And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
~ Counting Crows
Stepping into the new year, I remain hopeful. Feeling hopeful comes from taking some deep breaths and a few quiet moments of reflection. What did last year teach me? What do I want this new year bring? Regardless of circumstances, viewpoints, outcomes, and goals – time indeed marches on, ready or not.
This past year, writing took over my life. I wrote in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night. Whenever I felt the “urge,” I wrote. I wrote into the notes app on my phone. I wrote at work when I should have been working, and I “wrote in my head” during my longer runs. And my suspicions were indeed confirmed: writing floats my boat.
And then I experienced weeks upon weeks of writer’s block, and disinterest. I wanted nothing to do with any of it. Every sentence was pure, uninspired crap. Bits and pieces of “just okay” material here and there do not amount to much. I pressed on because, good or bad, satisfied or not, finishing was my goal. It wasn’t easy, (and it sure ain’t pretty), but a first draft of a first book is finally complete! Now comes the excruciating part – polishing, cutting, adding, and changing. I will edit like crazy without ruining it ~ hopefully!
How will I find the inspiration necessary to push through this next part? I guess I can only look to face the challenge by doing what seems to work for me: I can put one foot in front of the other. There is yet another hill on the horizon, but I will keep walking. And so it goes, because that is life. There is always a hill to climb.
Running a half marathon was a goal in 2016. I learned that in order to see a goal to fruition, one must follow a plan. “Crossing the finish line” is now my corny life metaphor – finishing what I start even when it’s difficult. And finishing that race was an awesome feeling – one I hope to experience many times over in the coming years. I learned that parts of self esteem can come from simply completing something.
I also discovered that there is beauty in the steadfast work required to achieve anything. Finishing is lovely, but what we do to get there is just as important. I learned that a life becomes empty and unfocused – a mere string of meaningless days – without a purpose for our actions. It’s important to stay excited about possibilities as we progress forward. Living this way keeps us from clinging to assorted regrets inside our graves.
My body changed. I gained weight! All the hill work and “justified” carb-loading took its toll. Surprisingly, I haven’t panicked (yet!). My mind is healthy and strong these days so I’m handling it differently. My body does not define me. It never has. My quest to build a sense of “whole” self continues to substantiate my authenticity and that alone is powerful stuff. I, like you, am just a human soul, imperfectly milling around, chipping away at the crap that burdens my happiness.
As 2016 marched on, I continued to battle my depression, my eating disorder, and my motivations. I stayed in the ring, and became a stronger person for it. In addition to seeking personal fulfillment and forging more mature bonds with my adult children, I made some new friends. And as I continued to develop a stronger voice, I made a few enemies too. And I’m okay with all of it because maintaining conviction instead of indifference fills my holes and feeds my passion.
The Presidential election swept up our lives – on Facebook, in the office, with our friends and family. Shock and outrage. Opinions. Facts, fiction. Biased media. We fired defensive and offensive information from “reputable sources” at each other like heavy artillery. The usual celebrities spoke out. There were protests, anger, and celebrations. It proved to be the beginning of what feels like the “Great Divide” in America ~ but perhaps it only shed light on what is indeed already there, brewing in plain sight. And instead of building a bridge across that great divide, we elected to build some more walls.
I experienced vehemence, rage, and frustration in politics. When an article I wrote from a feminist viewpoint went viral, the comments people left made it clear to me that many Americans are hurt and angry. And while both candidates made promises and peddled hope (as they always do), we were all left feeling hopeless – not because of the outcome, but because of our division. We must try to remember that America is not and has never been a hopeless place.
History teaches us that social and political explosions (the “bursting of bubbles”) often lead us to incredibly important progress and awareness. Conversations inspire change. Thoughts turned into words turned into actions fuel real hope in my heart for the America that I want. My America is inclusive, open, understanding, caring, and noble – and it’s unabashedly decisive about what is good and honest. It is also attainable. Moving forward, I hope that our leaders will make choices for the betterment of all people who are trying to carve out decent and fulfilling lives in this ever-changing land of opportunity. But, make no mistake, my hope is neither blind nor deaf, and I will not “shut up” when progress is blocked or pushed back. Why? Because hope is the thing that fights.
Death is what makes us equal in our fragility. The sudden deaths of a high school classmate, my dear uncle, so many celebrities, and a few friends this past year were heart-breaking. I will carry forward, in my soul, the poignant lesson I always learn when someone dies. Death fosters more gratefulness for each and every blessed day we are given. I will strive to live my precious, beautiful, and tenuous life mindfully grateful by making it matter. Grudges serve no purpose, so I will let them go. I refuse to die with bagged up animosity along for the ride. It’s too damn heavy.
So what is to come? Well, my friends, what will come is everything we choose to allow into our lives, sprinkled, of course, with all the unexpected stuff that inevitably gets tossed our way. For me, it’s about committing to some new goals and doing some things just for fun. It’s time for a fresh basket of goodies. A trip to California? Piano lessons? Ballroom dancing, perhaps? Running and writing works for me, but I want to try some new shit, y’all, and I’m energized to step a little further out of my comfort zone next year.
Looking back is about digestion. It’s about letting go of the past to make room for new experiences. When we look over our shoulder, we can clearly see what life is trying to teach us. 2016 taught me that anger is a catalyst. Planning fuels achievement. Pressing on despite pain or frustration helps us finish. And political explosions ignite change.
Stepping forward is about capturing the magic we see on the horizon. When we seek to traverse bold new paths, we adventurously (and inevitably) feed our souls. First thinking, then speaking, then acting. It’s about not knowing a damn thing about what the future might bring, but bravely surrendering to the process and wonder of it all, anyway.
Are you geared up for 2017?
I’m excited to dig a little deeper for love and joy and possibility. I’m ready to bury some of my fears and insecurities for good.
I want to play in the game, engaged in the action, instead of watching it unfold from the bench. I don’t know what life will throw at me, but at the risk of twisting an ankle, I’m ready and willing to make some flashy, “highlight reel worthy” diving catches along the way.
And I’ve got a plan for going long, if I must.