Tits week i wished people a happy new year so steadily and sincerely that the phrase chipped in my mouth and came off like a bad tooth. I have to put it back together, piece by piece. It takes more elaboration, this year more than most, because a good year for me can be an absolutely horrible year for you, and if the pandemic has taught us anything beyond the benefits of opening a window is clear and present empathy. So, to clarify:
Happy New Year to you if you are a parent of an elementary school school-age child. Yours was experienced for a year as if you were sleeping with one hand in hot water, hopelessly hopping at regular intervals convinced you had pissed yourself on it. Parenting a young child is stressful at the best of times. At worst, it’s a struggle akin to trying to cross a freeway barefoot after drinking too much. The year 2020 has seen you teaching them trigraphs while nodding your head for a Zoom on Mute reunion. Then 2021 saw you watching their classmates’ positive test results flash on your WhatsApp while nodding for a muted Zoom meeting. As you gratefully offered your arm for a shot, then another, then another small for luck, with every sharp scratch a little crumb of Valium, your young children were always waiting for their first. Trotted alongside you, telling facts about photosynthesis or how to make purple, stopping every now and then to quietly note the unmasked status of a stranger. Woke up in the middle of the night to surreal nightmares where death came on a crowded bus or where they were the monster. It wasn’t a matter of whether Covid would visit your home, it was a matter of when. Where is Covid? Is it behind the tree? No! Is it under the carpet? No! Does it sweep the school canteen like the smell of crisps? You will find out on Friday. I wish you a new year of vaccinations and small relaxations, and a gradual slowing down of your very tapping leg.
Happy New Year if you are a Conservative MP. It can’t be worse than last year, can it?
Happy New Year if you own an animal in confinement. It was a good idea. No! No, it was, it was a good idea. You made the right choice. You did it! You did it. It’s going to be good. This year your cat will stop staring at you with those “how dare you? ” the eyes. Your new couch won’t be emptied like the previous one, as you woke up one morning to find it gutted, its frothy guts now strewn across the carpet, the cat watching the devastation from his post on the counter. This year your puppy will listen when you say “Down!” Won’t take it as a challenge to see how many steaks he can get on the table, won’t respond to a volume that makes neighbors stick little livid notes across your mailbox, won’t whine like Veruca Salt . This year your allergy will go away, your eyes will dry out, your itching will stop. Your dog will finally become comfortable with bearded men, just sitting quietly and allowing them to talk to you on the street, the urge to shield you from their aggressive facial hair by jumping and barking like a fire alarm having gone by. mid-January . The pressure of having to train and manage them will be eclipsed this year by the comfort of their hot bodies and hot meaty breath. Their great love will bury the burden like a bone.
Happy New Year if you isolate yourself. The stages of self-isolation – anger, fear, boredom, cheesy – got blurry the second or third time around and now, as a New Year crashes like an egg on your forehead, the feeling is that cold, white numbness. A long time ago you stopped arguing with the internet, shouting at the prime minister that before telling us to get tested and isolate ourselves, it was his responsibility to make sure we had the capacity and the support to do one or the other. Let our “resilience” run out. It’s tempting to slip into familiar psychological patterns of unhappiness, where feelings of worthlessness and anxiety dance badly together on the dirty kitchen table, but I wish you a Happy New Year, where isolation breeds, no. not calm, but creativity. Whether you are alone or with an overheated family, I wish you … OK not a whole year, too intimidating, but rather a series of hours which are spread out in days then in months, where we manage to replace the discontent of confinement with moments of meditative peace, comfort, time spent counting your various and disparate blessings, before returning to something good enough on television.
Happy New Year if you are a new variant. Ah, come in, we’ve been waiting for you. Have a good trip? Sorry – no spikes in the house. If you don’t mind cutting this one, and that one, yes all, sorry. Sorry! And then if you just want to get down to the hot tub of drugs, we’ll meet you there in a second. Yes, right behind you. See you in there.
Email Eva at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman