Mental Health, Reflections

January 1, 2021

Changing The Dialogue, Take 2…

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“C’mon people now

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together, try and love one another, right now”

The Youngbloods, “Get Together”

I remember New Year’s Eve 2019. I had an amazing plan. I was going up to Warkworth to spend the night with friends in their rural paradise, hike, cook amazing food, have a bit (or more) of bourbon and bubbly, listen to great tunes on vinyl, and generally end one hell of what I thought was a shite year right…with an upbeat clearing out, and then head on out all sparkly into a new one.

On a bright hike that afternoon through my friends’ woods, we had a great talk about me feeling stuck and being frustrated in finding a way out of that. In particular, how I might change the patterns in a relationship that was just plain stuck, as patterns of dialogue and action kept circling back to the same shitty ends. I wanted to stop the cycle of hurt and disappointment, and begin the healing and rebuilding.

The answer we came to was so alarmingly, stupidly simple…and of course my first thought was “you thick-skulled fool, why the hell didn’t you just think of this before?” Well, the answer to that is obvious of course…because I wasn’t “there” yet. Now I was. So, LFG!!

The answer was to “change the dialogue” with the person I was struggling with. MY dialogue. Change the dialogue ABOUT the relationship in my own head that I just kept repeating like a really, really bad 60s pop song on 45.

CHANGE. THE. DIALOGUE. Stop old patterns in their tracks. I had the power to do this? Damn!

So… off I went back home on that sparkling, snowy and sunny January 1, 2020; with a new plan in my pocket, a shiny new year ahead, and some really great tunes in the car on the way home. Boom, nailed it, got this, I AM GONNA OWN 2020, STEP ASIDE BITCHESSSSS!!!!

Ummmmmmm….well, nope. We all know what happened in March. As the saying goes, “make your plans and hear God laughing”.

Suddenly, that relationship that was fragile really broke, as an even more legit reason arose for me to be banished from its already strained borders. Along with everything else falling apart and slamming doors in my face. “Change the dialogue” and all my shiny hopes for really making progress in 2020 became “Don’t lose your shit today rattling around your house alone” as my pottery space got shut down, my volleyball league was canned, the ski club closed, my get-togethers with friends had to stop, my travel plans vanished, my cottage resort locked us out, my happy solitary woods where I could hug trees and stand on stumps to pray in anonymity became the rush-hour 401 of hiking trails, and just going for groceries felt like a night mission in enemy territory. Life kind of went for a total crap. As it played out in hundreds of other similar ways for everyone else, I’m sure. To quote Clark Griswold, “Surprised, Eddie? If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet I wouldn’t be more surprised!”


As the months wore on, I kept looking at the fridge where I had written “change the dialogue 2020!” in happy swirly letters in gold fridge marker on January 1 (those things are the freakin’ BOMB, by the way…), and the further we went down the rabbit hole of this year, the more it seemed to no longer hold any meaning in this whole new shit-world we were navigating.

I was wrong.

Here we are, about to do the same rollover once again into a new year. This time, we are already back in lockdown. Nobody got their dream Christmas. No Christmas parties or concerts. Nobody got to go home for Christmas, except in their dreams. Stores shuttered again the day after Christmas, preventing the time-honoured tradition of getting up at quarter to stupid on the 26th to score a few deals before coffee, and the great opportunity that created for businesses to end the year in the black. The only part of Christmas that felt almost normal was football, and even that was played in empty stadiums, with many players benched on Covid lockdown every week. (In an ironic twist however, my Bills picked this dumpster fire year to finally make a name for themselves….go figure).

If ever we needed to “change the dialogue”….I realized it was now more than ever.

We have all had those same spiral-down depressing conversations with friends and family about how shitty Covid has made everything. How we feel like caged animals, with no end in sight. How numbers are deceiving, lockdowns aren’t working, what is REALLY the answer? Frustrated, emotionally and often financially drained with job uncertainty, isolation weighing heavy on our hearts after feeling like it’s one step forward, and two back with this stubborn dickhead bully virus raining on everyone’s parade. Turning into THOSE people who watch our neighbours to make sure THEY weren’t violating whatever color-of-the-week rules we were under.

Misery loving company in a race to see who was more miserable….

I asked myself on a hike yesterday… what would Viktor Frankl do here?? Well, that’s a no-brainer. Viktor would change the damn dialogue. So who am I to keep this pattern that does not serve me well, this pattern that I have worn like the death shroud through most of this clusterfuck of a year? I didn’t have to go to Auschwitz, I just had to stay the fuck home and wear a mask.

