2017, what a year.
A year when nuclear war suddenly became something imaginable; when it took video footage of a dying polar bear to get climate change back on the agenda; and when rickets returned to Tory-run Britain. It was the year when two days before Christmas I found DorkySon using his toy cars and Lego men to stage a reconstruction of a police SUV preventing a ‘terrorist vehicle’ from mowing down a crowd of pedestrians.
And, of course, it was the year of Trump. The year started with the self-confessed pussy grabber’s inauguration, and ended with his endorsement of Roy Moore. Between those two delightful bookends came an onslaught of revelations about public figures of every political stripe, along with a bundle of tone-deaf hot takes from Matt Damon that literally no-one needed to hear.
For anyone who has dealt with assault, harassment or abuse – I’ve spent a good ten minutes trying to think of a woman I know who doesn’t fall into at least one of those categories – the last year has been a near constant bombardment of the senses. It has been horrific.
Almost every day brought a new story of a perpetrator’s outrageous behavior, and while I have nothing but respect and admiration for those courageous enough to speak out, the stories have led to many women feeling doubly betrayed. If you spent your teens and twenties trying to escape the creeps and assholes in your everyday life by burying your head in music, books, television, film or theatre, reaching your thirties and discovering that the creators of that wonderful art were also creeps and assholes… well, that’s really hard. It feels like the ground beneath you has just crumbled away for a second time.
I know that I am not the only one finishing this year feeling raw, exhausted and angry.
But none of those are emotions that lead to health or happiness, so at the grand old age of 34 I am finally grown-up enough to recognise where my head is at and try to do something about it. Geeing up for 2018 is going to take a concerted effort but it’s one that I – and many others – need to make.
Self-care has become something of a buzzword this year, and the many column inches that have been written about it are usually accompanied by pictures of bubble baths and chocolate.
My form of self-care looks more like limiting my news consumption and social media use. Twitter has gone from my phone and been replaced with a Tide Times app that tells me the best times for walking the beaches near our house. I have been seeking out excellent, diverse fiction by women writers, spending lots of time outdoors, sleeping well, and staying as connected as I possibly can with family and friends.
The world in 2017 made the most sense to me when I did those things – when I focused on the places and people next to me. I can’t save the polar bears, but I can make sure the parks and beaches in our area are clean and litter-free. I can’t single-handedly smash the patriarchy, but I can try to raise DorkySon to be tolerant, respectful and a believer in equality. His end-of-term school report mentioned citizenship and global awareness as some of his best attributes so by accident or design, intention or luck, at least we are getting that right.
Those of you who have followed this blog for a whole know that I always pick a word to guide me through the year, and my 2017 choice was VOICE. As in previous years, it has been a partial success. I did not add my voice to the #MeToo chorus. Some things are too hard for a hashtag.
But I did use it at other times that mattered.
I have encouraged DorkySon to use his own voice – to try and fix problems himself before asking for help – but when that doesn’t work it is my job to advocate on his behalf, and I think I have done that well this year.
In my recently-finished role with our school association, I have tried to make space for everyone’s voices, and then used my own to guide us as a community in the direction that I feel is fairest.
At work, I said yes to some jobs even when I was intimidated by their scale and scope, but just as importantly I said no to ones that weren’t a good fit.
And in the year when DorkyDad and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary I was delighted to realise that he and I have just as much to say to each other as we always did.
As a writer, I always try to be thoughtful with my words. What doesn’t come as easily to me is speaking up in person, so in an attempt to redress that over 2017, I have focused on the importance of using my voice even in the very smallest of ways – saying please, thank you, hello and sorry – trying to make the world better in the tiniest of ways every day.
In what seems like a natural follow on from VOICE, I’ve chosen the word TRUTH as my 2018 word. It’s there to guide me not just in terms of speaking the truth, but also as a reminder to live my most honest life – to spend my days doing activities that reflect my values, and to focus on the people and places that matter most to me.
What I know to be true at the end of 2017 is probably what has always been true, but right now it feels all the more pertinent. Sometimes the way to make the best sense of the world is to surround yourself with the people you love and trust the most, and focus your attention most keenly on them. I don’t think it’s an accident that the most celebrated and genuinely lovely viral moment of 2017 was academic Robert Kelly being interrupted during a live television interview by his two young children. Amidst all the horrendous news that 2017 brought, it was something that so many of us connected with – a reminder that even when you are talking about the most serious of subjects, there should always be space for love and laughter.
We got back last night from the Tarkine – an area of true wilderness in the far northwest corner of Tasmania – where we had spent three days walking through cool, temperate rainforest, gazing out at immense buttongrass plains, and standing on beaches in the knowledge that there was nothing but ocean between us and Patagonia. There is nothing like getting outdoors to put your thoughts in order and your problems in perspective.
We also caught up with some dear friends who are about to leave Tassie and head to WA for the next stage of their own family adventure. We hugged hard, and knew that this time – as with every time we have said it before – it was just a seeya later, not a goodbye.
Now we are home again, just us three. Me and the two very best men that I know. We are tucking in for a few more weeks of beach walks, board games and homemade cherry pies before we dig deep and get ready to tackle 2018. There is no life I could live more honest than this.