Last year, I used the following quote:
“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.”― Mary Jean Irion
When I thought about what I wanted to say this year, I found myself drawn to it once more completely forgetting I used it then. This tracks though with how this year has felt filled with reminders of lessons I’ve already learned. A groundhog day of impatient “I know, I know”s back to the universe who doesn’t seem to quite trust that I have indeed learned yet what I’ve meant to and hurls the lesson back towards me. It’s almost meditative at this point as I find myself leaning into the repetition with the seemingly extreme nature of how I’m existing only serving to refine and expand (my chosen themes for 2021) that which I truly desire. Feeling so far away from aspects of the life I ultimately want is only preparing me to do the hard work to create it. In a sense, this year has been one of creativity in light of that. How can I start building the life I want now? How do I connect with new people? How do I show love from afar? How do I remember I’m not alone when I’m so isolated?
Much of this process has led to creative solutions and a doubling down on the basics I’ve dabbled in previously. I’ve written more letters to more people than I ever have before. I pushed past my true anxiety around video calls and began holding regularly hangs with people from across my life. I’ve transformed my apartment into a makeshift gym doing headstand in one corner and pullups in another. I have a better eye for nuance now. I’ve watched how the seasons impact the same trail before me rather than seeking out exploring every trail I can. I’ve begun to pay attention to who is able to participate more now and, conversely, who is struggling to do so. I’ve deepened my awareness around different types of privilege and the responsibility that comes to share one’s own privilege (I wish I could share my health insurance). I go to the same coffee shop. I order the same thing (iced, vanilla latte even in winter). I try to think of creative ways to engage at a distance with the baristas I can only speak to briefly. Even as I’ve hiked the same trail all winter long, I have an appreciation for how the snow feels different depending on when I go. I’ve never had an appreciation for different types of snow and I marvel at this strange, new knowledge. The repetition is building up my longing, adaptability, and appreciation.
In talking with coworkers and a few friends, I’ve come to recognize that while this might feel like a departure from what’s “normal” for me that for many this is how they must live due to a world often inaccessible to them for a variety of reasons. Many of the lessons I thought I knew cognitively felt different this year when having to live them out for extended periods of time. I thought my relationship with work, productivity, and rest was changed after my 3 month sabbatical at the end of 2019 only to find my 27th year forced me to examine them in a way I hadn’t had to before. I’ve long known how to go fast and far but it’s been powerful to really have to listen to my soul and to see what it feels like to not be able to. I’m now trying to make space to listen and learn from those who have long lived in a world that’s often overlooked how best they can participate. My hope is for optionality in the future and for more pathways to participation to be built, maintained, and iterated upon.
Prior to this, I was walking through life like one does in a giant art museum. At a certain point, you can’t consume it all and the masterpieces begin to blur. You strain your eyes and you drink more coffee but time marches on and there’s always more to see. This year has felt like being stuck in a single room of an entire museum. Sometimes, this caused immense frustration at how unreachable the other rooms were and how much I wanted my loved ones to see this one piece so badly. At the same time, I got to experience the beauty of rest whether that meant calmly staring at one piece for a long time or not looking at any knowing that it would be okay to skip out on engaging deeply that day. Some days, I forgot other rooms existed at all and felt my existence narrow dangerously.
“We are constantly trying to hold it all together. If you really want to see why you do things, then don’t do them and see what happens.” ― Michael A. Singer
This better captures this last year of life. I experienced deeply what happens when I don’t do so many things including some basics like hugging another person. I want to be changed by it all especially now that I have a strong grasp on the “why” of how I approach my existence and have the chance to be more careful in what I choose to carry forward in the year to come. I choose rest not just for a sabbatical length but for a lifetime. I choose to see how our current way of existing wasn’t sustainable for so many. I’ve had to set up clear boundaries between what I can and can’t change. I can help the person on the corner in my own neighborhood. I can’t change the national news. I think about my actions in the context of how it impacts my community in a way I’ve never had to. I crave community and am inspired by how resilient humans are in finding ways to connect with each other. I feel as though I enter 28 with more tools in my toolbox.
