Meaning, Purpose and the New Year

Every year I write something hopeful, something that I wish would help just one person who reads it to have something to reach for in the new year.

This has been such a tumultuous year that it almost feels like I need to reconsider everything, even my parting shot for 2020. But have no fear, there’s enough inspiration to go round, even after an annus horribilis like this.

I’ll start with the things that have kept me going this year, that have given my life meaning, and perhaps they will strike a chord with something in your life:

We’ve done my morning show, and haven’t missed a single show in this entire year. For two meditative hours a day, my team and I have held something like a communal therapy session, stand-up comedy show, temper tantrum and information stream rolled into one. The quality may have been inconsistent and our moods might have changed on a daily basis, but we’ve been there – rain and wind, gloom and sun, every weekday throughout this shit-show year. When I got an email in May from a guy called Jeff, in which he said he would have killed himself if we weren’t there every morning, I realised we had a purpose, and it wasn’t just about us.

I’ve got to know my neighbours. I always resisted this, mostly because I think geographical proximity is a horrible reason for social familiarity, but I now know the names and faces of my little community. Hell, Henk next door even recommended a lawn specialist the other day – and I took his advice. We have plans to clean up the river, we had a street braai and we even wave when we drive past each other. That would never have happened in 2019. I’m grateful for all that.

I took my dog for a walk, at least twice a week – and it cleared my head and helped me appreciate nature and my surroundings. I know that’s a very suburban contemplation, but I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not, and I think it’s nice to spend time doing something healthy and relaxing, especially while the world outside your bubble goes bat-shit crazy. It beats being on social media or looking at another screen.

Speaking of which, I pretty much ignored TV this year, even though I’m back on it, and I’m fully aware of the irony of that. News in 2020 has been absolutely designed to keep your brain in constant amygdala-response and spending more than a few minutes a day watching a news channel would have impacted extremely negatively on your mental and physical well-being. Better to read (which I made time for), paint, draw, sing, listen to music and tidy up the house.

Which brings me to my house: It has become a significant person in my life. I don’t just mean it’s a place I like to be – it actually has a personality. When you spend as much time as many of us have at home this year, you develop a relationship with your space – and the things that you interact with in it every day. I took a lot of time this year to make every room as orderly and beautiful as I possibly could, and it made me feel like the rooms and the things in them valued me in return. I don’t mean to sound like a Japanese Feng shui practitioner; but making tea, waking up and doing work with ritual and respect feels different, and somehow firm of purpose. When your environment is one of elegance and harmony, everything else takes on that energy. If your house is a mess, there’s a good chance your life is too.

I have seen fewer people and appreciated them all the more. Family and friends are a quality over quantity choice, and I have realised the value of experiences, conversations, laughter and time spent in positive, engaging ways. There is nothing that would draw me back to rooms full of strangers, or crowds, or small-talk and polite social intercourse at events that I’d rather not be at. The trash-heap of 2020 is full of surprises.

I could go on, but I’m sure all of us could list at least ten things that have made 2020 worthwhile, though it was nobody’s first choice for how things might turn out.

Let’s not waste the lessons the bad things have taught us, nor give up the good things we’ve replaced noise, busyness and relentless movement with.

Happy New Year, even if your countdown has to be at 9pm.

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