Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion – simultaneously the source of your greatest strength and your greatest weakness.~ THE ARCHITECT, MATRIX REVOLUTIONS.
Here we are again … New Years Eve. It’s a day which lends itself to dissection of the preceding three hundred and sixty-five days and pontificating or prognosticating about the next. Given that time is essentially a perception of flow, NYE is really just an arbitrary marker in what is otherwise a continuum of our own perception. Still, arbitrary or not, it gives us a moment in which we can take stock of what has been and think about what is to come.
Talking to my patients today, a few of them commented that ‘It’s going to be a better year next year’. It may very well be because, let’s face it, 2021 has been a pretty low benchmark.
The Netflix Mockumentary ‘Death to 2021’ said this towards the end of their annual highlight reel and tongue-in-cheek ‘analysis’ of the year that was:
We end the year as we began it, polarised and divided – progressives versus conservatives, vaxxed versus unvaxxed, science versus whatever the f***ing mental opposite of f***ing science is. Some say that we’re in the storm of a culture war, others violently disagree – but there is some hope.
That’s a poignant summary. It’s been a pretty difficult year no matter who you are, or whichever way you cut it. Significant financial losses, employment stress, health concerns and challenges to our personal freedoms contrasted with amazing opportunities, unprecedented innovations and the tease of a return to our pre-COVID lives … 2021 has been a global mindfuck.
So many have had it so much worse, and I confess to you that while 2021 has been particularly distressing for me – one of the worst years of my life – I feel like I shouldn’t be complaining given the significant hardships that others have faced and have found ways to overcome in circumstances exponentially more dire than my own.
Though even there, there’s a lesson in that. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others and beat ourselves up for not meeting some arbitrary standard that’s essentially a rod for our backs of our own making – a false comparison generated by our own biased perceptions that reinforces the perceived inadequacies in those of us who are vulnerable to mental anguish. Yet we can’t compare ourselves to others – we all have a different toolbox. We may look at the masterpiece that others have made, but try as we might, we can only create what we have the tools to make. Some people are given marble, a hammer and a set of chisels. No one can be Michelangelo with dirt, water and bare hands.
Though I digress … you can know all the theory and you can try and do everything right, but sometimes, mental illness comes for you anyway. My latest relapse into the depths of despair and depression started with rejection and loneliness – an overwhelming feeling that no matter how much you give to the people you love and you think who love you, it’s all a fiction … empty and unreciprocated … a reflection of how little you really mean to the people who mean the most to you. Whether it’s been loneliness brought on by rejection, relationship breakdown, COVID isolation or a billion other things, loneliness is still loneliness. It’s difficult to deal with. It takes a toll on your soul. Hey, we’re all human … we’re all vulnerable and we all have our weak spots. Life certainly has a way of highlighting them.
Like so many people around the globe, for me, 2021 has certainly highlighted some ‘areas for future growth’ … many, MANY areas … so many ‘growth areas’ that I feel overwhelmed by them. I feel weak. I feel powerless. I so often feel like I will never be able to break free from the suffocating mass of my own deficiencies that are too burdensome to manage. It seems much easier just to hide away, isolate myself from those who might get close to me so they aren’t hurt by my toxicity.
I feel so unworthy of love and that just adds to the loneliness.
Every now and then, I have the occasional glimmer of hope. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s a delusion borne of the alcoholic stupor and antidepressants, or if it’s something genuine, something real.
I certainly hope that the hope is real.
When I’m able to catch a glimpse of what might be possible but I’m oppressed by the weight of my deficiencies, I try to recall the Serenity Prayer. The Serenity Prayer so neatly summarises the process of acceptance, change, values and mindfulness that it may as well be the prototype model for life enhancement. Shortly after it became published, it was officially adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and has assisted millions of people around the world as part of numerous mutual aid fellowships. It says:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
I pray for the ability to accept what can’t be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, the wisdom to know the difference, and the hope that change is really possible.
My hope for you is that whatever your ‘area for growth’, personal challenge or COVID hindrance has been in 2021, that in 2022 you would know hope – hope that change is really possible, hope that on the horizon of the new year, there is ‘ … the normal-est of the new normal … a chance to live, learn and love again.’
I pray that in 2022, we can all move forward in acceptance, courage, wisdom and hope.
Goodbye 2021. Here’s to a better 2022.
Thank you for another brave, vulnerable, eloquent and thought-provoking reflective piece, Chris. I love the way you embraced hope, while also acknowledging how hard it can be to find, when life seems overwhelming and dark, and when harsh self-criticism prevails. Wishing you a much happier 2022 than 2021/
Thank you. You have a way of making me cry, laugh and think at the same time. Here’s to Hope.
Thank you for making Dr Leaf accountable.
Thank you. Life sure is hard sometimes. Hang in there. It will be worth it.
“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)