If I cannot bring you comfort, then at least I bring you hope.
-Trevor Horn and Hans Zimmer, “The Closing of the Year”
I have mixed feelings about retrospectives, about best-of lists and litanies of achievements. They’re useful–important, even, on an individual level–but they are also yet another way in which we package ourselves for consumption and gloss over the real in the attempt to curate an ideal.
I am tired of appearances.
It has been a hot mess. Sometimes it’s been an absolute dumpster fire. Sometimes it’s shimmered with beauty, possibility, and hope. This year I have been angrier, sadder, and more hopeless for more sustained stretches of time than I thought possible. This year I have been more horrified, disgusted, and wounded by my fellow human beings than ever before. And I have been more fiercely proud of us, too, more in love with our imperfect yet huge capacity for goodness.
This year, it’s amazing that anyone has accomplished anything. And yet we have. If you’re one of the many who feel cowed and silenced by others’ mantras of achievements, I am here to tell you that you survived this year. You survived. This is not a small thing. If what you did was make it through this year, you succeeded. Everything you’re capable of, all the great love and goodness and magic and beauty you can put into the world, is dependent first on your survival. You made it. Pour yourself a celebratory glass/mug/shot/cup/bowl/pint/vat of your festive beverage of choice.
For me, 2017 has not been about what I have accomplished but what I have learned. What I have begun to learn. I am learning to get involved, to speak up, to be inconvenient. I am learning to listen, to amplify muffled and silenced voices, to let those who are hurting vent their pain and anger and know that it is not directed at me unless I insist that it is. I am learning to write short stories and bind books.
My wise and magical friend Ella says that women should treat ourselves the way we would treat our own daughters. I am trying to learn how to do this. I know I would be kinder to a daughter than I am to myself. I need to learn.
I am learning that some losses are Always. They do not go away. They endure, and we learn to live with them and, if we are very strong and brave, we learn to let them make us better. I am learning to hold spaces that will never be filled.
In her book The Resilient Gardener, Carol Deppe writes that we must “become native to the land of our living.” I am learning to do this. I have already learned that next year’s garden is always the best garden, the one with no weeds in it.
I am learning about activism. I am learning to emerge from my shell and get involved. Everything is on the line.
Every day I am learning how to love my people more–my sainted husband, Things 1 and 2, family, friends, critters of all stripes. I am learning how to bless the wild birds that spark in the bare branches.
I don’t like resolutions. I like introspection. I don’t want to say where I’m going because I don’t know. As Lao Tzu said, “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” I want to be a good traveler. I pore over my maps and chart the course of where I have been. I will figure out where I am going as I get there. One thing only I know for sure–There Be Dragons.
I hope that the year closes kindly and softly for you. I hope that you have learned things and that the learning has not come at too great a price. If it has, I hope that you take the discomfort and dislocation that always come with real learning and compress them into diamonds and, at some point in your next journey around a star, scatter them across the face of the darkness.
Happy New Year. May it be filled with light, deep lessons, and unexpected blessings.