• Jake Russell


With the summer solstice falling on this weekend just gone, coinciding with Father’s Day here in the UK, it feels fitting to tip a metaphorical cap to my old pap whose penchant for the cosmological was both legion and sometimes illogical. “Mercury in retrograde”, for example, was one of his most common responses—an explanation for almost any event, the lack of parking spaces outside my front door, for instance. I took a less celestial view and considered it a consequence of my local council’s clearly signposted traffic restrictions, but you know, tomaytoes tomahtoes.

That said, this seasonal marking of time, when the sun reaches the summit of its twelve month trek, and its relative position to the Earth’s orbit creates the illusion of it standing still – as if taking a moment’s pause to look back from whence it came before setting off once again on its long climb down toward the winter skies – feels as fitting a time as you can get to do likewise; to stand still a moment and look back.

Because what an utterly nutty year it’s been so far, eh?

And despite, or maybe even because of, its lunacy (that poor Moon, always getting accused of madness while the gallant Sun gets blamed for none of it), I feel, maybe surprisingly, moved to look back in order to say thanks—and I’d like to invite you to come with and do the same, if you want.

How about it?

How about taking a moment out of your day today to look back to the start of this insane phase of our history, to when the pandemic hit and the panic struck, and no one knew just what the fuck was going on or might happen next.

Look back to that time from this high vantage point, to how you felt, to your initial response, to the sudden and widespread shift, to the complete upheaval.

And then look at where you are now. How you feel now. And how you coped. What you did to get through it.

And, if I may suggest, just for now and just a moment, suspend any urge to judge yourself negatively, only temporarily – so if negative judgement is your thing don’t worry, you can do it again just as soon as this is over, I promise – but for now, as an experiment, drop that tendency, and instead fully and unapologetically and wholeheartedly feel gratitude to and for yourself for anything and everything you did to get from that point then to here today.

Resist the temptation to consider what you might’ve done better. Think about one thing you did these last few months that’s been positive, that’s helped you survive and thrive, that’s seen you take tentative steps or boundless strides, that’s given you nourishment of some kind, helped you grow, develop, learn, that’s proved your ability to adapt, that you did for someone else, that helped them out when they really needed it. And now think of another. And now one more.

And now commend yourself for these achievements. Genuinely, like you really mean it, feel proud of yourself now. Go on, do it.

And once you’ve basked sufficiently in that feeling of thanks and pride, extend it to someone else in your life, someone close or maybe someone whose name you don’t know, but someone who helped you in this time, whether they knew it or meant it or not. Perhaps they brought you food, or they wrote a newspaper column that brought you perspective, or they checked in on you on Zoom.

Whatever and whoever it was, thank them now in your heart and mind. Feel that beautiful, lovely, fuzzy feeling of gratitude for having them in your life.

You did it. You got here. You waded through the rising, heavy tide of panic and terror and uncertainty and constant, continuously petrifying news and rumour. Remember feeling like you couldn’t cope or you might not survive? Remember all the catastrophes in your mind?

Were they realised? Or did you cope? Did you survive?

And maybe they were realised. Maybe someone you loved greatly suffered or died. Maybe you’ve experienced this crisis from the real frontlines. And if you have, you have my admiration, and more than that you deserve your own.

Whoever you are and whatever your experience, be proud of yourself today. Be proud of yourself for how you’ve lived to this point. For what you’ve been capable of to bring you here.

And now, if you’d like to, and just as a game of fantasy which might or might not mean a thing, and just because it’s something my dad would do with me, allow yourself to think of one big thing you’d like for this next six months. Be selfish with it, I dare you. What do you want in your life between now and the end of this bonkers year? What do you want for your physical self, your health, your state of mind, what would you like to learn or discover or educate yourself in? What would you like materially? Who would you like to meet? What would you like to accomplish?

Think it, visualise it, wish it, and then let it go and trust that whatever happens, whatever your wish might be, trust that whatever does transpire is exactly what you need.

Back at the start of this year I had a sense of optimism which I hadn’t had in a long, long time. I felt as if 2020 was going to be a year of brilliant things. I still have that same sense, believe or not. I feel as if it’s a time of necessary renewal, of the old guard taking leave, of the new wave coming through, of some outmoded, outdated beliefs giving way to a kinder philosophy, of a regeneration of existing wisdom and learning, of taking what’s come before and reverently re-moulding it into a new force for good.

And yes, it’s true, my dad dying and the world plunging into pandemic and pandemonium didn’t figure in my thinking, but in spite of all that and even though it might not feel like it right now while we’re still in the midst of it, I suspect we’ll look back on this year, 2020, as a real turning point, as the start of something truly great.

For now, though, I say feel proud and grateful, and I'd also like to say thanks for reading what I've been writing.

And to you my dear dad, happy solstice and Father’s Day, I love you.

Jake x

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