Monday, December 29, 2014

2014

Each year when I sit down to write the New Year wrap-up post, I begin the process by reviewing what I wrote the year before. It gets me in the mood to reflect. And it's always fascinating to me to review the emotions I expressed the prior year.

One of the best things about writing this blog, and writing so regularly, is that it's a really effective way for me to preserve my states of being and to track the evolution that comes with growing up. As I sat and read the 2013 post, the flood of 2013's emotions came back to me.

That was a hard year. In many ways, my very hardest. And when I reached its conclusion, I remember thinking that it was a miracle that I survived it. I know those words sound dramatic. But for me, at that time, they didn't even begin to capture how torn apart my soul felt after everything I had experienced in Palau and its aftermath.

I knew that 2014 was going to be a different story. It had to be. Because I felt like I began it at rock bottom. And true rock bottom is a firm boundary, comforting in its limits that at least appear to mean that things can't get worse.

Of course, I wasn't really at true rock bottom. Things can always be worse. But when you're really struggling, concepts of relative pain quickly become incomprehensible. Pain is pain. And the lowest you've ever been becomes the newest rock bottom, because it's the worst you've known.

Enter 2014.

In 2014 I saw someone try on dresses in Mexico. I acted like an idiot while camping. I had two overnight guests turn into roommates. I went to a drive-in movie. I threw up at an acquaintance's house and hoped she would never find out. I wandered through a war zone. I got into an argument with a judge. I tried to understand someone's depression and did a pretty bad job. I befriended a stranger at Starbucks. I read To Kill a Mockingbird and complained that the movie left some stuff out. I pulled a prank on some girls in a Ukrainian coffee shop. I listened to an announcer explain that the Ironman was cancelled as I stood on the banks of Lake Tahoe in my wet-suit. I cried. I fainted in the bathroom and found out I had an enlarged heart. I biked through vineyards with good company. I attended a women's conference and tried to stay out of the way. I bought a house. I fell in love with a puppy. I stole someone's socks and felt bad about it. I opened up to my family. I sprinted through an airport barefoot in Amsterdam. I tried a couple of cases all by myself and sweated a lot. I lost a toenail. I saw the worst side of a person. I turned 30. I revisited a Ukrainian hospital and all of my emotions on a tenth anniversary. I fell in love twice and out of it once. I shared my life story on a beach in San Diego. I attended a theme park religiously. I got an email from Paul Simon that ended up being a lie. I finished a triathlon for the first time. I saw Warren Jeffs's house. I threw weekly Survivor parties for two very different groups. I fled Vegas with new friends. I embarrassed someone around a campfire. He deserved it. I went on an Easter egg hunt in my apartment. I found amazing Mexican food in the middle of nowhere. I was a shoulder to cry on. I was taken advantage of. I shed tears in a food court. I fell asleep at the gym after working through the night.

And what did I learn?

It was a weird year. My best, certainly. It was the year I sort of became a grownup. It was the year I turned from broken to . . . mostly strong. A year in which I was finally brave enough to find peace. But it was a really weird year.

It was a year of shake ups. A year where people I cared about greatly surprised me. Sometimes these were in great ways. In a few instances, they were absolutely terrible. And as a result of some of those surprises, the way I develop relationships with others in the future will probably be a little different.

These are growing pains. At least, that's what people call heartache when there's not much you can do about it. Labels like these are supposed to sooth us into the relief that the hurt we feel isn't novel. It's not unprecedented for humanity. It isn't even unexpected. It's all part of the game. A necessary part, probably.

When we look back over the year, or decade, or our whole lives, we wax nostalgic. We say things like, "I wouldn't trade the lessons for anything." But in the lesson-learning moments, meh. Sometimes we would trade the experience for, well, anything. And I don't know who's right. Is it the past version of myself who feels the pain or the later version who only remembers it? It's easy to assume that the present version of yourself knows better than any version that came before. But try telling someone who is suffering tragedy now that what they are experiencing is totally a good thing.

If they'll listen, the only power that will get them to believe what you say is hope. Because a promise that the tragedy isn't unprecedented, or unexpected, and is maybe even necessary, doesn't take the sting away. It just helps you believe that the sting might go away later, and be replaced by something a little more pleasant.

Hope is just the prologue to gratitude. It's good fortune that hasn't yet been fertilized by time and perseverance. It's the optimistic simile of platitude. I say "optimistic" because unlike platitudes, hope has teeth.

Hope.

It's what powered me through another year of happiness, heartache, and strange. And more importantly, it's what allowed me to consider that happiness, heartache, and strange a good thing. I think hope is what carried me into this year. And now in contrast and because of what I saw it do, it's what I'll carry into the next.

It was another strange year in the middle of strange life. One I get to share with you. And I'll be happy to move onto the next where we can laugh and cry together as It Just Gets Stranger, just like it always does and just like we always do.

21 comments:

  1. I love your absolute honesty, Eli!

    Wishing you a 2015 that will make you laugh so hard you'll pee your pants on a weekly basis. And love. Always lots of love.

    <3

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  2. For those never having been depressed, this woman describes it as accurately and plainly as it can be - exactly -

    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013_05_01_archive.html

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    1. LOVE Hyperbole and a half and yes she does a marvelous job trying to explain something that is sooo very hard to describe in words. Also this: http://www.robot-hugs.com/helpful-advice/

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  3. Well I hope that for 2015 we are able to buy stranger t-shirts.... Or at least bumper stickers :-)

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  4. Like many others, I found you because of the funny posts. But I stay because of the emotional and emotional posts with depth. Despite my inappropriate jokes about our "relationship" I find you to be a lovely human being, Eli. I wish you a wonderful year.

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    1. Yeah...honest and emotional posts. The emotional and emotional posts are different. :-)

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  5. "Hope is just the prologue to gratitude." One of the truest and most poignant things you've ever written here.

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  6. Here's to a beautiful New Year. May it be filled with joy and wisdom. I was going to say peace, but then that would mean you wouldn't be able to regale us with stories of the insane situations that seem to befall you. So maybe a little silliness, too. And PLEASE keep on posting dramatic readings of your childhood journal.

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  7. "I stole someone's socks and felt bad about it." THIS is probably the most surprising sentence in this whole post! Are you turning into an adult? Who is this person who feels badly about taking other people's clothes? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH ELI?
    All joking aside, you are a remarkable person, and I'm proud to be a Stranger. (Which is like a friend you've never met. Thus the capital letter.) May 2015 bring out the best in us all!

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  8. Wait, you're in love? Who? What, where when why how?

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  9. "I lost a toenail"?? YOU GAINED A TAMI!

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  10. I hope 2015 brings a book authored by Eli McCann.

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  11. Could you maybe put the posts with the little snipits? I can't find some and I just started following you :)

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  12. I hope 2015 is a wonderful year for you!

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  13. This is beautiful writing:

    "Hope is just the prologue to gratitude. It's good fortune that hasn't yet been fertilized by time and perseverance. It's the optimistic simile of platitude. I say "optimistic" because unlike platitudes, hope has teeth."

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  14. You forgot about sweat block

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  15. "It was a weird year. My best, certainly. It was the year I sort of became a grownup. It was the year I turned from broken to . . . mostly strong. A year in which I was finally brave enough to find peace."

    Me too! Of course mine probably wasn't as weird as yours... but my adulting muscles are showing promise

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