism and Instagram-worthy snapshots. My body literally erupted with stress. 

So much for perfection, hey.

This year will be a quieter affair, not through some newfound self-smugness but more through collective necessity. Underpinning this though, I hope to just go slowly, let the day be what it will be, ignore the endless gift guides from well meaning influencers and maybe, finally just loosen the festive grip a little.

Of course we will decorate but it will be using what we already have, there will be lovely gifts but only those that have meaning or purpose behind them and I will be spending money with local business that need our support. There will be good food but not at the expense of half a farmyard of animals and there will, no doubt, be the traditional argument over Monopoly and which movie to watch.

Perhaps my body will still erupt with the stress on Boxing Day but I have a feeling that this year will be slower, easier and simpler. And if after all that, it turns out to be inevitably messy, slightly stressful, unpredictable, bruised by sadness and less than perfect, at least we can say with confidence that that actually was a fitting end to the year that was 2020.


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