It’s true, this time last year I sighed a deep sigh and smiled a toothy smile standing on my favorite childhood beach in Florida with my kids and my partner by my side and thought “Thank God that year is over.” I baptized myself in the briny Atlantic on January 1st, 2016 and with that half-naked holy dunk in frigid waves I theoretically shed the dried, scaly skin of the past year of massive heartache and grief. I levitated out of the water, sputtering, trembling and proclaimed “NO MORE SHIT YEARS” to myself, to God, to the universe, to the ocean; my soul “Do you hear me? Are we clear? Enough is enough.”
Faith is a funny thing. So is certainty. There seems to be an infinity number of rugs under each. So that as soon as my faith is settled, or my certainty is super certain, a rug gets pulled out, and I’m feet up high-in-the-sky, flat on my ass, lying on my back, wondering what just happened. Maybe that’s what 2016 was for me, the unveiling of the infinity number of rugs.
I read more this year, absorbed more than I think I ever have. I asked more questions and sought to be more teachable. So curious about everything. I exercised my empath muscles cyclically; daily even. Breathing meditatively as I envisioned myself in someone else’s shoes – cue tears. A queue of tears. A trail of tears. Tears for People of Color. Tears for ancient Native tribes. Tears for water. Tears for land. Tears for Queers. Tears for Pulse. Tears for Aleppo. Tears for fellow grieving loved ones. Tears for the losses of too many friend’s Fathers. Tears for riots. Tears for misunderstandings. Tears for my daughter going under the knife again. Tears for the future. I cried everyday.
What a year, huh?
Amidst this sinking ship, I am thankful to report that many of us found each other. Bleeding, naked, broken, lost, sick – and we called out to one another in the groaning, sinking wreckage “Hey! Me too! I see you. I’m with you! I don’t know what to do, but I’m here. LOOK, we’re alive! HA!” And somehow it saved us. If only for a day or a moment, or a week even. We built beautiful, buoyant connection and belonging from the debris of our own sinking ships.
This year I became aware. 2016 taught me that in the midst of groundlessness, if we can swallow our fears and reach out in the fog there will be a hand to hold.
So, no…I don’t resent 2016. I can agree there was shit and a lot of horrible things went down. But if you can, take just a moment, take a deep breath, come close. With a gentle, graceful gaze allow me to crack open my chest cavity, peel back the protective nets and masks to reveal the glimmery, shadowy, misty cavern of my soul. Shhh Tread lightly. You will clearly see that the fires, traumas, losses, and near death experiences; those unimaginable hardships and bleak memories that make up the story of my life are not stone or ash. No, come look, over time they have become sparkly, radiant gems. Glassy stalactites and spiraling prismatic crystals. With the fresh water, friends; that queue of tears I spoke of: of love, knowledge, therapy, connection and belonging, hearing people’s stories, the tears drip-dropping into the cavern of my soul, the hardships, thorns, fires have been washed, worn, pressed and squeezed. They are no longer coal, but now diamonds. My most beautiful treasures tucked into the walls of my soul are equally the hardest, darkest things I have ever been through. My diamonds. My pearls.
So for this, maybe I sound crazy, but I am thankful for 2016. From my life experiences, I know better than to separate the list of “good things” from the list of “bad things”. Instead my list is just “Things”. For the things that caused pain: be them my own, or the pains of another, the drip-dropping of my tears washed down into my soul and are making pearls of parasites. I know this is true when I actively reach my hand out in the fog of new wreckage and in the thick of impermanence through vulnerability I find belonging.
I am not #blessed because I have health, money or status. The way I see it – neither are you. Does that mean my life is a poop sandwich? No. I mean, maybe it appears to be when I carry my comparison lens (or when you look at my life through your comparison lens). But I smashed mine a long time ago. If #blessed looks like a mostly magical childhood, turned all your prayers answered with a first class ticket to a great marriage, fantastic health, perfectly born babies, Pinterest home, successful career, A+ clothes, future looks bright in Sudden Valley, California – then yeah…..no. I am not #blessed and neither are most of the people I know. But that’s good. And I’m thankful for years like 2016. And even 2015 (which was far worse than 2016 for me).
I can find gratitude in the garbage because I know that (eventually) it blooms into gardenias. It’s not over night – ever. It never comes without loss. It never blooms without effort; without work, pruning, gardening, labor metaphor, metaphor, metaphor. You get it. Yes! HAHA! Hooray! It’s a brand New Year! But guess what?! I am still the same me. I will continue to be the same me until I choose to help myself; to want to address the ship, the debris, the fog – any of it (you gotta start somewhere). For me, this process has never been a New Year’s Resolution or a commitment to “30 days to Your Perfect Beach Body”. No, because these never address the invisible me. Diets, exercise regimens, facial serums and meditative Bible day-by-day devotions rarely dig deep enough to find the parasites; to address the debris of the ship that sank.
So here I am, January 1st, 2017. I’m at home in a cozy sweater, drinking a warm cup of tea – recovering from a newly discovered almond allergy. But I still managed to make myself a body of salty water (the bathtub) in which to be baptized. And with that fully-naked holy dunk in steamy, lavender, salty bath water, I came up much differently than last year. I’ve lost the toothy grin and the deep sigh of shrugging off the previous year. I counted in the mirror, and have approximately 6-8 more grey hairs than I did last year. And I didn’t ring in the New Year with my middle fingers up in a sparkly dress, heels or red lipstick like I wanted to – I was laid up on the couch bloated and itchy hoping I paid my health insurance premium in case I had to go to the hospital. But I awoke this morning with a smile, knowing that this is life. It’s a hard life, but most of it turns out good over time. Most things are and never will be ideal or #blessed, and that’s entirely ok, if we let it be ok. This year I’m not proclaiming “NO MORE SHIT YEARS.” Because who knows – maybe the shit turns into rainbows and I’m vowing off my future rainbows. I don’t know what will happen, guys….none of us do. But if I am certain of anything at this point, I do have faith and certainty that no matter what ships sink this year, or what debris you’ve been clinging to for decades, or how thick the fog gets (because we know it will get thick with all this denial of global warming nonsense) – regardless of the impermanence of stuff, people, relationships, beliefs, and even the lives of those we love – I believe we can make something that floats when we hold hands.
Happy New Year. I love you.