The ‘festive’ season

This time of year is diificult for a lot of people at the best of times. This year is difficult for a lot more of us for so many different reasons. 2020 has been a challenge in new ways, bringing with it separation from our friends or family (or both). a sense of isolation and anxiety, along with financial hardship and educational disruption and the incessant worry of how we will recover from all this. The internet and online social platforms have enabled a lot of to stay connected at some level with the people important to us. It isn’t the same but we have a found a way, and many of us have been able to build new connections, new collaborations, and even new friendships with people we probably would never have interacted with before and whom we may never meet in person.

Along with thousands of others I have found myself separated by continents from my partner and my friends and family. I haven’t seen my partner since March when we met in Dublin at a conference for 10 days with the plan to relocate back to Malaysia at the end of March. Obviously this never happened. I have been lucky enough to eventually return to Malaysia to take up my position as a senior lecturer there, but I am here alone waiting for borders to reopen so our family can be together again. No-one knows when this might happen and I miss them more than words can express.

This year has changed me. I think it has changed us all in many ways. Hopefully for the better in the long run as we become more aware of the limitations of the human race, the destruction caused though human activity, and the vulnerabiltiy of the way we live. I know I have a new appreciation of the smaller things, the things I took for granted before, the activities I enjoy doing that were taken away for most of the year, and a huge awareness of what and who is important to me and how to hold these things close. I hope I never forget these lessons.

I have witnessed huge suffering in other people, in hearing their stories and doing what I can to help where I can. This is also part of my recovery from the events of the year. I have also needed to ask for help, which is a kinda new thing for me. Shame and embarrassment are powerful things that can prevent us from asking for what we need. I had to put this aside and let people know I was having a hard time, to truly connect and allow someone to see my pain so I could find a way through. I’ve engaged in therapy in a different way, imperative if I want to continue the work that I do. I have sought out a new clinical supervisor who will also help build my professional capacity in new ways and in a new specialty area. I can see my passion again and in a new light, even if I cant feel it all the time yet. I dont know what is at the other side of all this, I’m not even sure there really is another side. I do know that staying where I was mentally and emotionally was not viable long term and that I needed to do something differently. I needed to start moving again on all levels: emotionally, intellectually and academically, and physically.

I have reconnected to the things I enjoy doing. I have reconnected to my purpose and values. I am incredibly lucky and beyond grateful to have been able to make it to the place I call home, albeit without my partner but hopefully that will change some time in 2022. I have connected in new ways with true friends, found my family and realised who I care about and who actually cares about me. I have let go of people I thought were friends but who were not really. I’ve been able to go diving for the first time in over a year and found the gift of mindfulness and present moment awareness through that. I have connected with a new dive buddy who is teaching me how to play and dance again. She is 13 years old and I am priviledged to have met her and to have reconnected with her Mother after many years. I have been helped to find the perfect home for us in a small village outside of town where it is peaceful and quiet, and even has a small river running by the property. Living there alone will be hard as that’s not how it was meant to be, I just hope it isn’t for too long. I have been hit by the impact I have on the people around me, how much some people really care and how much I care about them. This brings with it sadness as well as hope and I want to embrace both.

My nephew will come and join me when the world opens and I am beyond happy to welcome him to my home for as long as he wants, to introduce him to different way of lving and being, to experience life in a way he cannot see right now. My sister will come visit too. I cannot express how much I appreciate her and the support she has given me during the year. I know I worried some people quite a lot at different times and I hope that the closing of this year brings some calm, peace, and confidence that we will be ok, that we got through this together as we have always done and always will.

Yes, there is a long way to go. This pandemic is far from over. Life is far removed from what I envisaged for myself, for us – my partner and I and our gorgeous 4 legged family. I am so grateful for what I have. For the people who really stepped up when I needed them, for the lessons I’ve learned, for the depth of emotion I have been forced to experienced. As painful as it has been, and continues to be, I have hope and I have purpose and I know it will be ok. Somehow… … …

Published by sandijames

Graduate researcher at La Trobe Uni Australia, ethnography, traditional alcohol, Kadazandusun Sabah Malaysia,, alcohol policy, public health and medical anthropology. We also have established a Mindfulness Based Circus Arts pilot program in a rural school in Sabah. I also run ultramarathons in my spare time. My other research interests include injecting drug use, the war on drugs that is killing PWUD, and the decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs that are currently classed as illicit. I like to keep active and busy..

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