I am typing this in bed, in a sleeping house. The Man is asleep beside me, one of our friends is asleep in the spare room (soon-to-be nursery), and another two asleep on the sofa-bed in the front room. Even Scapa, our four-and-a-half-month-old puppy, is asleep; a little puddle of darkness curled up on a pile of our clothes on our bedroom floor. I get the impression she’s thoroughly affronted that most of the household are still sleeping off the cocktails and whisky of the night before and are not up and ready to greet the day with the enthusiasm she always shows. I can feel her disappointment in humankind emanating across the room.
I am starting to get that feeling I always get at this time of year. I am glad I’m not missing it: I wasn’t sure, having taken a step back and being out of conventional work at present, whether I would have those end-of-year, thoughtful, taking-stock moments I usually have in December.
Decembers, to me, are both balm-like and a fresh breath of salted sea air. They are a time to reflect on the previous year (there’s much to reflect on this year), and to consider who I happen to be this particular year, how the paths I have deliberately chosen or been nudged or forced down have shaped me over the last twelve months. Decembers are a time to think about who I want to be throughout the next twelve months, and what new directions I want my life to take.
Decembers are a time to look not just at what I have achieved, but all those things I haven’t done, for one reason or another. A time to decide whether they’re still important: and this can often be a surprising exercise – those things which seemed so critical to me a year ago are sometimes the things I am no longer concerned about in the slightest.
(Scapa is puppy-snoring in the corner, from her bed of clothes. The sky through the slatted wooden blind is now grey-silver, graduating from early morning deep, deep blues, as the sun starts to think about whether to rise this morning.)
Decembers are a time to catch up on reading, to listen to all the music that I’ve made a note of over the last few months but not had time to sit and really appreciate. To think about my writing, and to make promises to myself.
Decembers are a time to think about all the versions of me that have gone before. To wonder who I’ll be when next year’s reflective pause rolls around. (Decembers are a time to promise myself I will take more time for reflective pauses throughout the following year, not just at the end. I think I’m getting better at that.)
This year, more than ever, it seems important to me on both a personal and political level to make sure I spend time this December thinking about who I want to be throughout the coming twelve months, and then to put this into action as best I can. With so many freedoms and privileges – all those things we take for granted – at risk of being slowly whittled away, it feels like it’s more critical than ever to draw our lines and take our stands.
It hasn’t escaped my notice that this post will be shared on Monday the 10th of December 2018, International Human Rights Day. Perhaps, because of my own personal circumstances and wider world happenings, I am imagining the increased sense of quiet urgency that seems to underpin so much of the commentary this year, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns seventy. It seems more important than ever that everyone understands and believes that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (Art. 1) and that, where this appears not to be the case (as we cannot delude ourselves to believe everyone is treated equally in twenty-first century society), that we all join voices and take action to rectify this. And, however slight we feel our own individual contribution(s) may be on a global scale, we must remind ourselves of our numbers; and also of the fact that, however powerful our cumulative action may become, it must always begin in those small places, close to home.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)