My friend Ramez Naam wrote a blog post about a bunch of general good things that happened in 2014, including same-sex marriage legalization in more than half of the US, new lows in hunger and malnutrition, increasing accessibility to the internet, and the climate agreement between the US and China.
I agree with him that the news has been very bleak over the past several months, and it’s easy to feel like everything is getting worse. But the truth is, as usual, not so simple, and some things are definitely getting better. That doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to do, or that we should ignore the issues that need more work, but I do think it’s valuable to keep a balanced perspective. Among other things, it helps fend off burn-out and despair to notice the progress that is being made.
It is interesting trying to maintain a balance. Too much positivity, and you might not be giving attention to issues that need it or not be willing to work for change that would improve things. Too little positivity, and you might not have the energy or vision required to keep moving forward, and negative thinking can keep you trapped in the status quo as well.
But at this time of year, I like to spend a little extra time thinking about the positive things. I think the negative things tend to stick in our minds more prominently (or at least in my mind), so a little extra appreciation for both myself and others feels like a good balance to me as I celebrate and reflect on the past year.
Speaking of celebrating, I’m staying home for the holidays this year, and my only rule has been: nothing stressful, only do what you want to do. And this year the rule actually worked too, and the result has been a fun and relaxing December. I’m not exchanging presents with hardly anyone (I made one, and only one, exception), and instead have focused on having quality time with people I like. And my stress levels, if anything, are lower than usual.
So what have I wanted to do? I have a beautiful tree, which makes me very happy. I’ve attended a few holiday parties and done some baking. I made my annual visit to the Dickens Fair, where I purchased this year’s new ornament. I’ve watched my favorite Christmas movie, The Holiday, and I might squeeze in a viewing of my other favorite Christmas movie, The Lion in Winter. Oh, and I did buy a few toys for Nala because watching her run around and squeak them on Christmas morning will be both adorable and hilarious. This week there is going to be cooking and hot cidering and light-viewing. And also sushi and pie, because these are both foodstuffs that improve life.
And I’m continuing a tradition I started last year for Christmas morning. I always make those Pillsbury cinnamon rolls that come in the long tube; I’ve been eating those on Christmas morning as long as I can remember. So I feast on cinnamon rolls and orange juice, and I send texts to people I like, and I take Nala for a walk. And then, in new tradition territory, I look at the 2014 photo book I made about a month ago. It has all my favorite photos from the past year, organized in a more or less coherent fashion, and I’m not allowed to open it until Christmas morning. So then I see a bunch of happy moments from the past year with the people I care about, and it really is the best way ever for me to spend Christmas morning.
Whatever you’re doing this week–whether you’re celebrating or simply taking it easy or working harder than ever or living life as usual–I’m wishing you all the best, cinnamon roll in hand.