This is super late. Sorry folks, I am bad about recognizing the abstract concept of time.
It’s been a pretty bad year for a lot of people.
In some ways (a lot of ways) 2016’s been a good year for me. I finally found out for sure I’m going to survive cancer for long enough for something else to kill me (current betting favorite is still ‘angry bear’ but ‘enraged warthog’ is also a contender, as is ‘furious swarm of bees’). More importantly, my Dad survived his bout with cancer without having to go through chemo. The surgery was rough, but it worked.
I had a pretty good professional year too, especially with my day job (if you’re ever in New Zealand and listen to the radio, sooner or later you’ll either hear my voice or something I wrote). I got to go to the USA and meet some of my internet friends, including the always awesome Julie Butcher who writes for ELEW.
And just as I was recovering, everyone else’s world started to fall down. Sometimes it was with big, world changing things, sometimes it was deeply personal things, but just about everyone else I know had a REALLY bad year.
I won’t bother to list the terrible things that have happened here, because everyone’s got their own list with different things on it. Suffice to say that for the vast majority of people I know this is at best a very nervous holiday season. And that sucks.
I wish I could say I had some sort of epiphany I could share that would make it all better, but life isn’t really like that. All I’ve got are a series of small lessons.
The first is that we need stories. I’ve told this a few times now, but there was a point during chemo where I was dying of infection and stuck in an isolation unit. I saw what my treatment was doing to other people, and I had the thought that it might just be better for everyone if I just died (this wasn’t true at all but it felt true at the time). As I was thinking that I got an email from a friend, an early copy of his novella, and it was just that small thing of having a story to disappear into that made the difference between hope and despair.
Humans learn through stories, we teach through stories and through stories we can find hope where there shouldn’t be any. So if you’re a writer, keep writing. Do it for yourself as much as everyone else, because if you’re anything like me, you need those stories too.
The next thing is that changing isn’t the same as quitting, nor is it the same as failing. Maybe this year has meant that you’ve needed to change your goals, or yourself, or the way that you see things. That doesn’t make you a failure, and neither does changing your goals. If the thing that you want changes, that’s OK, you can always change them back.
The last thing is that you never know when the thing that saves you is going to turn up. Maybe it’s something external, maybe it’s something within you that needs time to come out. Sometimes all we can do in bad times is hold on, and fight as best we can until things get better.
So, as much as you can, try to have a happy holidays. And if you can’t, try to hold on. The good fight’s worth fighting even if you’re not winning.