When 2016 began I decided I was going to be much more productive. I was going to be brave enough and work hard enough to get whatever it was I wanted for myself.
I close 2016 much more tired than I can remember being in a very long time. Not sad; not disappointed. Not regretful of how I spent the year. Just, pretty tired.
This was a busy year. I evolved significantly during it, and I'm glad for that. But as it closes, and I rest on the emotional and physical fatigue that I achieved along-side the benefits that came from seeking to evolve, I can see that moderation and balance aren't a treat--they are necessary sustenance.
There's this part of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations where Pip is describing the terrifying figure who raised him (his sister). He explains, "Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by their religion."
It's true that any good thing can produce bad results if enough pressure is applied. And while I hope to always find ways to seize the day and make persistence a lifestyle, I equally hope never to do so in a way that leaves me shackled to despondence the way I sometimes was in 2016.
In any event, this year:
I selfishly ate cheese in Wisconsin. I watched a child talk a homeless man out of fear. I was surprised by Brazil backstage. I ate crow and it made my life a lot better. I got lost on a country road in Latvia. I fainted in a deposition. I thought too much about myself and damaged an important friendship in the process. I made peace with a complicated artist and finally let go. I demolished a bathroom. I argued about the Constitution at the Tenth Circuit. I sweated. A lot. I visited a polygamist town late at night. I froze on a boat in Chicago. I surprised myself by crying in a restaurant in Lithuania. I started a podcast and tried really hard not to suck at it. I ate too much chocolate in Idaho's mountains. I moved to a new office and complained. A lot. I had a panic attack in a stairwell. I got stranded on an island in the Pacific. I officiated my best friend's wedding. I bottled pickles. I hit a deer after escaping a campsite. I had my tarot cards read in an Airstream. I bought a stuffed animal at a craft festival from a drunk woman. I saw Paul Simon. I recorded a segment for The BBC. I found East Jesus. I worked on a legal case with a young mom late at night and felt inadequate. I taught my 84-year-old grandma how to use Tinder. I took a surfing class. I lost my temper with a dishonest lawyer over the phone in an airport. I hiked to a waterfall with my mom. I convinced myself that rock bottom sounds scarier than it probably is. I shared sadness with an elderly couple at a cafe in Copenhagen. I watched an elderly cross-dresser slur through some jokes about his body. I biked through hail but it felt more like hell. I sang with my niece.
This year I learned that nobody can force you to feel anything. On some level, feeling is a conscious choice, and half the battle is knowing that.
I learned that good books are best read out loud with meaningful company.
I learned that most people want to do the right thing, even if we don't all agree on what the right thing looks like.
I learned that pride is like good medicine--you always feel better after you swallow it.
I learned that it's usually best to challenge yourself as your enemies would, but love yourself as your friends do.
I learned that it's easiest to love someone when you remember that they are just as scared about something as everyone else is.
I learned to hate the sound my phone makes when I get a new email.
I learned that not everyone gets to have the family they deserve.
I learned that very few worries can't be made a little better through an evening of laughter with good friends.
But more than anything, I think I learned that it's ok to need help. It's equally ok to accept help. We have a tendency to delude ourselves into thinking that needing assistance makes us weak, and being weak makes us sad. I don't believe any part of that equation anymore. As I look over my three decades, I can see that my most cherished memories were made possible because people were there for each other. I wonder if that's true for you, too.
I'm glad that it's true for me.
People are always saying at the end of a long year that they can't wait for it to end. That they can't wait for the new one to begin. I don't really know why we say these things. There's actually no magic that resets life along with the calendar. We can change ourselves and our situations just as well on June 7th as we can on January 1st.
But for some reason it feels easier to believe that a clean slate awaits at this time of year more so than sometime in the middle of it.
And today, that's probably ok to believe.
Farewell, 2016. Please accept my love to each of you, and my sincere hope that 2017 just gets stranger in your neck of the woods.
~It Just Gets Stranger