It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

How amazingly accurate Charles Dickens was about our last two years. This year was supposed to be a celebration of renewal, a return to normal, but we find ourselves at the end disappointed, disheartened and doubtful. Disappointed that we haven’t wiped out COVID, disheartened that our profession continues to be under attack from insurers and regulators, and doubtful that a new year will bring us to a happier place. 

Indeed, maybe it is the best and the worst. The stock market regularly hits all time highs and the vast majority of us have come out of 2021 relatively unscathed in our practices and our lives. However around us the world is changing and scary. We keep waiting for another shoe to drop in the pandemic, in the economy, in extreme weather.  

Wisdom and foolishness. Credulity and disbelief. Fake news and alternative realities. I’ve written previously about the loss of absolute facts, the unmooring of our shared experiences. I suppose it’s somewhat of a comfort to know it’s happened before. It’s been too easy this year, for reasons medical and political, to find ourselves sitting in dark corners with sharp sticks aimed outward, angry and afraid of each other in turns.  

At year’s end, when we’ve seen and experienced so much, it’s difficult to settle down and celebrate. But I would submit that at this time of year in particular, we should take stock of our blessings and what we have rather than what we don’t have. Let’s not focus on what could have been, but on the important things that seem to get lost in the chaos of modern life: our families, our friends, our colleagues, our patients.  

So many of my columns this year have been a bit heavy … and depressing (or at least unsettled).  I’ve always felt that the December holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, should be a time of optimism and happiness, no matter the situation. And so, in this, my last musing of the year, its time to make an effort to get beyond the isolation, the echo chambers and the bubbles our lives have become, and reach out to each other. Let’s focus on what brings us together, what makes us happy and, most importantly, on what’s important, so that we close out this year not with dread or worry but with warmth, camaraderie and an appreciation for all that we have. Even though Charles Dickens documented a dystopian world that never seems to go away, he also gave us hope in the form of a small child at Christmas, wishing all of us a better day to come.