The older you get, the more you realize how artificial the calendar is. December 31st marks the ending of a period of time. January 1st marks the starting of another. “Easter” moves around according to some bizarre rules. Some floaty date in mid-June marks the solstice. A fixed date, one of 366, marks the day you exited your mother’s womb.
Far better, arguably, to follow the passage of nature, the sun and the seasons, the cycle of crops and food; the stuff you essentially shove into your mouth to keep going. But this (self-indulgent, introspective and wittering) post, with pictures I’ve snapped on walks and days out this latter half of the year ending, will play along with the concepts of “arbitrary year end” and “arbitrary year beginning”.
2014 has, personally, been a very good year. And I’m content, happy even, with this.
Despite the strands of mainstream news, amplified by social media, lurching from reporting one horror to the next. We are told it’s been a bad year. Many bad things have happened. War, abductions, horror, misery, kidnappings, torture, beheadings, injustice, the violence of online, oppression, more war, endemic racism, poverty, millions going without and needing charity and food. And, indeed, there’s no denial; these things all happened in 2014.
As they have done in previous years.
The difference being that 2014 has been a year of peak gratuitous video footage, easy to obtain through GoPro and camera drones and tech everywhere, and thrust in your face through many different channels and mirrors and screens. The lead news story isn’t determined by what’s the most “important” news, but which news has the most distracting media. People plant some trees? Restore and use derelict buildings? Help other people? Boring; show some fire and smoke and grieving relatives after a tragedy instead. Paranoid Android writ large.
Until the next horrific story with graphic video footage comes along.
And social media amplifies the relentless grind. “Look at this bad thing”, “And this bad thing”, “Then this bad thing”, tweet and facebook otherwise intelligent and rational people, becoming gradually addicted to, and comfortable and habit forming with, declaring bad things. Sometimes to vent, sometimes to amplify because others amplify, sometimes out of a sense of social or personal or privilege or peer guilt, sometimes to assert political or social credentials. Sometimes, genuinely.
It isn’t healthy for your mind. It cannot be healthy for your mind. To have a wall of reminders, of outrage, of fury, scrolling across your various screens. To not allow the light, or the positive, or the good that people do, in. To be frightened, as some or many seem to be, to post positive observations, or nuanced observations, rather than just the relentless churn of “People are bad and here is yet another example”.
People do good things. Groups of people do good things. If you think that’s a statement of weakness, or imbalance, then that is a reflection of your own unhealthy state of mind. Seriously, seek help. Allow yourself to let some light in.
Unless you were caught up in one of the horrifying events we were reminded of 24/7, whether it has been a good year or not for you depends on other, different, factors. Not what a newspaper, website, or god forbid a social media algorithm tells you. Perhaps – how was your health? Family? Relationships? Circle of friends? Career, job or income? Did you do some creative or interesting activities? Go to new places, read new works, eat satisfying foods, see things that made you smile? Resolve past issues, move, be content where you are, have good times? Do something genuinely useful to help the planet (e.g. planting some of those trees) or other people (e.g. worked in a food bank or shelter, or campaigned for something useful)? How many days did you feel good, in mind and body, and how many were you in pain, also in mind or body, for? But most importantly – what are the things that are important to you, personally, and how did they go in 2014?
Those, and many more factors, determine if your 2014 was a good year. Not what the TV, the twitter, the newspapers, the online media, those people you follow on twitter, some bearded dude whose blog you are reading, tell you.
As introduced, mine was very good. Not a slam-dunk; a few things went wrong, or did not progress much or at all. I haven’t written much publicly, spending much more free time making notes on childhood days, people I’ve lived with and worked with, places I’ve visited, and thousands of other words on experiences. I don’t know what I’ll use any of it for but it’s there, backed up now, for when memories fade or I need reminders and accuracy, or material for a post, a story or an e-book.
I still have unresolved long-term family issues and I wonder if some will only be resolved by specific people dying. My favorite cat died, robbed of one last glorious summer by the negligence of an idiot neighbor. And, though some medical issues were fixed and I’m building fitness and muscle in the gym or on long walks most days, at this age bodily things become more an issue of maintenance and sheer luck based on genetics, what you’ve done over the last few decades, and just random things.
But there’s the good. As said, some health issues are sorted. I can walk for hours, 12, 15 or 18 miles and feel great afterwards. It’s taken a while, but I have a clearer idea of work directions for the next few years – plus there is some work that goes with it. I’ve sorted out a lot of the inconsistent mess of online start-and-restart writing from the last few decades (though there’s a lot still to go). Tracked down every single item of work, and every article and paper and report, done over the decades (turned out there was a lot). Offloaded a lot of casual or fake friends, and become less grumpy and more sociable with genuine ones. Read some great writing, watched a lot of movies, and walked and explored and noted and watched the sun rise and set and walked some more.
And found it much easier to briefly glance at the “news”, or social media, notice the wave of negativeness, and rather than get sucked in to the flow, turn it off and go and do something far more mentally healthy, productive and useful.
2008 was the most fun year of my 40s so far; the five after that were at best average, at worst life or sanity-threatening. 2014 was a welcome return to the positive far outweighing the negative. I’m not going to predict 2015; that just tempts the wrong kind of fate. And I know there are some tricky legacy situations to inevitably see through, and I probably will be writing even less in public than in 2014. Instead, I’ll just remain quietly hopeful.
Whoever you are, and for whatever reason you are reading this, I wish you a peaceful, productive, and above all healthy 2015. Define your own year; don’t let others, the media or the commentators, define it for you. And if you want online content that is often positive, interesting, fun, but also has quality and depth, then try the Vimeo staff picks (no, they haven’t paid me to say this). Free, legal, often informative, not a magnet for abusive commenters or keyboard activists, and above all it won’t quietly and gradually take your mind to a place of despair.
Update: 30th December. I made the mistake of turning on the TV news this morning. In order:
1) Plane crash wreckage (with footage)
2) Ebola case in the UK (flashing light emergency service footage)
3) People die on burning ferry (footage of boat on fire)
4) Three people die in house fire (footage of police and incident tape)
5) Weather forecast (not “it’s sunny” but “it’s going to remain cold” – negative to the end…)
*Turns off TV*
*Goes for a walk*