As we approach Christmas it’s natural to reflect back on the year. Consider the highs and lows. Recent moments of hilarity, like the job interview via Zoom where the interviewer forgot to get dressed and was still in their pyjamas, and ruefully said “Gosh you look smart in that suit”. Or the moment when you see and experience the first tear-jerking, heart tugging Christmas ad on telly.
Of course, there are also the experiences we’d rather forget like leaving work, but with no leaving drinks, the ritual broken. Then there are the people we rubbed shoulders with… once… before April at least.
We may also be tempted to reflect on the decisions we made. Some after deep thought, some on gut feel and some in terrible haste. Perhaps a hint of remorse, but most likely a sense of relief given what we have all gone through.
It’s also a time to look forward. Dreams of the future, kids growing a year older, maybe a change to secondary school or university, A-levels, GCSEs, SATs, graduations. Dreams of leaving the house without the fear of catching Covid.
Of course, the dreams about getting a new job, financial security regained and a new living more suited to your needs and your family. A more balanced life.
It’s healthy to reminisce and delightful to dream. But for me, I find the best place to be is the present. Constantly striving to find beauty and wonder in the everyday. Taking the kids to school, walking the dog, cooking dinner, searching for presents to give, helping with letters to Santa, wrapping stocking fillers. Cooking the turkey, doing the washing up. Camus was wrong to condemn everyday life to the dreary existence of poor old Sisyphus and his rock. We can all find delight in the everyday. It needn’t be as monotonous and dreary as pushing a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again.
When, in 1517 Michelangelo climbed 5,213 feet up Monte Altissimo in the Apuan Alps in Tuscany, on that day he was searching for the perfect marble. This wasn’t a chore. Sure it was a long and arduous journey, and uncomfortable too. But the marble he found that day was the stuff of dreams. He would go on to take that plain, aesthetically inert and formless block of stone and with his sculptor’s hand, day after day, use his craft and creativity to set free the beautiful angel trapped in the rock. Working tirelessly, chipping away, he saw something no one else did. He created a unique thing of beauty, by his own hands, through applying great personal agency and dedication to the moment. He literally ground out his reality.
Seneca once wrote “the one who puts the finishing touches on their life everyday, is never short of time”. There is wisdom in those words, about focusing on the here and now. Appreciating what little we may have. Creating our own timeless object of wonder from our blocks of dull marble. The point being there is joy in doing. Joy of living in the moment.
So, for those of us out there looking for work, worrying about the future, fuming at the past (why me?), put all of that aside if you can, at least for a week or two. Try to enjoy every moment over this festive period. Don’t look forward until January. Don’t dwell on the past, you can’t change it. This Christmas you deserve to live in the moment, especially after the year you have had. So have a lovely Christmas with your loved ones and see if you can set free the angel in your marble.