Hindsight, Of Course

Did I learn anything this year? Did we?  I don’t know yet.  I started out the year with a post on social media about how I was planning to #dodifficultshit in 2020 unknowing of course that the whole year was going to be about that. I am fully aware that nothing magically changes because the calendar ticks over to another year but it is at least a prompt for reflection.  I hesitate to use ‘advice’ but I like the analogy “of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth”.  There were some good reminders for me in 2020 and so with perfect hindsight, my recycling.

1.Life is messy.

I have waves of organisation.  At the start of this year and I had bag packing and routine down to a tea.  I could tell you how long it would take me through to get through security at Belfast City Airport and how many minutes apart the DLRs are.  Like everyone else, my carefully pieced together jigsaw was hurled into the air and brought down with no regard.  Any pretence we have of order is just that. Have a look at the natural world, it’s one big joyous mess. There are no straight lines in nature. It doesn’t matter how much we plan what comes next we are very much lacking in control and order.
I’m learning to navigate the mess rather than to try and impose order on it.
2.  We are not in charge
If you hadn’t got the memo from the bat cave, here it is again. Mother Nature is the boss.  We disrespect her at our peril. There is so much of our narrative of power and control that sits uneasily with the blindingly obvious truth that nature wins.  Hurricanes, floods, invisible pathogens.  We do better to try and live harmoniously with nature than to pretend we are in charge.  All the talk of ‘fighting’ the virus and ‘battles’.  Strange concept to be in conflict with an actor so much more powerful than ourselves.
3.  Humans crave connection to nature
After months of lockdown, people craved connection to the wild.  It is home.  I had already crafted my life purposefully to include time outdoors every day. It acted as a touchpoint to normality in the least abnormal times. It was an insurance policy and it paid out. I saw people who would ordinarily have been in the pub climb mountains and jump in the sea. We are part of nature. This year it feels like we remembered why we need to be amongst it.  Because when nothing else makes any sense, two hours under the sky will sort you out.  That access to nature is a right and not a privilege is something I want to do something about in 2021 – disparity of access to nature is a major problem and connected to the horrendous disparity of health outcomes.  Nature is for everyone.
4.  Resilience is a top life skill.
Unglamorous and unsexy, the ability to just get your head down and muddle through hard times has been underrated. I learnt a lot about my friends and family this year.  I clocked early doors that the ones coping best with what 2020 was throwing at them were the ones who had the experience of battling through something miserable at least once before. There’s a tree in the forest with a great big fat knot in it’s trunk, some injury from its sapling days.  Still standing.  Not giving one hoot about the scars.  Resilience wins.
5.  Death comes.
There is no point pretending it doesn’t.  It’s the order of things.  When it does, it almost certainly won’t look like it does in the movies.  This year reminded us of that it might not be of a time of our choosing and we might not get the soft landing.  I’ve always been perplexed at our relationship to death – on the one part sanitised, on the other emotional.  It has been a recurring motif this year, everywhere I turned.  I lost my dad. I watched the news. I felt like I was surrounded by it.  Because I was.  We need a better conversation around the reality of death. There’s no getting away from it. We all go.
6.  But in Spite of the Death, More Life.
What it did prompt was an awareness of life.  If you are constantly faced with death it’s a reminder that life is short, we would do well to do more living.  When we go, we leave legacy, our imprint in the world, that is taken by the living and woven still into the fabric of life. The fallen tree in the woods, decaying but giving life to a whole multitude of flora and fauna.
Life. Goes. On. Nature keeps on naturing.

There is no guessing what the next chunk of time brings and no point in trying. We keep going because that’s what we do. We use that resilience to keep building out a life.  Until we’re no longer here to do it.  It is messy.  It is beautiful.  And it is home.