Today is the second of January, 2022. I’ll admit to feeling a bit like one of the walking wounded – as so many of us do. I have written my goals for the forthcoming year in my new journal, and I have a list of things I want to complete today. I used to feel excited at this time of year – there is something seductive about the idea of a fresh beginning, a whole new start… but I find myself feeling inwardly exhausted. Jaded. Emotionally battered. And yet, there still exists an ember of hope; I can feel it, deep within my engine room… and I think that, maybe, I can fan it into a flame. Which is a blessed relief because hope is our lifeline – and without it we tend to let go, drift off, and become lost. The past two years have done their best to leave us without an ounce of hope for a future we can believe in, a future to build upon – a future in which we can trust in each other. Some have already let go and drifted away; others have picked their tribe and teamed up; some have crossed their fingers and buried their heads in the sand… whilst the rest are rubbing their hands together in glee, as they survey what they have set in motion, greedily adding up their ill-gotten gains. But the story can’t end there – and I have a feeling that 2022 is going to be a very interesting year. Blood is likely to be shed, battles fought, negotiations carried out; some countries will remain in the vice-like grip of restriction and control, whilst others will regain some degree of freedom. Personally speaking, I can’t bear to spend another year feeling inwardly immobilised, angry, and helpless. We, each of us, exist within our own unique and independent universe – and even being part of a tribe isn’t always enough to prevent us from feeling isolated and lonely. We need others, of course we do; however, in the end, only we can save ourselves. And if we can still manage to find even one spark of hope, then there is hope for us.
Having goals, I find, helps me to feel that I have something to work toward and look forward to. In 2022 I really need to shut out as much of the background noise as possible. Throughout 2021, that background noise swamped and deafened me; I struggled to hear the version of myself that wasn’t buzzing with anxiety, as if I was caught on an electric fence. I couldn’t write – there was no joy, no inspiration… nothing I could find to say that wasn’t angry or reactive. And even when I managed to temporarily forget, the heaviness and despair were only inches below the surface. I had some good times in 2021 – mostly when attending kickboxing and fitness classes, and being amongst the biking fraternity (we had some degree of freedom in Wales). And our family Christmas was wonderful (with nobody shunned or excluded, as I saw in some families). But witnessing what was going on around the world, and not being able to talk freely about it to one or two people I love, left me feeling as if a tonne of quick-setting concrete had been pumped into me, blocking my airways and my creative flow. Writer’s block has been increasingly holding me prisoner, and I can’t tell you how miserable that has made me. My belief in myself as a writer hit rock bottom, with my only outlet being social media posts (rants, mostly) – but today, January the second, I have to start that climb back up. And, although I have been saying ‘I’ and ‘me’, here – I really mean ‘we’. What has been hurting you will be different to what has been hurting me – but the struggle is the same. You need hope as much as I do – and I pray that we can cross those devastating divides in 2022 and hear each other out.
You might be a young person whose career dreams and ambitions have been dealt a huge body blow.
You might have health problems that are making your life painful and difficult and are fearing that treatment will never become available.
You might be lonely, hoping to find a loving partner – but struggling to do so, in a defensive, uncertain world that is beset with restrictions.
You might feel isolated and alone in your views, surrounded by people who just want to silence you, or refuse to accept that you have a right to your beliefs.
You might be terrified of the future: either waiting to be forced to violate your principles and ethics in order to keep your job, or of being jobless because you know for sure that you will stick to your guns.
You might fear that you will not be allowed to see your loved ones again for years to come.
You might be fearing future health problems, having heard all of the warnings about vaccine side effects.
You might want to have a child, but fear bringing them into this world at this current time.
You might feel that you no longer recognise the world in which you are living, and don’t understand people you once believed you knew.
You might have come to recognise that you are one of life’s hyper-fearful, and now view everything as a threat – with the fear of death dictating how you live.
You might have discovered that a loved one is one of life’s hyper-fearful and that their fear is strangling your relationship with them.
You might be being eaten away with rage because you feel that you have been misled, misinformed, and coerced, by what amounts to just another bunch of human beings who don’t have a right to have that kind of power over you.
You might be feeling heavy with worries about all of those you don’t know but fear are in danger; the silent voices behind closed doors, the hidden desperate and lonely.
You might be struggling with choking anger you genuinely don’t want to be carrying around with you, toward your fellow human beings, the world… God, even.
You might be so heart-sick of the whole, ongoing drama that you have decided that the only thing left is to shut off and pretend that it doesn’t exist – which violates everything you believe in, and the way in which you prefer to live your life.
I could probably go on forever, but it is clear that, whoever we are, and whatever our stance, more than ever what we really need is hope. And that hope has to come from within ourselves, first and foremost. If we remain bitterly divided, there can be no hope for any of us. Let’s start with this new year, and by deciding what we are going to turn our attention to and how much effort we are going to put in. Let’s agree not to waste time hanging around ‘until’… until things get better, until everything goes back to ‘normal, until others see the light (as in, what we ourselves believe), until we meet that soul mate. Let’s decide to work on being the best version of ourselves, in the meantime. Let’s decide to give others hope by at least hearing them out, and not immediately shutting them down. Let’s acknowledge that we are all afraid, even if we fear different things. Let’s accept responsibility for our own health and our own attitude and actions. Let’s start with something worthwhile – a goal worth working toward, to give our best shot to. Let’s break the dam wall and set ourselves free. I knew that today had to be the start of something better and that I couldn’t bear to drag the old feelings of pain and hopelessness into this year – and I’m relieved to have written something for the first time in almost 2 months! Whatever your personal goals, make sure that they are designed to enhance your life and strengthen you, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Become a force in your own life. Start with one thing on your list, and see it through. And when the enthusiasm drops, as it will, don’t lose hope. Just remind yourself that yes, you could let yourself off the hook and slide back into old ways – and then ask yourself how good you’ll feel if you do that – and what’s hopeful about it? Hope is a powerful motivator, like a golden carrot at the end of our stick – so, let’s come up with something to hope for, and then do our absolute best to keep that hope alive!