Somewhere along the way, I became someone who writes long and complex Facebook posts. This one is how I made peace with, and let go of, 2019.
As we hit the end of the decade, and everyone’s various annual Best Of lists are replaced or supplimented by decade count downs, it’s hard not to get caught up in what seems to be this universal need to self-reflect and either self-congratulate or self-flagellate, depending on whether or not one thinks they have more or less made the most of the last year to ten years. That this year specifically is an annual event conjuncted with a decennial event is bringing home a particularly heavy case of what an ex-boyfriend of mine recently declared “The Resurrection Blues”, sitting, as he was, on my couch this past Christmas, both of us trying to articulate why this time of year is both so wonderful, and so terrible. “I can feel things ending. I can feel the cycles beginning again. I can feel the rebirth happening,” he says. A week or so later, sitting on my couch, watching Lord of the Rings all day with two of my best friends, we all at some point grumble about what a year it’s been, full of transitions, and how we can’t wait for it to be over, but I realize also that these days of waiting, where one year has essentially ended, but a new one has yet to begin, is precious time. It may be as close as we are allowed to get, as a society, to limbo. The demarkation of time is a construct, the significance of a decade over a century over a day or a minute is totally arbitrary, but the passage of time is most certainly not a construct. A week where, for many of us, the world seems to finally slow down, becomes more and more precious with every year that passes, quicker than the one before it, regardless of whether that was a “good” year or a “bad” year.
For a good chunk of this last year, I was sad.
I saw more of my blood outside of my body than I ever had previously and ever care to again, and there were times when I was in excruciating pain for days at a time, and my own flesh stared to rot. I have cried in doctors’ offices, I have cried on the phone, I have cried in my living room, I have cried in my bedroom, I have cried in someone else’s, I have cried in the theater, I have cried on the street, I have cried in the bathroom of bars, and I have cried in the park. I worked 80+ hour weeks for three months straight. I lost a relationship that meant a lot to me, and then I lost it again when I realized that the person I’d had it with didn’t want it to be saved, even if they didn’t want to lose me. I spent money I didn’t need to, and then needed money I didn’t have. I worked on some art that wasn’t satisfying, and made real art that people didn’t appreciate, or even show up for. I let some folks down, and some let me down. I alienated a professional contact by asking to be treated like a person and an artist and not just fodder for clicks. Someone I loved and cared about took their own life and two of my cousins died. I have scars that still worry me when I see them in the mirror, or run my rings along my neck. I missed a rehearsal because I was so hung over once, and vomited on my own shoes in public, and spent several days laying in bed, staring at the ceiling because I felt so defeated and unfit for human company.
What if I told you that for all that has happened to me this last decade, let alone this last year, there are moments I have, in my mind, nothing to show for it?
Sometimes when you’re sad it feels like you’ve always been sad and if you’re not careful you can read your own history through a lens of melancholy that not only undermines your past happiness but your current happiness as well, weaving a myth of a life starved of joy, devoid of learning and growth, when all the evidence points to the contrary. But like… facts are so fallible when faced with feelings. Especially, and unfortunately, feelings of inadequacy or loss. And it can take me a long time to balance my own perspective or feelings about something because I’m a processor and I want reasons why for everything but sometimes you just make a decision to stop suffering and hope the justifications will present themselves some way down the road when the tears are no longer blinding you to their presence. It’s time like this I hear my father’s voice: “Put the load down son. Leave the weight behind. Forgive yourself for being human. For that matter, forgive the other humans for the same. Appreciate what you had. It doesn’t matter if you are loved: it matters if you loved.” Not that my father said all that, it’s just it’s easier to hear his voice than my own sometimes. I can have a hard time believing I know enough about life to know that such things are true.
For a good chunk of this year, I was happy.
I made some really good art, and the people it reached who loved it took the time to tell me so. I finally started putting money into a retirement plan. I wrote one of the best plays I’ve ever written. I made new friends, and some friendships I’d already had grew deeper. In general, I have been lucky to be overwhelmed by just how many good friends I have, some of whom I hadn’t even realized until those friendships were tested this year. I stood on a rooftop with some of my favorite local artists and watched sailboats cruise along the bay. I laughed at the wave organ, in the hills of Marin, on the terrace of the brew-pub, in the office of the artistic director, on the shores of Lake Tahoe, at the Legion, in the rehearsal studio, at the sitz-probe, in the music store, in the Lavender Dell, in the Tonga Room, in the Officer’s club, in the beer garden, in the library, at the fireworks, in the cafe, in the bakery, in the Aub Zam Zam room, in the movie theater with cat’s ears on. I saw so many friends get married, have children, achieve life goals. I celebrated the lives of people who died. I told The Boy that one day he’d find someone who realized how magic he was and he did. I helped others. I continue to have one of the most exceptional and supportive relationships of anyone I know, with a partner who is phenomenally independent, kind, self-aware, generous, intelligent, and strong. Against all odds, and not always gracefully, but always honestly, and with love, I finished everything I started. I spent a day in a country tavern playing darts and drinking with four friends while the rain poured down outside and nobody had anywhere else to be.
What if I told you that, in spite of all that has happened to me this last decade, let alone this last year, there are moments I have, in my mind, thought that no one’s life could be more perfect than mine?
To think in decades is, I have discovered, a skill you develop as you live through more and more of them. To see a bigger picture is the byproduct of time, as much as aging is. In this way I think we always gain, even as we may lose. We come to understand that in all lives, given enough time, there will be moments of triumph and defeat, or joy and despair, of losing and finding things and people. All of which will make you who you are. And if you like who you are, can respect that person, and can stand at the edge of whatever bluff you currently rest on, look back, and see the path that took you from the valley and through the downs and will take you wherever it takes you next… and smile… whether from fond memory or hope for what’s to come… well, then… you’ve won. This round.