In many ways, it’s easy to feel that nothing monumental happened in the last year as the sameness takes center stage but so much has. I learned to cut my hair. I found a brother. I started nervously skateboarding and more confidently woodcarving. I started a new job at the same company. I asked questions I’ve longed to ask. I laid down on the floor for hours at a time just feeling the weight of isolation. I moved to a new city and stayed for the first time in years. I took space from thinking about surrogacy only to find capacity to explore it in a way I haven’t ever been able to. I experienced strange emotional outbursts ranging from crying simply thinking about seeing a friend to laughing hysterically while watching people gather without masks at a political gathering at the height of the pandemic. I went to therapy to unpack the suicidal ideation that’s followed me for too long and, just this week, started therapy once more to tackle the experience of being born through surrogacy more directly. I took 7 months off of all social media and spent that time building up new ways to connect. I shared my love of lifechats by creating letslifechat.com. I experienced my first real winter and learned to love the cold. I isolated myself even in a state of isolation when it all felt like too much opting to turn my phone off, disengage, etc. I’ve spent nearly a year hosting ~biweekly/monthly “Queerantine” zoom calls with a crew of a random collection of friends. I’m on a meditation streak of over 100 days. I slept in over and over. Ultimately, I adapted and I mourned.
To celebrate my final day of 27, I headed off on a hike yesterday. Everything I wore, I got in the last year as I ventured into the snow slipping, sliding, and post-holing as I went. I listened to a new podcast with one headphone in while keeping my other ear open in case of wildlife (something I’ve had to learn to do). I packed some more familiar items in the form of my camera and hammock hoping to use both which always feels like an act of optimism. I hiked the same trail I always have but ended up forging a new path in search of more stable snow until I reached a point when I had to turn around, the snow refusing to comply with my plans. On the way back down, I paused at one of my favorite views. It’s become a ritual of sorts for me to do so and to spend time thinking about those I wish could be there while I let the silence fill me. Rather than continuing on, I chose to rest and to create my own adventure on a path I’ve walked countless times by throwing my hammock up between two trees. I slowly swayed there for about an hour sometimes closing my eyes, sometimes taking photos, and sometimes just smiling to myself. At one point, I scribbled down a note which partially says, “I can’t believe this is my life. I can’t believe I get to feel the ache of wanting to share it with others and to have others to share it with at all.” I both wanted to stay there for hours and was keen to move on by the end because there was more I wanted to do. I smiled when I recognized that to be the case. What a gift it is to have something more to look forward to you while you’re already having a wonderful time.
I still feel like I have so much more to say and like the words I shared above are borderline nonsense. Once more though, I have other things I want to do with my life today though. To close, here’s a letter I wrote to myself on February 14th of this year using FutureMe:
happy birthday. can you believe you made it to 28? unreal. truly impressive even if half of the reason comes down to pure luck. the other half feels like pure grit and will. celebrate both today. reaching this day even as I write this isn’t promised though so let’s hope you do indeed read this. when you do, pause to be astonished that it’s even possible. you made it to a birthday in a pandemic. while it might seem like you have less to celebrate today, read that last statement again and be extra happy you have this day at all.
you might wake up alone, spend the day alone, on and on but don’t get deluded into thinking you’re alone. be kind to yourself. continue to lie down on the floor for longer than you “should” (you know you will whether I write this or not). have an outrageous meal. get drunk & dance wildly… or watch endless live concerts of favorite songs… or stay sober & marvel at being so aware of being so alive. whatever you do, do it with kindness for yourself.
let in some extra love today. you can never have too much of it. store up any extra you can’t bear to process for a rainy day. oh and reach the fuck out to whoever the fuck you want to. treat yo-self by making a fool of yo-self because life is too short and you should love fiercely as only you can. consider this your permission slip to stop overthinking how much you just want to love on and do life with others.
whew, we made it another year. it’ll never be short of astonishing.
– 27 year old you
It’ll never be short of astonishing.
It’ll never be short of astonishing.
It’ll never be short of astonishing.