Many things occupy our little heads these days, but today, we are talking about the end-of-the-year blues.
Is that a thing?
I know Seasonal Affective Disorder is, but honestly, I’ve never lived in a place with a clear distinction in its seasons. It would be presumptuous for me to assume this was it.
But it’s that time of the year. It usually begins in the last quarter for me, where you start to evaluate the year that’s coming to a close. So here we are, writing, in the epicentre of it all.
What has worked for you, what hasn’t, and what are your achievements and milestones? Are you closer to reaching your goals than you were a year ago? Wait, do you even have any goals? Could you have spent more time with the people around you? Could you have taken it slower than that? Could you have done better?
You get the drift.
Usually, these episodes are also laced with anxiety and panic. They can readily welcome other mental health conditions hanging out at this end of the spectrum. I’m not a mental health professional, and this might be a wholly misinformed statement.
These episodes last from a few days to months and sometimes don’t even end when the year comes to a close. Just more baggage on to 2023.
I’ve been catching up on old emails, trying to clear one inbox at a time. I came across my friend Adilah’s newsletter on “Space” (this is from 2020, so you can imagine how many unread emails are sitting here. Scratch that, it’s not that bad, we are down to 35 emails now from 140).
Here she speaks of loss, particularly of greenery caused by new construction. Despite my new-ish found love for hiking (which I am outright terrible at, but my headstrong self, occasionally fuelled with pride, likes to think otherwise), I’ve never really thrived in the great outdoors. I don’t know if it’s genetic, but it is definitely not an experience we were privy to in our childhood. My vague memory of the time growing up included holidays in hotels with buffets, not a campsite. As an adult, I’ve been trying to unlearn and undo some of the damage done by this limited exposure and well, 12 years into adulthood, we are still trying.
But what Adilah says about this loss of greenery got me thinking that this prolonged case of the blues might be driven by exactly that. The environment I live in, while very new to me, it’s also loud and very city-city, you know? My exposure to greenery is limited to plants on balconies. So we take a walk to the park nearby. Manmade, perfectly manicured grass so green that you forget that you live in a desert. It’s been helpful to my mental health and keeping my forehead away from aggressively greeting the window. And also, yes, exercise. But the walks (and sometimes jogs when the obstinate self makes an appearance) also give me more perspective on life or an environment I took for granted, despite it being the same environment that drove many like me away, to begin with. That also sounds like a segue into all great toxic relationships, but that’s not what we are discussing today.
But loss has also been a constant topic of discussion during the last few years. Loss of life and, as of late, even loss of (productive) years. Is it me, or do you (perhaps those in their 30s) feel a sense of loss and anger for the years this pandemic has taken away from you? This is not to generalise the feeling of “loss” or to belittle the loss of life as we know it. But for some of us, these were to be the best years of our lives. But look at where we are now? Some of the braver ones have overcome or surpassed this feeling of loss. Still, for the rest of us, we continued to sit here and wonder what the fuck happened while we tried to make sense of the world passing us by.
On being Vulnerable
Is it cultural?
I’m not sure, but vulnerability is not something we have looked at positively. Even to this date, it’s something I profoundly struggle with and find it difficult to express because, to date, vulnerability equals weakness.
Sure, I cry easily and can cry on demand, but crying because you are vulnerable? That’s a big no-no. We are taught this as children, and then the same discourse is nurtured into adulthood. How we do not ask for what we want, express how we feel and work our best towards being the people pleasers we were born to be. I cringe even while writing that last line because, for the longest time, I never identified as a people pleaser. Then a (not very) kind reminder made me put things into perspective and realise how important it was that I never rocked the boat. Sure, I don’t hesitate to share my opinions or don’t care what others would think, but at the same time, this is when we turn into a walking paradox. We also don’t want to make others upset, do we? We want to make sure that everyone stays happy. We read the room and respond appropriately.
Another (Instagram) friend, Anjali, articulates this really well in one of her newsletters (again from 2020!), and she says:
“We have been blinded to believe that this beautiful planet turns on its axis because of all the ‘powerful’ people that live on it. Today, I struggle hard to undo the damage I caused to my own warm and beating heart in this process. Today, I strive to unlearn the foolish things this world has taught me; to embrace my softness and my vulnerability. Today, I try to teach myself that the true power in this world sleeps in the hands of kindness and love and resilience.”
If this post is inconsistent, it is.
I wrote these chunks, yes, at the same time, but it wasn’t meant to be coherent. Upon writing this line, I realised that the themes of the annual end-of-the-year blues for 2022 are “Loss and Vulnerability”. Not bad, eh? (Works with our climate change conversations for 2022 also!) But in all honesty, I also wrote this to make sense of all that’s happening. I think it has been helpful. I’m not sure if it was for you, but I write for you in the spirit of being transparent and knowing that one person among the five who might read this would resonate. For the one person who might resonate with this, I’m sorry if you came here looking for words of comfort. Truth be told, I don’t have any to offer to myself, let alone you. But I want you to feel validated, seen and even heard. To tell you that it’s okay to feel the way you do because that’s just what it is.
We are going to try to let this feeling pass this time. We are not going to fight it. We will work with our resources and try our best not to sweep it under the carpet. It’s been coming in waves, sometimes waves as large as tsunamis and the other times the waters calm enough to paddleboard yoga on.
Will it work? I don’t know.
Until then, we continue to #ThinkSunny🌻