Some people are resistant to change – particularly from middle age onwards – while others embrace it. Some of us want to cram as many crazy, new experiences into our twilight years, while others take comfort from what they know.
On a personal level, I have always embraced change, which explains my itchy feet, numerous house moves, and embarrassingly full resume, but for many others change signals a threat to their safety. It explains (not justifies) the reaction of some people to immigrants or women in more powerful positions in the workplace.
I stole the title of this post from a piece written by Zach J.Payne on Medium. It seemed appropriate to discuss the comment as we race towards Christmas with its obscene display of overspending at the same time as bush fires rage around us and tv series such as Years and Years keep us awake at night.
But it is not only Australia’s archaic approach to climate change or our problem with overspending that has taken the bang out of the crackers this Christmas. It is also a tiredness caused by the never-ending murders and abuse of women at the hands of the patriarchy – in the last few weeks, another woman was burnt to death on the way to her rape trial whilst another died in a menstruation hut. It is a tiredness caused by the increase in mental illness in our children – that no one seems to be tackling with any seriousness, and a tiredness caused by tragedies such as the White Island eruption with its timely reminder of the fragility of our lives.
But perhaps the biggest source of my fear is what is happening on the political world stage right now, with the terrifying rise of the right, the possible impeachment of Trump, and the British election today. The scariest truth to come out of this year for me is that even democracies can be governed by self-serving lunatics.
It is really not surprising that the tinsel and fairy lights have done little to assuage those fears, when it is increasingly hard to feel any positivity about the state of the world – even from my position of privilege. The only thing that keeps many of us going is hope. It is the belief, however far-flung it feels right now, that everything does indeed change, and that in general, good beats evil. After all, the Berlin Wall did come down, fascism was beaten in two world wars, Irish women now have the right to abortions, and there are continued improvements in our treatment of serious illnesses – which means that in the west our longevity improves all of the time. That is, if we still have a world to live in, of course.
And on a micro level, we experienced one of those changes last Sunday, when our son joined us at our Christmas party.
As you know, Christmas is a special time for me. It represents everything I aspire to in terms of family, togetherness and belonging – even if our reality isn’t always that chocolate box version. But his arrival was a surprise. Why? Because we have organised many family events over the past few years that he has promised to attend and then been a no-show. He is, after all, a young man in his early twenties who is not comfortable with large groups – especially large groups of Boomers and Gen Xers who are aware of his struggles. So much so, (was it) only a few years ago that I truly believed that one day we might end up estranged, to be reconciled in twenty years time on one of those cheesy programmes on tv, or (worst case) at visitors time in prison.
Actually, that’s a lie, because my worst case scenario was when I thought he might not be here at all.
And yet, if anyone asked me twenty-two years ago if I thought I would find myself in this position, I would have laughed in their face. I mean…I’m far from perfect parent material, but I am a middle-class woman with privilege who tried (desperately) to tick most points off Dr Spock’s checklist.
But I had a child who was and is (very much) his own person. One who only now is growing happier in his own skin – although it is obvious he will never embrace the “system” he was born into – who also suffers from a neurological condition that makes life that bit harder for him. And while I may be a tad prone to catastrophizing, (which my friends will confirm), those fears about his future felt very real at the time. And so, even now, (and we’re far from out of the woods), it takes only the smallest gesture of love from my son to throw me into an emotional tailspin of gratitude and relief – much to my daughter’s disgust.
But as time moves on, I have seen that shit happens to everyone – it’s just that most people don’t feel the need to write about everything that happens to them :). That’s life. The good news is that (in general) we learn how to cope with the holes in the road that try to fuck up the suspension on the car. And as the journalist Jan Fran said when she was a guest on the Wilosophy podcast and was asked about the thing she is most proud of in her life – a huge measure of our personal success has to be how we REACT to situations and change.
It never ceases to amaze me how capable we human beings are in the face of pain and tragedy. Right now, in Queensland and New South Wales, homeowners are risking their lives to save their properties alongside volunteer fire fighters who will be giving up Christmas to help them. Those homeowners don’t know if their houses will still be standing tomorrow – all they have is hope. But they are coping, because they have to. Today, the families of those killed on White Island will feel utter hopelessness as the bodies of their loved ones are retrieved to be laid to rest, but one day they will find some meaning to their loss – because what else is there?
Everything changes and not always for the better, but we are more resilient than we think. 2020 is another year that will bring new change and challenge. That lunatic Boris looks like he will get back in, I have no doubt that Trump will find some corrupt way to out-manoeuvre the US judicial system, and Scomo will continue to pray to his god to put out the fires. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.
So all the rest of us can hope is that other changes that come out of next year are for the better, and that more activists like Greta Thunberg and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez don’t give up and stay angry enough to lead them.