Thursday, December 31, 2015

On Years Old and New (Or, Here We Go, 2016...)

I am the New Year stereotype. Every December 31, like clockwork, I get nostalgic and reflective. I write something down - sometimes it's short, other times not so much - about the year that was and resolve to be a better version of myself in the year that will be.

None of this is leading into a, "Not this time, though..." transition. I'm going to do everything I just said. I don't mind being a stereotype. Just wanted to let you know what you were in for.

The thing is, I like having these written records. They keep things in perspective, keep me from remembering the past as being all good or all bad. And they help me learn.

Many years ago, as I was emerging from one of my worst bouts of anxiety and depression that I didn't have the language or awareness to describe as anxiety or depression yet, I very much felt the need to assert some measure of control over a life that felt like it was spiraling away from me (which made no sense, because it was mine). As I was falling asleep one night, I decided that the next day was going to be a Good Day. Not, "good," in the sense that it would be the best. Not even, "good," in that nothing bad would happen. It would be a Good Day because that's how I would approach it and all that came with it.

So often, I would let one unfortunate thing - waking up late, missing a bus, a rude cashier, whatever - set my tone. I'd write off entire days, weeks, months, years as awful. Wasted. The product of a vengeful universe. The ease of it felt good. It soothed the frustration of dealing with the people and circumstances I couldn't control and absolved me of the responsibility of taking ownership of things I could if I weren't so afraid. Nothing you can do if the universe is against you, right? No point in trying if you're already guaranteed to fail.

What I learned fairly quickly - or, at the very least, was finally forced to acknowledge - through practicing this aggressive optimism was that there is no such thing as the universe being against you. Or even for you. Things happen. We handle them. Sometimes well, sometimes not so much. Ultimately, at the end of each day, we're all given an opportunity to decide what we think about the world and ourselves in it.

2015 sucked royally in many ways (poetry). I lost family. I lost track of me for a little bit. I struggled through one of the worst depressive periods I've had in a while, and I did not talk about it or reach out until it was over because I was too ashamed and embarrassed. My self-care toolbox got dusty and, in some cases, left behind completely.

But 2015 was also the year I learned that, while I can still get lost, there is no limit to the number of times I can find myself again. I met new people. I made new things. There were big changes and challenges and accomplishments, and at the end of it all, now, on December 31, I am here. And I think the world and I are worthwhile. We are not perfect, and parts of us are dark and ugly and in need of some serious maintenance, but we deserve the work. We are worthy.

I'm not entirely naive. I know that not every day can be a good day. Not every year can be a good year. But I don't believe in writing any of it off. My time is not a waste, no matter what I do with it. That, for me, is the difference between good and Good.

So here we go. 2016. I'm going to help write an opera. You'll be hearing about that soon. I'm going to ride my bike from here to L.A. You'll hear about that too. I'm going to try new things, push new boundaries, make some changes. And that's just the stuff I'm planning - who knows what else will come along? It's all very exciting and horrifying, but I'm getting used to that feeling.

There will be rough things too. I can't know what they will be or where they will come from. Nor can I spend my time living in fear of their arrival. I just have to trust that I can take what comes my way, and remember that I don't have to do it all alone.

Tomorrow is a brand new thing. Be the stereotype, if that's what you want: join a gym, go for a hike, buy a bunch of vegetables, get a shiny new dayplanner, ask someone out. Whatever feels right. Just don't use the year that will be to punish yourself for the year that was.

No wasted time.

Note: I can't end that serious, so hey, didja notice? New title! I've had a dietary shift over the last few months. After about five years of living a predominately vegan lifestyle, I've reincorporated some dairy, fish, and eggs. I initially started eating vegan because I had major food-related problems that I won't get into here and needed the nutritional education and appreciation. My health, my relationship with food and with my body, and just my overall well being improved dramatically. Now that I have that foundation, this felt like a natural next step for me personally. 

I still eat predominately vegan, and I don't believe I'll ever start eating red meat or poultry again - I've lost my taste and desire for it - but bottom line is the label just isn't accurate anymore. New year, new title, same blog!