Then I realized that we are not the first generation to have a shitty Christmas because of things outside our control. But for many of us, it is the first time our generation has had to endure this kind of hardship. And in some ways, we are kind of sucking at it. Our grandparents and great grandparents, they did it many times over. Because the people they “couldn’t get together with” were isolated from them because THEY WERE RISKING THEIR LIVES IN WARS, not simply across town (or even across the country) safe in their own houses. So, we have to do present drops, and drive-by carol sings? They had to worry about getting a freaking telegram to tell them that their kid was blown up in a muddy trench in some other country. THAT right there is some damned hardship that is worth putting into our perspective. In the early 30s, people had nothing to get or give at Christmas in North America because the whole damned economy collapsed for years and they didn’t have CERB, CEWS and CEBA to save their asses financially. And let us not forget…these earlier generations did not have cell phones, iPads. Amazon or Zoom. Yes, the pain that we are suffering now is real, for sure, and to be acknowledged. But…PERSPECTIVE. We cannot in our own pain forget to keep some.

So…what to do then about all this? Continue to grumble that Covid sucks, that life is awful and over as we know it, that Christmas is “ruined” and really, the damn government ought to fix this already?

“It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down..”

“For What It’s Worth”, Buffalo Springfield

Or, will we change the dialogue in 2021 and find some purpose, hope and joy in our situation? Look around for some altered purposes and ways to spread the universal love that Christmas really represents, even if we can’t have it just the way we want it? Talk about the stories of how families creatively re-invented Christmas this year? Yeah, it sucks balls that we are locked down again. But it also sucks when your family gets sick and some don’t make it out. It sucked when multiple sons in one family died for a cause. It sucked when people lost their jobs and their homes and had no safety net. Life, as Viktor has pointed out, is often full of suffering. It is what we do with our suffering that makes the difference between feeling stuck, lost, hopeless and depressed…or instead looking around for what CAN be done, and who can be helped. How WE can change the dialogue and be the love. There‘s that damned quest for meaning again, promising to lead us out of the darkness.

So I will enter 2021, being happy that I’m still here and healthy, that all my present drops and courier deliveries worked, and my people got to open gifts from me, even if I was only present by Face Time and Zoom. I’ll be figuring out how to make space for potting at home, taking online piano lessons and zoom fitness classes in my kitchen to fill my solitary time. I have shuffled my hike time to avoid the crowds. And realize that if the earlier generations of my family could manage to still have a happy Christmas when half their young people were fighting overseas, and when new socks and a stick of butter were a luxury…then dammit, I can change my dialogue about the current world situation, suck it up, realize we had a damned long run of pretty much ideal living… and find a way to mitigate the current scenario by finding ways to be useful in the framework I’ve been handed, and embrace what is left. And yes, I am still working on changing the dialogue around that problem relationship.

Cheers to 2021, finding our individual perspective, embracing our altered purpose…and finding joy. Changing the universal dialogue in a whole different way.

Be kind, stay home, wear a damn mask and wash your damn hands. And find a way to be “the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse”, no matter how 2021 rolls.

Deb P.

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  1. Vicki says:

    Nailed it once again Deb!

  2. Marie says:

    I love this Deb! You have an engaging way with words and perspective and would love to have a chat sometime soon !!

    • Deb P. says:

      Thank you Marie! I missed so much your Christmas get together, and your smiling compnay! Let’s chat soon indeed! Happy New Year!

  3. Lynn says:

    Some days it felt like “The shitters full” to quote cousin Eddie but again you are absolutely right, things could be worse. We do have all the technology to keep in touch with loved ones, we get to see their faces, hear their voices. We can still get food, household goods etc. Wearing a mask for the few minutes it takes to shop is no hardship. Think of the cashiers and clerks serving you having to wear theirs all day. I take the time to thank these people for working because I am sure they take a lot of complaints from people, shortage of goods, long lines etc which is not their fault. I am thankful that I can get what I need. It takes a couple of seconds to be nice. Who knows how long this will be with us. It is easier to try and control what I can, like being pleasant rather then complain about what I cannot change. Deb so enjoyed your writing, keep it up!

    • Deb P. says:

      Thank you Lynn! I agree on being extra kind to everyone serving us in retail and services right now. It always makes me happy when I see and hear others doing that, and I realize then that we have an incredible community around here. Your writing always inspired me to get back at it, so thank you for the compliment!!

Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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