It’s been a terrible year.
I’m hesitant but somehow hopeful for another, despite the current disasters I find myself weeding through: my toxic and uncomfortably public breakup, an all-too casual global pandemic, an earth that is quite literally dying before our eyes, an unstable body, an unstable bank account… my masochistic need to check my twitter feed every single day. The events of the past year — and likely those from even farther back — the ones that I could lose myself in should I stay too long.
It seems a waste of time — time that I’m not even guaranteed — to assume it’ll all be shit. Worse, it is a disservice to myself to disregard another year of surviving all the things I so often fear that I can’t. I suppose that is my ritual, if ever I’ve had one. I mourn the losses. I celebrate the wins. I offer the future a chance, even if I don’t entirely believe in it.
Good or bad, the end of every year is always a time of mourning for me. It’s hard for me to let time go. To observe time gone. Sometimes, that mourning is tangible: the product of a hard-lived dot on my timeline; other times it is merely a symptom of living in a world that says I shouldn’t be. Life in my disabled body is a constant and agonizing reminder that I am temporary. I am a statistic, a percentage, an outcome, an experiment. I watch my life exceed my life expectancy with more apprehension than awe. I am not afforded the suspension of disbelief that I will live forever. Rather, I am promised and reminded each and every day that I won’t.
And so, I mourn. I stare down all my fear, my stress, my frustration, and I feel fucking sorry for myself. I mourn until I don’t. I mourn until I can’t.
And then I start over, shedding 365 days of hard living for a whimsical and somewhat misguided hope that, if I wake up to the light of a new year, I too, will be new right alongside it. I admit, I need that optimism to love the hard years. To survive the hard years. I need it to look toward a new one, even if it might be the last one. To feel love for the prospect of more time, when so often time feels… bad.
I abandon its ache and choose instead to harness my time in the world like armor, allowing a new year to signal its co-existing reality: that while I may not always be, I am here now. That the aching fear that it won’t be long cannot negate the undeniable truth that now is here and there is still so much more to do.
I’m not trying to be woo-y here. I’m not actually the woo-y type.
As a queer (and a depressive, el oh el), I do tend to scoff at pretty much any and all “power of positive thinking” messaging. I’ve never been anything but harmed by trauma. I am not stronger in my suffering. I don’t think everything happens for a reason. Hell, I don’t even think life is beautiful. But I will do anything to move through it, and to move through it well. And I do feel grateful for it, whatever “it” even is. The ringing in of a new year for me seems one of acknowledgement, and resolution.
And while it is true that, like many others, I use the ringing of a new year to romanticize my life into a more palatable narrative, I try to hold the truth somewhere in me: that time on earth is and has all-too-often been ugly and I can’t find love for all of it. The time that they did that thing that they did? That wasn’t a beautiful time. The minutes it took to fall out of love? The ones with hands grabbing wrists, and mouths used not for kissing, but for spitting those words they’d historically sworn they couldn’t even dream up let alone pronounce? Ugly. The larger horrors of a country divided over the weight of human life, of a human population that seems all too content with letting the world die, of mass shootings, of police brutality, of white supremacy, of violence against trans people, of medical abuse and inequity, of the ins and outs of our news cycles every single day, of loss and loss and loss and loss and loss. An ugly shadow of “what is the fucking point?” hovering over my small body.
I once had a therapist (of two years), ask me of a painful experience:
“What are you feeling, right now?”
“Weird,” I said, looking to the floor, eyes double blinking — a product of my anxiety.
“Weird isn’t a feeling. What are you feeling?” She probed.
I, without a word, grabbed my bag and coat, and walked out of her office.
I never saw her again.
The fetal position, in my experience, is very comfortable. But with time, even then, a shift is needed. A good stretch. A new position. A solid stand. It’s easy to shut down, until it isn’t. Shortly after ghosting my therapist, I started writing. “Weird” isn’t one of my adjectives. I sometimes catch myself wishing I could tell her that. I tell myself instead.
I tell myself that I can. That I will. I will stand here, or maybe lay — perhaps sit — on the cusp of a new year, in the shade of all the shadows that come with the prospect of more time, looking up with my eyes wide open. A soft compromise and fierce commitment to stay here at the center of it all. Picking out my bones from the rubble of last year, and the lingering bits from the ones before. I will tell myself to look forward to the next. To be as thankful for that time as any other.
And I am.
I swear I will be.
RITUALS is a nine-part miniseries edited by Vanessa Friedman. The writers who contributed to this miniseries will share all sorts of rituals: rituals for love, rituals for grief, rituals for forgiveness, rituals for inner peace. We’ll publish a few pieces each week through December 31. Please share your rituals in the comments, and let our contributors know which rituals in particular speak to you.