I went to bed on January 1st feeling altogether more satisfied and surprised by 2015 than I’d ever expected. Yes, it was horrible, and yes (oh yes) I hope I never again go to the places I went during those summer months. Yes, I’m still glad to have it behind me.
But the handy dandy reflection exercise that I did on New Year’s Eve showed me a lot of things. The act of breaking a year down into one–just one!– good thing that happened every month was illuminating on every possible level. Turns out there were plenty of things to smile about, even during the months and moments when all I saw was darkness going on forever. Tiny little things. A new necklace bought on a thawing day in March. Beef and barley soup and having my tea leaves read in May. (Funnily enough, some of what she said turned out to be true.) Trips to New Jersey. Trips to Minneapolis. Meeting so many wonderful Twitter people IRL at AWP. All of these things while I was still in the darkest parts of sadness.
It is possible to carry all of these things at the same time. I never would have thought that, but it is. The last part of the reflection exercise involved writing down the things that you were proud of. The accomplishments that you managed in the year that had just passed. What are you proud of…in work? In relationships? In friendships? In family? In love? In fitness? Etc. And for every single question, there was something to say. I am proud of the friendships that I have. I am proud of the fact that I have put myself out into the (eep) dating world for first time in forever. I am proud of paying down more debt. I am proud of the fact that I fit into my favourite pants again! (Thank you, Heartbreak Diet. You were terrible, but as it turns out you were good for something.) From there, you were asked to make a list of things that you wanted to accomplish in the year ahead. Small things and big things, both. What would your life look like this year if it was a movie? What type of movie would it be?
The questions made me think hard, but in the end the answers were easy. I finished the exercise and felt…joyful. Proud of myself, excited, happy to have spent the time reflecting and looking forward.
Confession: I’d been sad about spending New Year’s Eve alone, but as things turned out, it was wonderful. It might even have been the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had, including all of those nights with friends (and the crazy Scottish NY’s Eves with Hogmanay). I think I’m going to make it a tradition going forward. The winter darkness of a newborn year, and a New Year’s even spent in solitude, giving thanks–reflecting, making plans.
All of which is to say: I made a few New Year’s resolutions (like this one), and whether or not I stick with them all still remains to be seen. But I went to bed on New Year’s Day feeling grateful and excited, and every single day since waking up some hours later on that first day of 2016 has been…magical.
Don’t get me wrong–there have been no fireworks. Nothing big is brewing over in this corner of the world, at least not right yet. I have not (sniffle) woken up in a flush of inspiration and jotted down an entire story. I am back to freaking out about my latest project. I am still behind on assignments I have promised to other people, and still hovering over the rabbit hole of writerly jealousies. I have not magically become enamoured with my day job, though I am back to recognizing how special and unique and wonderful a place it is and can be. I go back to part-time work in one week and I am already worried about money. It’s still a struggle to sit down and say YOU WILL WRITE, WRITER, and tear my eyes away from Twitter.
Also, there have been no magical meet-cutes (sigh).
But there have been dozens of warm moments, so many instances of unexpected joy. There have been recognitions and serendipitous work opportunities–even small ones, even ones that haven’t actually worked out. There have been excellent good omens. I have set travel plans in stone. I am writing. I am sending things away. I am grateful, grateful, grateful.
I don’t know what to make of all of it, on some level, other than to continue saying thank you and just keep keepin’ on. For so much of last year it was impossible for me to see anything positive. I tried so hard, and still I was groping my way through the dark. I could not look at my world and say, if I just change my outlook, my world will change too. I read article after article after book after book about happiness (whatever that means) and depression and lifting yourself up and triumphing over adversity and I meditated and did yoga and ran almost every day at the gym and blah blah blah. None of it made one spark of difference, at least not at first. When people told me–and everyone who said this had the best of intentions and said it with love–that positive things happen to positive people because they leave themselves open to the smallest of joys, I thought it was all bunk.
I am trying, I wanted to say, and it’s not working. I cannot find joy anywhere. Nothing about this is ever going to change.
There are a lot of combined reasons for the eventual shift in my own outlook, and I’d be lying, again, if I said that going on medication wasn’t a part of it. So much of how I’ve been seeing the world over the past few months has been in part because I’ve once more been able to breathe, and medication and therapy have given that back to me. They put me in a place where I was able to sit down at the end of a year and reach through all of the struggle to find the joys hiding underneath.
Even so. I have worked hard. (And there is still more hard work ahead.) But I got myself back to that place at the end of the year, my old optimistic place of tongue-in-cheek bunnies and sunshine. Suddenly I am smiling at the world again, and the world is smiling back. In so many ways, through so many people. And I don’t know what to make of it, except to say that it is magical, and I am grateful, and if there is plenty more magic waiting in 2016, I won’t be at all surprised.