Last year, I chose two words that I felt I needed more of, that would guide me and challenge me. They were ‘action’ and ‘abundance’. Specifically, I felt I needed to ‘do’ more, rather than think too much, and that I wanted to approach life with a sense of having enough, being enough, and generosity of spirit.
This year was hard. Not just because of all the things going on in the world – not just because of the political climate or celebrity deaths, or the uncertainty. It was hard personally, with my relationship, and with both our families. There are some things people choose not to share with the rest of the world, and last year was no exception. Somehow, in some way, I drew upon my own strength, and the support of my family, despite feeling like the easiest thing would be to give up. No melodrama there – there were truly some dark, horrifying nights of the soul last year, and I survived them. We both did, and we’re going to be okay. I was also truly saddened by the deaths of Prince, Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, and Carrie Fisher, all part of my cultural universe.
Mum had been ill for much of the year last year, and finally it culminated in an emergency scan in early December, and she has been in the hospital for the past four weeks. We’ve had some disappointing moments where we thought she’d be able to come home for a few hours at Christmas then again at New Year, but neither happened. She will be fine, given time and healing, but we’ve been stretched to our emotional limits lately. I’m uncertain what it will be like for her when she comes home – there will be another operation in around six months time, and in the meantime she’ll need to take it easy. I’ve been helping my Dad keep the house running, and just generally trying to keep going. She’s ready to come home, but we still don’t know when that will be.
On the other hand, there is always a balance to the difficult things. There is always something that gracefully lifts you when life is painful. For me, this year, it has been creativity, writing, and friendship. Even in the midst of losing my way, writing my book of essays has kept me from losing my way completely, and the love of my sister, Mum, and friends, has stopped me from sinking into a complete depression. We did a lot of renovation to the house – it started when I decided to start work on painting and decorating my Mum’s study in March, the garden and cabin in May and June, and then the kitchen-diner and bathrooms in October to December (with still the second bathroom that is being done next week). The house is slowly being revived and renewed, and in small ways, it has changed the way we live. There is still a lot of clearing out and decluttering to do, but for the most part, it feels like a positive change.
My sister had her cochlear implant operation in September, and it has been amazing to see how much it has changed things for her. Having seen the process she’s gone through, I now know what it’s like and how it works, much more closely than when friends have had theirs. I don’t think I will have a CI operation, at least not in the near future, but at least I know that it’s a possibility. Hearing aid technology is just not where the research is going at the moment, but I’m happy with what I have at the moment. I feel surrounded with brave people though – my Mum and my sister, my mother-in-law – who have all gone on their own difficult journeys in the past year.
I did feel that I intentionally chose ‘action’ many times last year. I chose to work hard on our studio in the garden – painting furniture, the walls, the floor – and on Mum’s study. I chose to write as many essays as I could. I chose to do more for my parents, and to take more of a role in keeping the house going. I may not have achieved all I set out to achieve, but given the emotional strain and setbacks, it felt like even the small things were an accomplishment.
‘Abundance’ was more of a challenge. Believing that you are enough, that you have enough, and practising a generosity of spirit when you are experiencing low self esteem and self-criticism didn’t work well for me. Instead, I tried to focus on what I could do, and tried to build myself back up, bit by bit. Sometimes I slid right back down, and had to begin again. During November, I felt some semblance of healing when I was taking part in NaNoPoblano, writing poetry, and interacting with you all on this blog.
What do I take away from all this? Action is something worth choosing even in your hardest moments. Don’t stay paralysed, try to move forwards, and do a small thing. Sometimes the words you choose to live by don’t always serve you. Abundance is an admirable notion, and one I hope to choose more often, but it just didn’t work for me when I needed to heal myself. I have learnt more about acceptance and the hard work that relationships need, that sometimes you have to re-learn what your own boundaries mean, to protect your own sense of self. Boundaries are important, even in the closest relationships you have. And that poetry can save you when you need it to.
I’m still thinking about what goals and words I want for this year. I know that I need to focus on healing and better self-care habits, and to define my boundaries so that my sense of self-worth is protected. There are things I need to do better – check in with friends more often, be the person to reach out first, and to establish an everyday basic routine that will give me plenty of time to work (and play!) – and I want to make sure I use social media less, but with better quality interactions. I had a lot of plans for this blog that I still want to set in motion, and I hope that this space will continue to inspire. There are always going to be challenges and difficulties in life, and sometimes they seem insurmountable. Yet I think that we sometimes have to be strong, and brave – and work together to make a better world. To keep writing and creating.
‘We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.’ – Ellen Goodman.