Balance is not generally the word one associates with the last months of the end of the year. With 2020 beginning to round to a close, it's hard not to reflect on the year that's been and look towards the future with cautious optimism. Will this years proverbial 'silly season' in fact be so silly considering the state of things?
The holiday period is often thought of with fondness as many of us begin to ramp up for the months of rinsing our livers in pale wine, ahead. This year, however, it's hard to imagine how such activities might continue on as 'business as usual' as the world recovers from the pandemic, if we are to recover, in fact. Back in late June, after closing out three months of lockdown in Australia, it was naive of us to imagine that all would be said and done by now, which begs the question: How can we navigate a celebration-heavy time when doing so still poses risk?
I write this on the day of the US election, when it is still too early to tell what the result might be. As a topic that has taken up the most mental real estate in the past months, it feels as though the election serves as a looming verdict on how we might emerge from this year: Triumphant and hopeful, or defeated and heartbroken. A night to remember, as one of the most powerful countries in the world serves as a global marker of humanity.
As far as hope for the year ahead in Australia goes, the future is looking slightly less murky. We've finally seen Victoria begin to ease restrictions with COVID-19 case numbers drastically down, which has given many of us a renewed sense of resilience as we enter summer time. With cases down and talk of borders reopening, will we be able to live out the holiday dreams we've so desperately been longing for, or will a different approach be necessary?
As much as I fantasize about long days on the sand, licking dried salt off my skin and languidly parking myself at the beachside pub for hours on end, it's important to be realistic. What happens to festive family gatherings when a parent is over 70?
At the risk of sounding like a proverbial party pooper, perhaps it's time to replace 'silly season' with 'sagacious season'. The season where we use our better judgement to determine whether or not that house party really is the one to be at and kiss fewer strangers than we perhaps normally would in the process. As post-summer Europe enters into it's 'worse than the worst-case scenario' phase, we have to wonder if the end of year festivities are really worth it.
We're moving into a phase where discernment will be vital in maintaining our safety, so perhaps we could offer up some stillness in the place of the maximum-speed energy that the months leading up to the new year usually hits us at. Many of us haven't surpassed the traumatic effects the pandemic has had on the world, and to think about a holiday period spent trying to find a balance between family obligations, work, and parties, seems like an unrealistic precedent to set for a population that is barely recovering. In place of this, practising gratitude might be a better fit.
As always, it lies in the little things. For me, it's that I still have such obligations to juggle after the year that has been, meaning the ways that I practise gratitude are directly linked to the way I plan to spend the summer: slowing down again. A strategy that might end up affording the luxuries of summertime in the end, and pivoting interactions to those that are more meaningful.
New Years Eve parties might be smaller, but intimacy breeds connection, and isn't that what we all desperately need right now? Perhaps we won't be 'having a wine' with everyone we've been promising to have a wine with all year - resulting in a schedule the renders us with little time to fulfil most of our summer plans - but instead making thoughtful plans with those who mean the most to us. Perhaps summer will look a little different this year. Perhaps we will, too.