Friday, January 1, 2016

Making sense of an old year

A snapped this picture of a spiderweb on a fence at the farm. Magical.
So 2015 was not my favorite year.

There was losing our beloved fluffy cat and the incident with my left boob and rejection and a massive literary slump and depression

And cancer

As I reflect on all this at the start of 2016, I won't patronize my friends who have suffered cancer's wrath in the last couple years by suggesting it was part of the universe's grand plan or something. That it happens for a reason. It happens because cells start dividing at an abnormal rate and impair the body's ability to function normally. 

"Even cancer isn't a bad guy really: Cancer just wants to be alive,” John Green writes in "The Fault in Our Stars." And he's right. Even if it's maddening.

I wish that cancer were more discriminate – feeding off ugliness rather than picking off the kindest souls. But that's not how it works. We don't always get to decide. We're just along for the ride.

While I won't try to find cancer's silver lining, I'm human. So I pick apart all these other disparate happenings and try to make sense of them. Try to explain them in a way that will help me feel at peace with being. 

Isn't that what the end of an old year and the beginning of a new year is all about?

Remembering and resolving. 

The previous 15 years or so of my life have been about happenings. Graduating high school and college, getting the first job, getting married, buying a house, adopting a dog, starting a family. Every year it seemed contained a milestone or a major event. And then the past couple of years working from home with two small children has been about running, running, running. 

While I've been racing on the treadmill, the foundation of my life settled. The girls became more self-sufficient and I became more efficient. In the past year, all of the sudden there were seconds and minutes of my day not filled with doing. This created somewhat of a vacuum, I think. At times it's felt like a great void.

Because while I haven't been doing, I've been thinking and thinking and thinking. About everything from white privilege to terrorism to gun violence to my place in the fabric of existence. It was all very overwhelming. And I think it shut down channels in my brain that felt joy and silliness. That appreciated art and creativity. 

For me, this was the hallmark of 2015. This massive black curtain shrouding a large portion of my psyche. 

So you can understand why I was anxious to be done with it.

Now, of course I know that something as arbitrary as the passing of 365 days does not fix me. Or change me. Though it has, I think. 

I don't love Depression. I've expressed that before. But I think it might have been my body's way of recharging. Of overriding the locomotive in me that insists on doing, doing, doing all the time. Depression quiets you. It's exhausting. It makes you want to stay in bed all day. Or flop on the couch in the middle of the afternoon and take a nap. Or binge on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" instead of writing your next novel.

But I wonder if this isn't a mechanism of healing somehow. Your brain becoming the petulant child who refuses to do anything because she's overtired and cranky. And if that's the case, I just needed to be forced into a vacation of sorts (not the sort I'd be eager to go on again), then maybe there was a point to 2015, afterall.

It was fitting then, that as the year came to a close that I had this epiphany while hanging out at the farm with my sisters and Kristi.

Life is this series of moments sometimes rapid fire, sometimes stretched out long and lazy. And I exist in this life despite all the doing and not doing. It is so liberating to drink in each moment, really be aware of the present – what is happening rightnow – instead of dwelling on what happened or worrying about what will happen. 

I've found it easier to recognize the joy in front of me. To find beauty and grace in the large and small things around me. 

The other part of this epiphany was being aware of, maybe for the first time, the connective tissue that tethers me to those around me and the Earth and the universe. We are all made of the same stuff, you know. Forged from the Big Bang. And we'll live here and die here and return to the Earth and become the building blocks for more life. 

"The world wasn't made for us. We were made for the world." - John Green

I know, I know. It just got real weird. A little metaphysical. But it's such a gift to understand that I am all that I need to be. All that I'm meant to be. It's all there. 

Since I've solved the quandary of my greater purpose, well all that's left for me to do is just be. 

And maybe write about it.

Perhaps 2015 wasn't so awful in the end. Still, I'm looking forward to 2016. 

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