On the end of a year

It’s a funny thing. Despite the catastrophe that was 2016, I’ve not written a lot this year. I used to blog more often, and one thing I’ve learned is that the more acutely I feel something the better I usually write about it. But there’s probably such a thing as feeling something too acutely, and 2016 has been overloaded with emotion, for good and ill. I have something – based on a blog post – with an editor, awaiting publication, but this post is the last thing I will type this year. I mean that quite literally – I leave my job tomorrow and I really don’t intend to do much in the way of writing in the next 24 hours.

I’m not sure how much writing I will do next year, really. I enjoy doing it but sometimes it’s hard to feel that it isn’t just adding to the white noise which permanently surrounds most of us. And I have never pretended that my thoughts are especially original – perhaps I write more for myself than for anyone else, and perhaps there’s nothing wrong with that.

For ages, I have dreamt of having more time to write. I have always written in my ‘free’ time, but the nature of the jobs I have had over the past ten years has meant I haven’t actually had that much free time, particularly as I do some fairly regular stuff on a voluntary basis as well. Essentially, I have worked a LOT over the past few years. But, from January, I drop my working hours and, ostensibly, that will give me more time to write. But I’m not sure if I’ll use it to write, or to read, or to think, or to exercise, or to just sit.

It’s easy, as a psychologist – or, probably, anything, but I can only speak as a psychologist – to get pulled in a lot of different directions, for all sorts of reasons. It’s especially easy, I think, if it’s really important to you to be a ‘good’ psychologist. I don’t know how I conceptualise that, necessarily, but I suppose part of it is trying very hard not to cause people more harm. And that’s a really hard thing to do, because mental health services and the people who work in them have been doing harm for a very long time. So it becomes very easy to have incredibly high standards, or to look to other people’s standards, which you then perhaps can’t meet, and it’s probably not the most helpful pattern to fall into. It’s obviously even easier when you’re a heavy social media user, and I’ve noticed in recent months that I’ve spent much less time interacting with people on Twitter – and certainly less time discussing mental health in any particularly in-depth way. I enjoy Twitter a lot, and I’ve met many people I like and respect through it, but it does seem like a constant fight, sometimes, to be all things to all people, and often it’s rather more stressful than I would like it to be. You can’t vanquish your own pain by funnelling it all into someone else, and it’s not nice watching it happen, or having it happen to you. But, of course, if you’re going to use a tool you have to be prepared to take the good with the bad, and maybe I’m a bit tired of the anger and the pain and the overt hostility. So while I won’t quite be flouncing off into the sunset, I’ll probably be around a bit less.

In the immediate future, I will be in a kind of purdah – it’s time for a well-deserved, and distinctly overdue, holiday, and I shall be incommunicado from tomorrow. I might, after my return, feel differently, but I don’t think so. I suspect that a couple of weeks away from the chatter will be very good for me and I’ll realise, as I always do when on a self-enforced hiatus, that it can sometimes take away from my life, as well as adding to it. And, of course, I’ll be busy having a new job and and that will probably give me plenty to be getting on with.

I hope that next year will bring less of a malaise, politically, but I won’t hold my breath.  And maybe I will come to a point where I can offer a perspective on things which is more original, more nuanced and more useful in creating positive change. But, as I have said before, perhaps the biggest resistance in these unpleasant and damaging times is simply treating those around us with kindness and gentleness and humanity. And so, in that spirit, a Merry Christmas to you all, and may you be buoyed up for the challenges of 2017.

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