The cosmic weight of a new start

I think the best thing I did so far (it’s only been three days anyway) as we entered 2020 was to subscribe to this newsletter called Tiny Spells, where it sent a self-care oriented daily digest of messages, tasks, goals, etc. every morning. It’s just what I needed in this increasingly terrifying world. The first daily digest of 2020 sounded like this:

It’s a new year! But I want you to pretend it isn’t. Go about your day without the cosmic weight of a fresh start, and just do your absolute best at each small thing and each big thing on your list. Do it all with care, and do none of it with guilt or pressure. Starting your new year by trying to force yourself to live up to a wildly out of touch standard is not going to be good self-care. Don’t f**kin’ do it to yourself.

I have always felt some pressure of doing something grand on the first day of each Gregorian year to commemorate its arrival. As 2019 was about to end, Twitter — where I spent an average of half an hour each week, as surveilled by my very own phone — embarked on a collective reflecting for the rest of the decade and speaking into the existence of all their hopes and aspirations for the next decade to come. It’s a beautiful practice of acknowledging and being grateful for yet another passage of time. Stacy-Marie Ishmael wrote in her always beautifully and thoughtfully written newsletter, “It’s the end and the beginning, the liminal period in which all things are possible, everything is everything.” But I found myself dumbfounded as I was about to reflect on my previous decade, because that would mean reliving the memory of losing my father and falling out of a friendship. And in the entire comparison of all the good things I have experienced over the 10 years, I felt it wasn’t unfair to do this to myself. I did wonderful things, I knew that — so I’m going to keep them to myself.

On the first day of 2020 — in going about my day without the cosmic weight of a fresh start — I took my mum to my favourite chapati place where we had our lunch for the day. I started the day as awkward as ever by saying ‘happy birthday’ to the shopkeeper when I meant to say ‘happy new year’, only realising it after he gave me an utterly confused look. We went to an old Chinese fruit shop where the owner (we would call him ‘uncle’) refused to wear a shirt, and at the back of his shop which was adorned with a number of framed pictures of Gautama Buddha, his transistor radio was playing — out of all songs — Raihan’s Intifada. This whole racial and religious ambivalence — while nothing completely new — is still something extraordinary for us to comprehend, after decades of being internalised by the ruling elites in our country that our myriads of race and religions in the country are complicit to divide than to unite us. In his obliviousness of this whole ambivalence (or perhaps not), ‘uncle’ defied all of this notion, however insignificant this scenario might look like.

Some related, some not:

  • “I now understand what I never did as a child: that I was the product of my parents taking a risk. The risk that their gift of love would be rejected; the risk that they would be misunderstood; the risk that their creation would have a life of his own.” Viet Thanh Nguyen is one of my favourite authors, and this essay on fatherhood and the lessons his own father and his children taught him made my heart swell. Just what good words do.
  • “It’s going to be a rough year. The fatal combination of escalating climate breakdown and the capture of crucial governments by killer clowns provokes a horrible sense of inevitability. Just when we need determined action, we know that our governments, and the powerful people to whom they respond, will do everything they can to stymie it.” Author and climate activist George Monbiot urges for everyone — especially the governments and corporations — to make this decade the decade of ecological — and psychological — repair.

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