Friday, January 11, 2013

I'm okay with 2012

My 2012 resolutions list is hanging on the wall behind me:

Lofty, eh? How'd I do, you probably aren't asking. About 80%, though in lots of cases because of life doing its thing, not my trying.

The year started with us getting back to work. Jonathan was Jonathan: steady. I was glad to face new teaching adventures but was otherwise the unhappiest I've been since that bout of deep existential adolescent depression in early high school. You know in movies when someone's standing still, looking sad while the world rushes around them? Till autumn, I was that standing-still person. All the while, life happened.

The year had barely started when I got the call. After a long life, my sweet granny had died. While the family was still coping, her son David passed as well. The day I heard about my uncle, I gave both him and Granny the most heartfelt send-off I could think of--my rendition of Wayfaring Stranger in the shower with my tears going down the drain. By the end of spring, Jonathan had lost an uncle as well. Amongst the hard moments, good moments lived too. My sister found out she was finally cancer free after a yearlong battle. By October, we had a new niece and nephew on Jonathan's side. Lives were lost, and lives began or got second chances. Though I had no power over any of it, I hung on as we spun and tried to make sure those I loved were hanging on too.

On the springtime horizon was a trip to Italy and England, publishing opportunities included. Adventure was guaranteed. I was nervous and winter had been difficult, but my hopes were high. The year, in spite of its sad beginning, was full of career hopes, with three possible writing projects in the wings and no foreseeable reason why they should fail. But the tilt of the planet must have been slightly off in 2012 because by the time I reached the streets of Venice, fever had hit. In two days, I was the sickest I've been in my adult life, all to the sound of an accordion outside my window and a man singing along. By the end of the trip, I was exhausted and too skinny, and by the end of the year, all of the open doors were closed again (I can still hear a slight echo). Every publishing submission I made was rejected. Agent submissions disappeared into slush piles. I was left wondering if the creative writing world held a place for me and feeling the critical world didn't.

Meanwhile, shut doors forced me down other paths. Relationships that had been one way began to be another. New friendships formed unexpectedly. Jonathan and I spent the late spring and summer discovering our city, exploring the sites, slowly getting to know people, and getting more experienced at our jobs. But even with those happinesses, the months before and a darkness of spirit made me more and more numb every day. Loss, disappointment, and frustration were my companions. I was just plain depressed and pissed off about it.

But, as sometimes happens, one day in the heat of midsummer, the tiniest fracture in the thick shell around me began to let in some light. Why then? I don't know. But it led to what would eventually be a quiet rebirth. I admitted to those I loved (and those I didn't), as candidly as I knew how (in a blog for all the world to see), that I was miserable. A few held me up as I healed, which I eventually did, and which made everything that followed more bearable. By early fall, I wasn't nearly as miserable anymore.

Happiness does seem to be, as some have said, a mindset, not a set of circumstances. If you want to know the magic formula for making it happen, ask someone else. The best I can tell you is that in a similar situation: face your issues, chip away at them, and stop beating yourself up. One friend said something simple that echoed in my mind almost daily as I mended: "You're fine."

Getting better meant that when I found out in late fall that the school I'd for years been hoping to attend in Salisbury couldn't accept me because of political technicalities, I was okay. I was really okay. And when I found myself on the porch crying to a friend about hidden pains from my childhood that I'd never realized played such a huge role in shaping me, I was okay. I had to work through it. I still do. But I was and am okay. Through all that's happened, I've survived. Better than survived.

In the midst of it all--the healing, the good times, the bad--I picked up the guitar again, found the joy of riding a bike again, went on a writing retreat, finished a novel, and felt proud of myself over and over for accomplishments at work. We grilled our way through the year alongside trips to Tennessee and holidays and visits from friends and house hunting and car hunting and all the quieter life moments that fit in between--naps on the couch with the kitties, walks with the dog downtown in the evening, nights spent watching old Doctor Who episodes. And to wrap the whole thing up, we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary with a trip to England for the new year. Of the trips I've taken in the last five years, it was definitely the best.

What I'm trying to get at is that I'm okay with 2012. It had its hard moments, but that's life, and we've all gotta live it. Besides, it could have been a lot harder. I'm thankful to have come out with my head screwed on a bit straighter and with lots to be proud of and happy about. I've got a good life, a sweet husband, several furry children, more dear friends than I deserve, my health, my art, my heart, my soft blue bathrobe, and my cabinet full of chocolate. I don't know what 2013 holds, and I don't want to know. I'm not making any resolutions, not on a board for the world to see anyway. I just wanna be better at being who I am, at being good to people, and at making something of each day.