My friend reminded me of these words I wrote at the end of last year. After the heat we’ve all survived they feel much more relevant.
As we draw the 2010s to a close it is natural to reflect on what has gone before and try to sift through the memories, both good and bad, to form some lesson to take into the next decade. What a ten years it had been.
I started this decade with almost every area of my life barely holding together whilst delivering what I believed was an Oscar worthy performance of ‘successful man in his late twenties’ for all to see.
I had found that the Driscollesque-Christomachismo of the day to be a safe place to hide my frailty. Behind the banter and the ‘Jesus is a prizefighter’ rhetoric I was crumbling.
Yet in the shadows, my life was spiralling. My marriage, mental health, ‘career’ and even physical health were in shreds. Within 18 months of Jools Holland’s clock striking 12 on January 1st 2010, the whole tapestry I’d spent the decade before weaving, was a pile of threads.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that I am the same person as I was then. I have everything I’ve ever wanted, the love of my life, two wonderful sons, a home I love in the city I love most. I’ve even managed a career change and have a job which I love.
If you’re entering the new decade feeling the way I entered the one just past take heart. Things can get better. You can find a day in the future when you wake up and all that you had lost has been restored, with more joy than you lost. It is possible.
It does take some effort and choice though. Here are some things that have stood out in the last ten years.
Admit that you need help.
We are bombarded by stories of superhuman heroes who single handedly save the day, win the prize or rescue the princess from a dragon. Don’t choose to battle on alone, every dragon slayer needed a blacksmith to make their sword. Find your team.
Get out when you still can.
There are times when you need to walk away. Things aren’t going to change in that job, church or relationship. Get out, choose something new. Some things don’t last forever and that’s ok. Mourn them and move on.
Counselling and therapy isn’t for the weak, it’s for all of us.
I eventually went to a counsellor, it was amazing. Do it if you can. Therapy was sold to me as only for people who can’t do it on their own. That’s fair, none of us can do this on our own. Go to therapy.
Sometimes you should take pills to stop your body and your mind killing you.
I take three a day now, two to stop my heart stopping and one to make my mind slow down. This is normal, people need medicine. No stigma.
Your job will become your identity if you let it. If you lose it you’ll feel like your heart has been torn open. I worked in church work since I was 19. I lost it once in 2011 and again in 2016 as my mental health collapsed. Define yourself by something other than work.
Sometimes you need to be selfish.
If you always choose everyone else and never choose yourself, you will burnout very quickly. You cannot draw from a dry well. Be selfish. Ignore that call. Don’t go to the party; eat ice cream on the sofa instead. You’re worth it.
People will come and go and that’s ok, cherish the memories.
Ram Dass, who recently passed away, had a phrase, ‘we’re just walking each other home.’ love it, a perfect image of life. Few will walk the whole journey with you. Enjoy those you share each stage of the walk with.
People die. They really bloody die. Some die from cancer, some die from mental illness, some die slowly and some suddenly.
Young people who had plans and old people who had stories have died in the last ten years. I hope they knew how I felt about them. Tell people you love them.
The block button is amazing.
Social media is a sewer. People are angry and abusive and cruel. Silence them. You don’t have to listen. We aren’t built to listen to this crap 24/7. Protect yourself from it. You don’t need to read vitriol to ‘get a balanced view’ on an issue.
Hope is a game changer.
Hope brings people to the streets to bring down oppressive regimes. Hope feeds hungry people and calls for change. Hope got me out of bed when I’d have gladly dissolved into my pillow.
If you can’t drum up your own hope find hopeful people and piggy back on theirs. Cynicism can keep you safe (choose it at times) but hope can make you fly. Fill your life with hopeful people and you’ll find yourself hoping too. The story isn’t over until it’s over.
Eat the extra donut.
That’s it. You get one life. Eat the donut.
Sure, make good choices, be healthy, eat a carrot once in a while but don’t starve yourself of pleasure for the sake of a calories. Eat the damn donut.
Share you real life as well as your Instagram life.
You do look amazing stood on that beach in the storm. You’re family Christmas card is gorgeous. We love to see it. Tell the world that you want to cry sometimes.
Show us the bread that didn’t rise and the jeans the don’t fit anymore. We are all in the same boat, and every boat has a leak. The more we share only the good,the less known we become. Be the real you, loads of people like you. Don’t hide.
Loneliness isn’t caused by not knowing anybody, it is caused by not being known by anybody.
Start the year by telling one person that thing. You know, the thing you’ve rehearsed telling people over and over and haven’t let slip. Tell someone. You’re worth knowing.
‘Everything happens for a reason’ will kill your joy.
It’s a thief who makes you search for an answer you will never find. Sometimes the reason is that tragedy happens and that the world can be cruel. That’s almost always the best answer you will get.
Listen to your questions and doubts.
I suppressed mine. It made me miserable. The last 5 years of embracing them have been freeing and have brought freedom and vibrancy to my faith that I have never known before. Keep seeking. Keep asking. Keep wondering.
Nations are bigger than their political decisions. Whether Remain or Leave, Trump or Clinton, Unionist or Nationalist nations are complex. They are defined by the kindness we show one another, by acts of generosity and justice. Don’t let the national story steal the local.
Few things are uglier than big religion getting in bed with politics. Few things are more beautiful than small personal faith effecting political and social change. Big Religion and political power are a dangerous cocktail for everyone involved.
Forgive when you can, sometimes it takes years. Forgiveness doesn’t mean things have to go back to how they were, sometimes things will never be the same. Relationships will end. You have to say goodbye to people who will never treat you properly.
Insisting on knowing you’re right is entirely overrated. Choose kindness instead.
Go to the woods. Go the beach. Go to a river. Go to a mountain. Go to a coffee shop. Go to a cathedral. Go to friends house. Go on a date. Go to a library. Go to second hand shop. Go to a market. Go to an aquarium. Go to a museum. Go to a gallery. Leave your phone at home.
For those who end this decade like I ended the last, barely holding on, may you find hope in the next. May you look back in ten years and see yourself recovered and rebuilt. You can do it. There’s much to learn, never stop looking for it.
I’m rooting for you. If I can do it you can. Keep going. Keep going. Get people to carry you when you can’t keep going. You can do it.
May God Bless us all in the 2021.