Breaking up with 2020

___Dear 2020, you have been dumped like the bad egg you showed yourself to be.

So you can stop stalking me with your viral harassment and the accusations that I could have done more to save our relationship. We are done. Good riddance! By the way, I’m now seeing 2021, who is promising me the world, and though our relationship is shiny and new, I am all in with making the best of what we may have together.

Our planet has gyrated around the sun once more, and she has spun on her axis in the final, frenzied thrust of a ballerina caught off-guard. Her lopsided whirling has transported us from the darkness of 2020 into the daylight of 2021, and who knows what ribbons may disentangle or further bind us as we stumble blindly into the events of this new stage?

For most of us, come what may, the new year signifies a welcome end to a wholly unpleasant, unfortunate and downright strange year. We are keen to shake ourselves free of any lingering 2020 dust and move forward with purpose, prepared to write a new history for ourselves in 2021, and to make do with what we still have. Yet, we look down and are reminded that our feet continue to drag the heavy chains of a global virus that will not let us go. Wretchedly, we realise that we are not yet free. 

If only the new year meant a new beginning, but for many of us, it means more of the same lock-downs, face masks, shortages, panic attacks, border closures, flight cancellations, travel alerts, cooped-up-kids and video-calling, not to mention the grave illness of those who might otherwise be healthy today. If you are feeling mixed emotions about 2021, you have good reason and are definitely not alone.

I have noticed several published articles drawing similarities between the myth of Pandora’s box and the effects of the COVID19 pandemic. Are you aware of the myth of Pandora’s box? If not, here’s a brief rendition…

According to ancient Greek mythology, the gods were feeling vengeful towards humans after they wrongfully discovered the joys of fire. As punishment, the gods pre-loaded a box with every evil imaginable (nice one, guys) and left it lying around on earth, knowing that it wouldn’t take much to tempt a human to open it (proving just how petty and malicious those gods could be). Oh, and they also created a beautiful yet flawed woman who would inevitably want to open the box on account of her natural curiosity.

[Here, I will firstly state that I heartily disagree with the notion that one curious woman could be responsible for the release of every illness and hardship ever to afflict humankind. It could equally have been a curious man who opened that particular box, but let’s put these issues aside for now…]

Once the box was opened by gender-neutral Pandora, a lot of badness flew out of the box and into the world. The final scene is of Pandora guiltily slamming the lid back down, but not before Hope emerges from within the box. In my favourite version of the myth, Hope flies out into the world, and it is hope that makes all the difference as we humans face the nasty contents of that box. 

If ever we were to experience the effects of opening Pandora’s box all over again, 2020 had to be it, but as bad as it has been, hope is also shining her light from the bottom of that box.

Let’s hold onto that comforting idea of hope. Hope is out there amongst the badness, soothing our wounds and giving us something to believe in. Hope is with us as we wait for national and global vaccinations and the end of this pandemic. Hope is with us as we face this new year and seek something more positive. Hope brings the idea of better things to come. 

You know, it doesn’t matter whether hope delivers on her ideals or not. We require her presence only, for hope opens us to possibility. This possibility leads to new ideas, and we can take it from there. We are creatures of imagination; and what we imagine, we create. Those ancient Greek meddlers, the gods, might have re-thought their gift of hope if they’d known how it would inspire and raise humanity to new heights. So, here we are, facing down a crisis with hope in our hearts as we tentatively ease into a new year. 

We have hope and we have the ability to take control in meaningful ways in our own lives. Last year was, in some ways, a year of losing control; of being controlled. It was for our own good, of course. We were told by our governments to live in socially distant ways, and to wear masks, to wash our hands, to stay at home; that our movements could be tracked, and that we could no longer interact with others as we were used to doing. We were under the thumb for almost a year, and if you felt a growing irritability as a result, it would be understandable when you consider the level to which our civil liberties were reduced. 

Living with COVID19 (and other world events of an equally upsetting nature) gave us a wonderful excuse to also live below the line of personal responsibility. The image below is a visual representation of what I mean by this.

Perhaps you found yourself below this line in 2020 for a little while? Perhaps you are still living below this line? For many of us, it began in those first few unsettling months when everything was ‘unprecedented’ and we couldn’t find a spare square of toilet paper. We hunkered down, pooled our resources, got fat, couldn’t get a hug from anyone outside the home and justified our newly-emerged bad habits as a result of the pandemic. How many times have you heard someone complain about their COVID weight gains of last year?

As 2020 dragged on, we went out again, in defiance of public restrictions. We had to make money, to live, to seek education and work and to do the things that people do. The question is, did you also reclaim your place above the line of personal responsibility? 

I challenge you to take a good look at where you stand in terms of that line today. Are you above the line in all areas of life? You are responsible for your health. You are responsible for your bad habits. You are responsible for your relationships. You are responsible for managing your money. You have to be responsible, because no one else is going to look out for you the way YOU can look after yourself. Now is your chance to adjust your mindset so that you take full responsibility for all that you are and all that you represent in this new year.

Even though the virus is still out there in the light of a new year, you are able to make things different for yourself. You can let go of the things that took up so much of your brain space in 2020; there is no need to chew over things that you cannot control. You can decide to control the things that are within your power to control, which includes your thinking, your beliefs, your habits, your language and your decision-making.  

You have choices as to how to bring in this new year. 

The choice is to either play the victim – and be tossed about by external events – or to begin 2021 by empowering yourself with intentional action. This change must come from within, and your actions will follow accordingly. It merely requires a mindset shift and a decision. Some may call it a change of attitude. 

You can decide, right now, to do what you can to develop yourself in wholesome and progressive ways. You can upgrade your Self into a better version despite the goings-on in the world around us. There is a lot we cannot control in the external world, and there is a lot you CAN control within your internal world. You can take control so that outside events are no longer an excuse.

Examples of what you can do:

  • Choose to clear your mind of the negativity of the media by limiting your exposure to it. 
  • Choose to take control of your screen time.
  • Choose to improve your diet, fitness and sleep, even when stuck at home. 
  • Choose to check in with your loved ones on a regular basis. 
  • Choose to pursue an interest that encourages your creativity. 
  • Choose to let go of bad habits. 
  • Choose to reduce your procrastination. 
  • Choose to clean up your language. 
  • Choose to spring-clean your environments. 
  • Choose to be more helpful and cheerful at home. 
  • Choose to do the work that matters most.

Overall, you can choose to take responsibility for your actions by living above the line. Blame and excuses will only hold you back, so I encourage you to let them go in 2021. You’ll be all the more empowered for it, and empowered action will follow. Here’s to 2021 being of your making, no matter what happens in the world around you. And, when all else fails, we always have hope.