2016 was the year everything changed. You know the litany, and you’re probably still feeling sucker-punched. It’s as if we’ve entered an alt-universe, in more ways than one. And if 2016 was crappola, 2017 could bring on a veritable shit-storm.
But only if we let it.
We can’t, as individuals, control the media or international corporations or our increasingly extreme weather. We can’t stop terrorism in its tracks or affect the political posturings of egomaniac leaders. But we can control how we respond to these things and that creates a ripple effect, the potential for which is boundless.
It starts with you and me, plopping our pebbles of positivity into the water. It won’t change the big picture, not today. But it will stop us being consumed by the craziness, and that’s a good start. We need our mojos to be working to the max for the days to come and you can’t do that from a pit of despair.
That’s why I started Glass Half Full. Because being pessimistic won’t get us anywhere. 2016 handed us a ton of lemons. It’s time to follow Beyoncé’s example and set out our stand. Lemonade, not gingerbread latte, is the brew for fighting back.
This is hard for me. I’m not an optimist by nature. A few weeks ago, I was depressed as hell and sobbing into my husband’s jumper (it’s a very snuggly one, as is he). As usual, he was calm, measured and faintly annoying in his refusal to see the worst, which is also why I love him. Once I had stopped blubbing and absorbed his stoical example, I wrote the following on Facebook:
“I am really struggling to feel hopeful about our planet, our politics, even people at the moment. And I know I need to turn that around because it’s not useful. I want to do something constructive and positive instead and I’m wondering whether to start a regular weekly meeting/group where folk can talk, support, share, learn skills, be creative, plan activities, build community. And have a little fun too. Anyone got any ideas? Do you think it would be useful?”
The post got 22 Likes and generated 35 comments. Someone suggested a meeting in a pub. A Facebook event was created. Six people came. I made a group and wrote this:
“Feeling depressed and powerless about the state of the world? Does climate change terrify you, the media and politics frustrate you, intolerance and injustice alarm you? Want to do something positive to make a difference? You’re not alone. Let’s come together and start to to explore ways of creating a different kind of future, one that is sustainable, fair, friendly and has practical plans for getting there. A glass half full is better than a glass half empty. If we seek with optimism we will find a way.”
I turned the notes of that meeting into simple infographics (minutes are too boring). It helped me to analyse the themes that had emerged: values, motivations, issues. We discussed the things that connect, what doesn’t work, where we are now, where to start. I’ll put them in a gallery in the next post.
The next meeting, 12 people came. They said what I had written a struck a chord with them. Some were friends; others were people I didn’t know. We exchanged inspirational stories, recommended reading materials and other groups, decided on some personal actions. Within three weeks, the group had nearly 50 members.
We had another meeting, just before Christmas, to keep the momentum up. Eight people this time, more (different) friends, more new faces. We hatched concrete plans to encourage broader dialogues in the New Year.
I will report on progress soon, and announce dates for forthcoming meetings. In the meantime, please invite friends and colleagues to Like our Facebook page and follow this website (which is barely born yet, but I’ll add resources, events, news and info over the next few month).
It’s still hard to say what this group is, yet. Easier perhaps to say what it’s not. It’s not party political. We’re not all activists, by any stretch. It’s not even about one particular issue, although fighting climate change and taking action against injustice and prejudice are common concerns.
At this early stage, it’s really just about people coming together, admitting their fears and joining forces to try and do something about them. To me, Brendan Cox’s alternative Christmas message on Channel 4 summed it up. In it, the widower of murdered MP Jo Cox said:
“Instead of being a turning point for the worse, 2016 could be a wake-up call that brings us back together. A wake-up call for all those of us who thought that the values that feel so much part of our society; of tolerance, of fair play – were in some way sacrosanct and didn’t need defending. A wake up call that this isn’t someone else’s problem.
“And a wake-up call, that we all have our part to play.”
2017 is full of opportunity. The future isn’t written. What better way to start a new leaf than the new year?
Bring it on.