One door shuts, another door opens. One cardboard flap peals its way to signalling fingertip entrance, and another little chocolate inhabitant sits awaiting the scoffing. December is a time we in the West know in all of its delightful stereotypes. The darkness crawls down by the school run, yet the streets flicker with golden fairy lights and illuminated reindeer. Shops get tattooed overnight with green and red decorations and the radio loops the same jolly numbers we’ve sang along to for decades. It’s a ritualistic celebration of joy, even if for the other eleven months you’ve felt like shit. These little shifts in societies presentation of itself trigger this expected happiness as Christmas time is inherently merry. We plan to have time off of work and study, a big dinner with our dearest loved ones, the opportunity to receive gifts and more importantly, to give them. We plan to say goodbye to the year with a salute to jubilation. With all of the glee, however, comes the darker side of December.
The streets are at their coldest, and bodies still pile into corners to keep warm, scurried past by shoppers hauling gifts by the bucket load. Those without families sit in lonely houses playing Scrooge; the ghosts of their pasts still haunting them every time Mariah Carey does her little ditty. Memories of past Christmas’ that weren’t so tremendous pop up in little red bubbles, as close relations journey through the task of forgetting November’s quarrels and putting up with each other for one day that just can’t go tits up. When you are blessed with love and privileged enough to go all out on presents, it is easy to forget that there are people in the world on the other side of the spectrum.
I think we can learn a lot from our Yule-ish euphoria. If it is possible to put aside differences for this day, to put aside hatred and anger, stress and grief, to overcome selfishness and ingratitude, all for the sake of a good Christmas, what holds us back from doing this on the other 364 we have?
Perhaps if we apply these genial expectations to all days of the year, we may experience greater joy in the odd Monday where nothing exciting is happening, because just being a good person is great enough a kick to keep up the felicity.
This year I planned to have a Christmas so opposite from my usual tradition that it almost felt made up when discussing it. My dad has worked over every Christmas since I was in single digits, so I never see him on the grand ol’ day. Last year I spent it with my mum and my cat, and it was beautiful. We played games, had a giggle, watched films. It was far from grandiose but it was the love in our little arrangement that made it a fantastic day. We put no pressure on it, or each other, and just enjoyed one another’s company, just like any time we spend together.
This year we planned to have a big family operation at my mum’s boyfriend’s home, and I was really excited about it. I haven’t had big familial celebrations since I was very young, so the thought of being surrounded by good people who love each other felt a real comfort and a treat. We had the food planned, the invites sent, the activities loosely organised. And most importantly – we had hope. Christmas can only be interrupted by personal complications usually, yet everyone in the world who celebrates it has been hit by the same destruction this time. The corona virus has stripped almost everyone of their basic right to be by their loved one’s sides, and Christmas unsurprisingly has been hit hard too. I am no longer going to have the big day we had planned on, just like so many families around the world. The hope we had that it would go ahead almost feels fictitious.
Still, I will spend the day with the people who mean the world to me, and I am very lucky to do so. Too many humans will be alone this year, perhaps with fears of this being their last Christmas, or riddled with anxiety of getting ill. So much terror has infected us in 2020 and it seems not much is going to uplift it before we see the new year. You start getting sick and tired of being told to keep your chin up when all you want to do is scream in frustration, so I am not going to dispense a few paragraph of self-flagellating, self-righteous, self-imposed bullshit to try and force you into smiling when the world is burning in its own shit, but I am going to discuss some of my own plans on making my space in the universe a little bit less hectic, which may inspire you to focus on your health and well-being too. And if not? Then we can light a fag in the smoking shit heap we call home and bitch into a caterwaul of rage and exasperation till the cows come home. I’ve got your back, either way.
My New Years resolution for 2020 was to stop drinking alcohol. I haven’t tasted a drop, not even eaten a liquor bonbon, since December 31st 2019. I have never really been one to follow the tradition of resolutions, but it felt a great opportunity to knock my drinking on the head. I used to be insecure and introverted; worried my presence was never good enough. So I did what most people do, and turned to alcohol to overcome my feelings of self-doubt.
It is a bittersweet remedy. I have so many memories of great, boozy times, where alcohol elevated the joy and fun, and I cherish these recollections. I have done things I would never do sober, that were beneficial, and pushed me to experience new things and learn a lot about myself and the world. The alcohol also aided my creative work, as I would write a lot of poetry when I was pissed as a fart, waking up in the morning to find notes upon notes of fantastic rhyme. It would be ignorant to dismiss these factors, as I feel they are part of my story, my journey.
But with the benefits, came the let downs along the way too. I have struggled with my mental health since I was around twelve, and finding alcohol seemed an easy escape from what was happening inside of me. I am no casual drinker. If I drink, I fecking drink (must be the Irish in me). And I almost always blackout, with no memory after the night really commenced. I always thought this was an acceptable ‘therapy’, especially in regard to the boozing culture in England, but by late last year I realised that drinking was only making my mental state, and my body, feel worst. I knew giving it up would be difficult, but worth it.
