How quickly it seems to get dark in the evenings and early mornings again. Blink, and it’ll be Halloween. Blink twice, it’ll be Christmas. Time is precious, you realise at some point in your adult life. It really does speed up with each passing year. The darker months are when I find my thoughts turning to the warmer expressions of humanity – love, and kindness. How important they are.
I’m not sure how I’ll feel about the festive season this year given my dad passed away on the 27th December last year and I had a horrible flu just before, which meant my Christmas Day was spent laid up on the sofa. I lost a total of three days of hospital visits, already having been told by the doctors we were counting down Dad’s days. It was the first and probably only time in my life I hated on a flu bug for robbing me of time I wanted to spend with my father, even though he was out of it by that stage and we’d had our last conversation.
This is on my mind in September because my mum said yesterday she isn’t looking forward to Christmas at all this year, understandably enough. I can’t say the same. For me, I don’t know how many Christmases I have left with my one surviving parent around. I’ve told her, I will be going over on the day itself to her flat with my best friend. I’ll prepare the main meal for all three of us at mine to just heat up at hers. It won’t be jolly in that way we all get told we have to be like it’s the law, but I’m sure there will be joy and there will definitely be love.
It’s the autumn with its slow decay all around us and Halloween, or as I think of it, Samhain, I’ll find harder this year. Samhain is a time for remembering and honouring your loved ones no longer with you in the flesh but close by in spirit. As time goes by it seems to me there are more and more people and animal friends to remember that night.
As the nights draw in and the light of day retreats, I also think of how it costs so much to heat our homes. So many in Britain in 2018 can’t afford heating or don’t have homes at all, and this shouldn’t be the case. Food banks and fuel poverty are just accepted by people today when they are really indicators to me of the unacceptable divide between the haves and have-nots that grows ever wider the longer we have a nasty Conservative government that sees kindness as weakness and promotes greed and self-interest while preparing for EU withdrawal next year that will bring nothing good despite the promises of the few and the expectations of many who bought into those promises.
When I was a little boy I loved autumn for its brightly-coloured leaves and bonfires. Now it’s mostly about the damp and the dark and the trees going skeletal, the gas and electricity bills, the need to put on more and more layers of clothing. I waited every winter for snow to play in, make snowmen and wait for Santa. Today I wonder if I’ll be snowed in, unable to go check on my mum and instead connected to her for days or weeks by phone only. I wonder, if I were rich, would that childhood love and appreciation of all the seasons come back? Of course wealth doesn’t guarantee happiness or peace of mind. Too many of the wealthy are remarkably unkind; it’s the absence of kindness that helped them grow rich, predating on others. Still, the focus from now until March is survival and endurance for a lot of people. Those words might still be the focus come the spring, in a country that will have cut itself off from the world stage like never before.
We can never go backwards, and I’m not one for looking to the past and pining for good old days that didn’t exist. There was and is always good and bad in every day. We can only go forward into the future and hope for better things, maintain connections with good people, maybe meet new good people round the next corner and remember those not here anymore with love and kindness. And no matter what we think is coming, there will always be surprises, cruelty and kindness expressed in the world around us. That’s life. When we say time is short and moves so fast, we are really talking about life, not time. Time has existed since the Big Bang and will continue to the universe’s end. It’s life that blinks into existence and vanishes just as quickly. We are a long time dead and need to make the most of our lives while we can.
So, while the autumn and winter encourage melancholia, it’s important not to give too much space in our heads to whimsy and thoughts that lead nowhere or back to sadness. The light and warmth of the sun will come back, always, year after year. Buckle up, put on your jumpers and prepare for experiences in the autumn and winter that are very different always to those we have in the spring and summer months. Above all else, be kind to yourself and others. Kindness is a light that shines brightly all year round, if you cultivate it – and you should. See what you can do to help others, and do it. That’s how you get through the darkness, by making a difference to the lives of others. That’s what I’m going to try to do during the dark half of the year. I wish you well.
Andrew’s latest book, myfibromyalgia: one man’s experience of living with chronic illness, is out now in all Amazon store territories the world over. The ebook is £5.99 and the paperback £8.99. UK Amazon link.