By Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor
2019 is here! We have survived a year that was filled with tumultuous energies in the political, social and economic arenas, some positive and uplifting to us, and others misdirected and unfortunate.
But here we are again, given another chance to do things better, to give life another shot, to start a new beginning. To have an attitude of gratitude. Hope. Whatever you want to call it! But 2019 is here, people! We have survived!
Perhaps for some of us, this year has already filled us with dread, fearful of the future, as it may be difficult to see past the pain and trauma of 2018—job loss, retrenchment, the end of relationships, the loss of a loved one, the victim of assault or an accident that has left us hopeless, scared and filled with grief.
Last year in some of the workshops that I conducted on grief, the overwhelming sadness that pervades the lives of persons was palpable: the loss of loved ones to suicide, illness, sudden death, divorce, murder; the loss of body parts due to accidents and surgeries, financial debt, the loss of a home.
Many expressed relief at being able to address issues that they were unable to talk about with family members who were themselves distraught or unwilling to talk. For some, the grief lingered…the fear of the future remained.
Fear can be paralysing. It demotivates and disables and keeps us rooted, right where we are. Persons tell us to move on, to forget about our troubles, to start all over again. There is always a reason, they say, as they try to move us beyond our pain, well-meaning in their intent. This is easier said than done!
However, when we relive the past, we remain stuck, unable to carry on and to create new beginnings, unable to put an end to past hurt. Trauma can make us fearful of living in the NOW, the present.
If we are to create new chapters in our lives and move on from our hurts and pain, we have to choose, not to relive the past but to redo the past; that is, to learn from our mistakes, to focus our energies in the present moments, and to believe that every end is indeed, a new beginning.
Much of 2018 was about labelling and the political broad brush slandering of our people into corners such as ‘corrupt, wasteful and greedy’. We know who we are. I was not amazed or astonished when persons heeded the call to help neighbours in distress due to flooding, or to march against employers who were ruthless in their monetary dealings or to lobby for change in policies that were unfavourable to vulnerable groups such as children, asylum seekers and the LGBTQ+ community.
The majority of Trinis care about others, about harmony, about the good life. I still believe this to be true. Many persons go unrecognised as they feed the hungry, and do good deeds for others in their own small way. Whilst others may choose to belittle, stereotype and malign, let our choices be uninfluenced by these attempts to lower our standards and to unravel our becoming.
So let’s take the initiative for 2019. We call on those committed, dedicated persons to continue to change attitudes and perceptions, to challenge biases and stereotypes and to construct narratives that address mental health issues and reform in positive ways.
We also call on persons to dismiss agendas that seek to discriminate; instead, use your influence and suasion to eradicate poverty, combat domestic violence, be vigilant of the homes where child abuse occurs, sometimes right next door to you. Speak out about this and save the lives of our children.
If we never did it before, we can start now. Every end is a new beginning. Through God’s grace, we can start all over again.
Dr Nakhid-Chatoor is a clinical and educational psychologist, and President of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists (TTAP).