For a few years now I have been producing the family end of year newsletter. The newsletter is in some sense the forerunner of my blog because after it was sent out some people would comment on how much they enjoyed it which gave me the belief that some people like my writing. For a while now I have tried to review the year by finding some measurement to compare the family’s experience with, and being a mathematician at heart this also means that I need to find a metric by which to measure the experience. This can take a while because I basically leave any ideas up to chance and chance doesn’t always deliver on deadlines.
Last year, an atlas of countries caught my eye and I decided to compare our family in the way one country is compared to another i.e. things like economic growth, education levels, systems of law. It can be quite fun trying to be creative around how terms like economic growth can be applied to a family of two parents, three children and a dog. The year before that I think I used the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs to see how fulfilled we were.
This year was more of a struggle. Firstly, I think there was less “need” for me to do some writing because I have been expressing myself through my blog. Secondly, for the last nine months or so I have been trying to kinder on myself whilst also being challenging. Although I encourage myself to write every day, if I don’t really feel like it, or I can’t seem to find the time then I don’t beat myself up about not making enough of an effort. Yes, it may be true that I have been lazy or that my priorities have been messed up, but that, I say to myself, is okay. I am after all only human. I hadn’t written the newsletter before Christmas but that is okay, but the time New Year came and went however, external forces wanted to see some action.
Thirdly, I didn’t have a clear theme for this year’s framework. I had a vague notion of fitting the family into the context of a marine sanctuary because I was pretty sure some work was done last year on extending the protection areas surrounding some of the coasts of Scotland. When I went looking for a metric I came across a paper looking at the adaptability and sustainability of Australian coastal towns in regard of rising sea heights. It was quite a heavy paper for me to get my head around it, but I took from it the idea of looking at five capitals (financial, physical, social, natural and human) within our family context and looking at what had changed under the global threat of isolationism typified by Trump winning the USA presidential elections, and right wingers managing to convince enough people that the UK would be better off outside of Europe. I summarised by looking at the current state of the family and examining the adaptability of the family considering possible further isolationism.
Normally I try to cherry pick a few examples of family activity within the categories given in order to give a flavour of our year but with time short I decided just to plough through the events of the year but reordering them so they fitted in with the capital categories. My hope was to cut down the three typed A4 paged long, four hours of writing missive afterwards. This in fact proved too much for my brain at the time and so the letter went out even larger because I also added five photos from the year.
I have to say I was a bit concerned as to how the newsletter would be received this year, not only because it was rather long, but because I have written about my depression and possible autism spectrum disorder. As of date, a number of people have been complimentary about the pages which is rather nice but I have noticed a couple of things. First, only one person mentioned the depression and nobody commented about the ASD which kind of reinforced the whole embargo on talking about mental health; secondly, one person marvelled at how I have managed to spend so many on something that they would have written in five sentences. The first thing I suppose is expected, people aren’t happy talking about physical illness let alone mental ones (not that I consider ASD as an illness!). Through this blog and my attempts at honesty in real life, I try to do my bit for raising both sorts of health issues so I can let this awkwardness go I suppose. The second comment about summarising the newsletter feels rather negative though.
My initial reaction was one of annoyance that the person felt it necessary to say that, but then I puzzled over what it actually meant. I came to the conclusion that five sentences are not enough (even allowing for Dickensian size of sentences) to be able to convey the concept of how I had written the letter, let alone examine the contents of each category. Perhaps I had given “too much information”, something I am prone to doing according to my friends, which could I am sure be validated; but how I am to decide what is too much? I don’t think I can, one person’s too much is another’s too little.
At the end of the day, I try to write something that is authentic but hopefully of interest to others. However I look at it, the newsletter allows me and my family to relieve the year for better or worse and appreciate just how lucky we have been. That is a good thing I believe, it is certainly good for me not only on a yearly review point of view, but also personally from a creative point of view. I like to know that others have read my writing, why I wonder? Perhaps because for a few seconds I feel less lonely and significant enough to be listened to.