Many fears arose. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to socialise, that I would become the boring teetotaller that falls asleep by half ten and misses most of the party. I was doing that anyway, but passing out from being too shit faced. Being sober was actually the best thing, as I could interact with people in a more organic and truthful way because I was being my authentic self, not intoxicated or effected by substance. I learnt that I am plenty capable of relaxing with my friends and with new people totally sober. I have had more engaging conversations and I haven’t woken up with such debilitating regret, shame and embarrassment since I packed it all in.
I was clinging on to this idea that without drink, I wouldn’t be able to write. I had this strange notion that it was the alcohol that let me articulate my feelings, instead of my ability. My abstemious year has actually helped me sharpen my creative capacity and I have put more effort into my projects. It has also taught me to not sit around waiting for inspiration, but to persevere with writing even when it feels fruitless.
My thoughts are much clearer now that I’m sober. There is nothing to manipulate what I’m thinking, as I’m always in the same state to process whatever comes up when it does. I seem to work through things in a more logical manner, rather than just freaking out and relying on alcohol to cushion the fall. This has been difficult, though. It can be overwhelming to have no quick escape, to have to face all the extremities of being human and having no little release from it. But by accepting this challenge, I have armed myself with better equipped tools to kick life back into shape when it wants to fuck me up.
Last year I decided my body had taken its fair share of pummelling and something needed to change, and I feel great for it. Sometimes these cheesy social traditions can hold a lot of power, so I truly do recommend setting new year resolutions, and trying to stick to them. The feeling of achieving the resolutions has made me feel proud and strong. Both of which are attributes to a more stable vision of your self worth and I really do feel the benefits of cutting out the crap.
This year I have slightly more abstract resolutions. This voyage through life is both external and internal. Rather than focusing on what is going into my body, I am going to work on what’s already in there, and what I’m putting out.
I had the realisation a few weeks ago that I am always focusing on the ending instead of just enjoying the process of something. If I am reading, I’m calculating how many pages are left in the chapter. If I am watching something, I am checking how many minutes there are to go to the finale. If I am doing exercise, I am plotting that sweet old savasana. All this waiting for something to be over was distracting me from the joy of doing stuff. It was like I was waiting to die while life was just a turn off to the destination! I realised something needed to change.
I have been consciously observing if this ‘rushing’ feeling presents itself, taking a breath and actively focusing on what I enjoy about what I’m doing. This keeps me engaged, even if I have to do it several times. In the new year I want to work harder on this, I want to start living not in the future or past, but in the present. Nowhere is more important than where you are right now.
I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for over a decade now. This funny little condition is complex, it is exhausting and it can really fuck with you. I didn’t really give a shit about my diabetes until around a year or so ago. It was just something that I had – I didn’t feel I needed to make an effort with it. After reading a book called The Diabetes Solution, I wanted to learn more about the condition so I further educated myself on why I have it, what it means to have it and what is going on inside a diabetic’s body. I found a lot of answers to questions I had considered rhetoric for so long, and finally my body and brain started making a little bit more sense. It is difficult to maintain stable blood sugars and with erratic patterns it can make you angry and depressed. I have experienced these symptoms for years, not correlating the low moods to my diabetes. This next year I want to really get a hold of it. I want to grow older without the persistent fear of going blind or having my legs amputated, or having an episode of hypoglycaemia at night and not waking up again. In the new year I plan to start my transition into veganism, a choice I feel is necessary for me right now and it’ll also mean a reduction in my sugar consumption, because if I’m vegan I can’t just go to the shop and eat half a Victoria sponge willy nilly, practically asking for DKA. I have also been researching the insulin pump and will ask my endocrinologist if this is a possibility for me.
My final resolution is to be more dedicated to social justice. I am passionate about egalitarianism and I feel there are huge changes on the way. I don’t use social media, in fact I deplore performative activism quite wholeheartedly, but I wish to use my writing and poetry as a platform to connect my art with the political and social change that I feel the world must (is) go (ing) through. I have always written about my own journey and emotions (something I will continue to do) which often crosses over into a more general conversation due to the recurring topics of mental health and substance use, however recently I have been listening to more political music and writing poems about gender, sexuality and race politics. Supporting marginalised communities is important as an artist, I feel, and the most political thing you can do is create art. In the new year I will be moving towards making music and I want to include these topics as I feel it would be a dishonour to not do so. If one hateful person can find a bit of love and understanding from my work, I will feel I have accomplished plenty.
Among other tweaks I will make and revaluations I will breakthrough, these are my three foundational resolutions. What are yours?
I hope you all have a beautiful Christmas and a very happy new year. Keep doing what you enjoy doing, looking after yourself and your loved ones, and…following my page. Love!
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: Loony Left by Rats From a Sinking Ship & Benjamin Zephaniah – I love this song. The lyrics are so powerful, and I relate to all of them. Brilliantly written with a great sound, definitely worth checking out! (Rats From a Sinking Ship have a song called Katie Fucking Hopkins which is pretty brilliant too)
Book: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo – wow, even in the first few pages this book made me tear up, laugh, get a weird tingly feeling. It gives you insight to the lives of women of colour, with so much emotion and no full stops. Bernadine Evaristo is truly an incredible writer and I feel everyone should read this book.