Welcome to 2018. A new start, a fresh start maybe, a whole new year ahead. That's what the greeting cards say anyway. For me, midway through a ten hour flight back to London after 6 weeks away, the prospect of a new year felt somehow different than it had in the past. If you know me, or have read my work, you might know I tend to be one of those annoying pollyanna positive types. So in years past, I've been that person who couldn't wait for the ball to drop, for the slate to be theoretically wiped clean. For the fresh ideas and opportunities and well, LIFE - to begin.
Then 2017 happened. A world gone seemingly mad. A year filled with unlikely demagogues suddenly wielding too much power, like Lex Luther had somehow been given the keys to the kingdom. Months of terror for immigrants worldwide, for those living in the endless war that is the middle east, parts of Asia and other countries that we cannot remember having stable governments, much less peace.
A year of violence against humanity, made on paper in the halls of government, and on the streets at the hands of terrorists. In nearly every country we paid the cost in the lives of men, women and children cut down in their prime. Before we knew what they could bring to the world. And we all learned to live with a new kind of fear.
It was a year that saw the brutality of nature and climate at its worst - from hurricanes, to earthquakes, fires and mudslides. Famine. Draught. Disease. I found myself waiting for the next headline to read ' Locusts invade a continent'. And with each headline from politics to poverty, our anxiety grew. Our pain grew as well, for those suffering the worst consequences of each new blow.
And a year that ended in exposure of the sins of many we had held in high regard, that showed them to have helped to build a web of sexual exploitation both illegal and immoral. The truth of harassment, abuse and attack, of men and women who suddenly had a platform to tell their stories, and to ask for justice. A complicated truth that has caused us to examine the cultural norms we have allowed to exist that has jeopardized so much for so many.
And so, as that year drew to a close, like many I sought refuge in the hustle of holidays, the comfort of friends and family, and that last elusive bit of hopefulness I'd buried somewhere deep inside.
And then I stayed there, in that place in my mind, and I hid.
The ball dropped. I went back to work, and into the routine of my daily commute. Groceries, new projects at work, unpacking, going through the motions of some remembered past. Settling into something I couldn't really name. But what it felt like was a really bad hangover. An emotional hangover.
And I didn't like the way it felt- like some kind of weird surrender. I stopped writing. I stopped painting. I buried myself in television and books to take my mind somewhere else. I wrapped myself up in that fog like a drunk watching the world happen through blurred and bloodshot eyes. I couldn't see the point of anything. I could no longer imagine the future.
It lasted for weeks. Then one afternoon, on a bright and icy cold walk by the Thames, I looked at the mix of history and the modern world that is everywhere in this ancient country. I took a deep breath of the crisp winter air, and watched my breath turn to ice crystals as I leaned on the bridge rail. I felt my heart expand and I felt like I had somehow woken up from a long sleep. And the smile that had eluded me for so long came back.
I realized at that moment it had been a while since I'd thought about how hope grows from its own roots. Because, you know, it's true.
Resilience, after all is using memory and experience to face challenges and overcome the odds- because we've all had to face challenges, and overcome odds and we know how to do that. Remembering that made me begin to hope again. Remembering that the world itself has been here before, in times far darker. When we didn't know as much. When there were not as many of us fully awake. When women didn't know their own strength. When opportunity to embrace each other on a global level was just something that happened when we traveled to new and exotic places.
I began to find something hopeful in every headline. In the reaction of people, in the outreach to help, to comfort, to rebuild, to serve. There it was. Small sometimes, just a glimmer. But real. And growing.
There is nothing so resilient as the human spirit. Nothing. So this year, I celebrated a new
way of living in this glorious, radiant, broken world on January 15. Thats the day I found a magic recipe for that hangover cure. Its free, and it's always right there for you. Faith. Hope. Love. A good dose every day and you'll start to find your way back to the promise of the future. Happy New Year. I mean it.