This is because my resolution is NOT to make a New Year’s resolution.
Here’s my logic.
After two years of our freedoms being taken away due to the fear of Covid, the main thing we need now is positivity. As the old song goes, we need “to accentuate the positive”. Therefore the last thing I need is to spend the next three months in a doomed enterprise of self-improvement; the sort of failed mission that merely adds a little self-loathing to whatever problem I was vainly trying to solve.
During Covid, it has been so easy to list all the problems with the world. We watch as wealthy nations protect their own populations, ignoring the experts chanting on the sideline: “no one is safe unless everyone is safe.” We watch as as our brittle societal fault lines, underpinning our systems and institutions, further deteriorate. An under-funded health system, especially within mental health. Institutionalized racism. The cruelty of aged care. The dysfunctional labour market. The degradation of the public sector.
When you think of these things, you find yourself falling into a deep well of negativity. This is because most people focus on the things to worry about rather than those that make them happy. That doesn't make us bad or pessimistic people. It just makes us human. Noticing threats quickly was the key to our ancestors' survival. This continues today. The human brain is better at paying attention to what's bad rather than what's good. We therefore shouldn’t blame ourselves.
That’s why, this year, I plan to always climb towards the sunlight.
Surely it is better to recognise the small things you are thankful for. It may be the best way to farewell the two years we’ve just endured and to hope that a better year lies ahead.
I started on New Year’s day. I got out of bed and made my early morning cup of tea. I gave gratitude to the human being who, over 4,000 years ago, somehow discovered that you could dry the leaves of a camellia bush, steep them in boiling water, and create the most perfect drink – a drink that warms you in winter, cools you in summer, and solves every problem. It reminded me that, a long time ago, I regularly watched Coronation Street on television (yes, I am happy to freely admit that) and would marvel at the magic of tea. After some major catastrophe befell the street someone would invariably save the day by stating in a loud voice, “I’ll put the kettle on”
I then made myself some toast and gave thanks that I live in a country that has an almost unlimited supply of healthy food for my family. There are a variety of supermarkets and cafes within a few minutes of my home so I can choose what and where I want to eat each day.
After my cup of tea and toast, I cleaned my teeth and mumbled my thanks for Canterbury’s beautiful clear water. With more than 10% of the world’s population not having access to clean drinking water I gave thanks that I live in a city where you can turn on a tap and be served the most perfect drinking water, albeit, at the moment, flavoured with chlorine.
When Rose, my wife, woke up, about an hour after me, I took her a cup of tea in bed. I gave thanks for having a family who loves and supports me. I can’t imagine going through life without them. We don’t always agree on everything, but we always love and support each other. I am grateful that I get to experience life, and all that it has to offer, with my BFF, who also happens to be my wife.
Mid-morning I stumbled outside to a perfectly clear day. Most days in summer, Christchurch is the Goldilocks city – neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right. I drove to the golf course to play a game with 3 of my friends. Friends are not about how long you have known them. They are about unconditional love. Accepting you warts and all. Saying that they are there for you and then proving it with their actions. I am grateful for each of them. As we get older our main topic of conversation on the golf course is our health. We often take our health for granted. As long as our bodies do what it is created to do we do not think about it. Even though, as I age, things are thinning and falling out so I gave thanks that we are blessed with better health than most people in the world. How lucky are we?
That evening I sat outside, on the deck, with a cold beer. No, I didn’t give thanks to the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia for realizing that fermenting barley could produce the nectar of the gods. Instead, I gave thanks for the scientists who gave us the vaccines we needed to fight the Covid battle. However foolish humanity can sometimes be, we have also had our moments of brilliance as a species. This is one of them. Then I gave thanks for the nine out of ten New Zealand adults who quietly lined up to get their jabs. They didn’t make as much noise as the anti-vax protesters, but we were the many and they were the few.
Next, I gave thanks to the nurses, doctors and teachers who took on their extra burdens. The supermarket and hospitality staff who wear masks for each eight-hour shift and still managed to be upbeat even in the face of rising levels of anger, aggression and violence. The truck drivers who deliver our food and the military personnel and police officers who monitor our MIQ facilities. Also, the grassroots iwi organisations who have been in a race against time to get some of our most vulnerable communities vaccinated. These are surely the people who should have been recognised in the recent New Year’s honours. Not the usual list of politicians and sportspeople.
The sunshine, once you look for it, has been more widespread than the clouds, even in this time of the pandemic. And once you start counting your blessings it’s hard to stop.
I predict that the year ahead will bring us many more troubles. But even in tough times, there are still pleasures for the taking. We just have to look for them.
Here’s to a happier 2022.