Turning the calendar page to a new year is traditionally a time for renewal and optimism. We celebrate the possibilities of a blank slate by making New Year’s resolutions, setting goals and defining aspirations.
Looking over my social media feeds, many resolutions focus on improving personal health by reducing stress, improving diet and increasing exercise.
In recent years, a significant source of stress is the rising onslaught of bad news. It’s overwhelming.
Given an equal measure of negative and positive news, the negative will affect our emotions and occupy our thoughts much more than the positive. Researchers have labeled this human trait — negativity bias. For our ancient ancestors, it was a useful survival adaptation, but for modern humans, not so much.
Outside of the challenging personal issues we all face, the list of problems rolling over into 2019 is long.
Locally, there are the unresolved issues with homelessness, insufficient and aging infrastructure, a growing population and a limited tax base.
Provincially, the opioid crisis, crime and money laundering, unprecedented housing costs, increasing taxes, and significant frictions with our fellow Canadians in Alberta and Ottawa.
Nationally, a staggering debt, the economic impact of a stalled pipeline and the disintegration of a major driver of the Canadian economy — the oil industry, tariffs and trade difficulties, and diplomatic issues.
Internationally, the unraveling of the EU, climate change and natural disasters, mass migrations, the rise of nationalism and autocratic rulers, and, most recently the development of hypersonic missiles raising the spectre of another superpower arms race.
The health of our communities, our country and the world are in jeopardy.
For me, looking away isn’t an option. As a citizen, I have a responsibility to pay attention and, at the very least, engage in public discourse and cast informed ballots. Knowledge and understanding also empower us to work toward effective, sustainable change.
However, the negative deluge is a lot to take in and process. It threatens to short-circuit interest and empathy. Tuning out is an understandable, and even tempting, coping mechanism.
As I considered my personal goals and resolutions for 2019, I searched for a mitigating approach to the negative input.
A recent movement involves choosing one word as a personal guide and touch-point for the upcoming year. In 2017 and 2018 my word was ‘purposeful.’
For 2019, I choose ‘hope.’
My initial list is tacked to the wall behind my desk: human problem-solving ingenuity gives me hope; science and technology give me hope; the arts give me hope; the basic decency of most people gives me hope; a focus on solutions, however far-fetched they may seem at first glance, gives me hope.
Hope is something I plan to deliberately consider daily, injecting it into my fiction and non-fiction writing, and wherever possible my everyday life. I’ll search for the hope in everything — even if it’s just a sliver — and look for ways to illuminate it.
I‘ve begun a second list of specific, and random, hopes for 2019: I hope a federal election will involve meaningful discussions around what it means to be Canadian in 2019, and I hope we can avoid the deep divisions tearing apart our neighbours to the south.
I hope we don’t have a provincial election in 2019. Early 2020 is soon enough.
I hope to hear less about a certain president’s Tweets. Actually, I hope to hear less about a certain president, period.
On a lighter note, in 2019, I’m looking forward to the eighth season of Games of Thrones. I hope the conclusion of the television series will motivate George R.R. Martin to finish the novel series it’s based on, Song of Fire and Ice.
Happy New Year to everyone reading this. I wish you all a fulfilling and hopeful 2019.
Katherine Wagner is a member of the
Citizens’ Task Force on Transparency,
a former school trustee and member
of Golden Ears Writers.