Have you noticed? Everything feels increasingly complicated these days, both logistically and morally. People are flaking, missing deadlines, not returning calls, ghosting.
I don’t have answers for this. I wish I did. Sometimes people write in not with problems — which can be solved — but predicaments, which can’t. When that happens, the most helpful thing I can do is to say yes, this situation is frustrating and awful, you aren’t wrong about that, and you’re not stupid for being unable to come up with a solution, because there isn’t one. Sometimes just seeing someone is all you can do for them.
I see you, readers.
I see you trying to do the right thing, trying to suss out what the right thing might even be. Trying to protect yourselves without becoming hard. Figuring out when to repair relationships and when to let them go. Mourning the people you’ve lost to death, to distance and distraction, to political division. Trying to understand what “love thy neighbor” really means in a world as connected yet as isolated as the one we live in. In the words of Deadwood’s Calamity Jane, “Every day takes figuring out all over again how to [expletive] live.” And some days require more than others.
Budget yourself. A lot of people are more tired than they were in 2019. Even if you’re not one of them, life is more difficult. Businesses are understaffed, stores are keeping inventory under lock and key, don’t even start with me about the T, and you have to download another dang app to do anything. (I’d feel very “old woman yells at cloud” about that last one if my millennial software engineer friend didn’t yell about it even louder.) This frustrating “new normal” won’t go away if we ignore it, so acknowledge it. Factor it into your plans. Don’t overpromise based on your 2019 capacity.
Prioritize meaningful fun. Meaningful fun often means spending money on local businesses, venues, artists, and the like. Joining recreational groups is a great way to meet people from different walks of life who are still “your people” deep down. And you never know what opportunities to do good you might come across.
Initiative and follow-through are at a premium. If you’re reading this and thinking, Naw, I feel pretty good actually — work it! Be the first one to reach out, to propose and plan activities. Your burnt-out friends and colleagues will love you for it.
Appreciate others. Thank people for their patience, for showing up, for doing what they’re supposed to. It will endear you to others and improve your own mental health. Let other people know you see their efforts, their individuality, their pain. It can be so tempting to ignore or dismiss pain or problems we can’t fix, but this is a temptation to resist. If you can do nothing else, witness. As I witness you, dear readers. You did your best in 2023. Celebrate yourself for that, tonight. And happy New Year.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.