This must be done. Every year.
What I’m letting go of:
- People who I have given the benefit of the doubt to repeatedly against all evidence that suggested I shouldn’t. People who have consistently behaved like selfish assholes to those they should care for or at the very least show some respect to but never do.
- My mom almost dying twice. Her whole hospitalization. All the fears that this experience brought up for me.
- The last 7 years of trauma and misfortune and mistakes and pain and shame and fear and trying to fly while simultaneously cutting my own wings off.
- The plants I left behind and wish were in my garden here because they are part of people I miss and love and left behind in Oregon and other places.
- Things I can’t force or fit in the spaces I have allotted them.
- The rotten self loathing I have been swimming in since I broke my hip. That I have allowed to grow into a dangerous gangrenous shadow.
- The network of routines and habits that are holding me hostage to that same spirit-swallowing rotting shadow.
- The Shoulds, the would’ves, and the can’ts.
What I’m celebrating:
- All the incredible people who, beyond any reasonable expectation that they should, have stood up with me and my loved ones to help us through the toughest times. All my friends and family who have held my hand and loved me even when I hated myself. All the people in my life who shine their light for me in the dark when my own light has run out of batteries. I’m celebrating this great network of people who have made me laugh and hope and joined me in so many adventures. More than that – I am recharging my batteries so that when it’s dark for you I can be your light the way you’ve done for me.
- I’m celebrating that my mom is not just alive but continuing to regain her strength and her confidence and her sense of fun. No amount of pain or fear I can feel around her trauma can equal what she has felt going through it. I am also celebrating that this awful even came with unforeseen blessings in the shape of my sister who had to abandon her summer plans to be with us and who did it with such love and support and without hesitation. I think my mom could not have come through this ordeal as well without Tara. It gave me a chance to spend a lot of intense time with my sister and as a consequence I have never felt so close to her. That is a true gift that I treasure.
- So many wonderful and important things have happened in the past 7 years that outweigh the narrative of our misfortune. It doesn’t matter, really, how we get to where we are right this minute, it’s a gift to have this minute at all and all the things we have experienced have led us here. I have often said that I was living the perfect life for me right before it went completely off the rails but the truth is that one of the things I’ve always known I was supposed to be doing (writing novels) was something I wasn’t doing in that “perfect” life. I hadn’t broken through the fiction barrier yet and what it took was to have my perfect life shaken up and turned upside down. Eight years later and once again I’m starting to live the life I want to be living and there’s nothing perfect about it. So the narrative of our misfortune also happens to be the narrative of our success.
(I was purposely matching up the things I’m letting go of with the things I’m celebrating as a reflection of how everything I’m letting go of is also something I’m celebrating, but I’m going off point for a second. It bothers my OCD to have my points out of synch but this is me embracing how things don’t synch up comfortably that often in real life…)
- I fucking published my own novel and people are reading it and enjoying it!!! I’m just going to sit here for a moment and enjoy this wild point I’ve been reaching for since I was a kid. So far I think only 20 people have read it but it’s a beautiful 20. It’s just the starting point and I’m allowed to be excited about it.
- I have a new small garden to start over with and I wasn’t sure I would for half of this year. Now I can gather seeds and cuttings from my friends all over again and start fresh.
- I’m celebrating that those things that don’t fit in the spaces I have allotted them in my life don’t belong in it and letting them go makes room for the things that naturally fit into it. Life is constantly shape-shifting and what fits into it changes too. It never works to force things. Let it all come together organically and it won’t break so easily.
- The hip-breaking was a real watershed but self loathing isn’t all I grew from it. I also became a lot more raw and connected to myself in a physical way – I have done a lot to destroy my body but I also have spent a lot more time IN IT, truly feeling it in a way I never did before. There is room now for a deeper level of self respect than I was capable of before. It’s going to be a long road back out from under that gangrenous shadow of self loathing – but I recognize in this the same opportunity for rebirth that I seized just before I turned 18 and told my self-harming spirit to choose either life or death, that I couldn’t live forever in the purgatory of neither being alive nor being dead. I chose life. For the second time in my life I recognize this same opportunity to choose to live or to die. I’m choosing to live again.
- I’m celebrating that the same aspect of my personality that allows routines to become dangerous and self-harming also allows me to change them into habits of health and greater mental stability. Making the changes is hard but they are also self-perpetuating. I CAN do this because I’m good at latching onto routines. I did it 26 years ago. And then refined my routine changes 24 years ago the first time I quit smoking and quit hanging out with toxic people and lived completely on my own and recreated my whole narrative and learned to laugh by myself and nurture myself as I had not previously known how to do. I CAN do this.
- I never dwell in the shoulds which are about other people forming expectations of you or making you believe that their yardstick for success is better than your own. I let this go as a daily practice. The minute I feel a should coming on I shatter it.
So many people I love are consumed by the sense of what they should want, what they should strive for, how they should behave, who they should love, what they should be doing, what they should be capable of, how they should look, what they’re lives should be like, and who they should be. It’s all crap. I’m asking all of you to shove the shoulds in the trash where they belong. You’re the only one who gets to measure your own success and happiness and if it looks totally different from everyone else – it’s okay. Let go of how other people are seeing you or how they might be judging you. Live the life YOU want to live.
It is not my practice to hang onto regrets but I have to admit that I have spent too much time in the last 7 years dwelling on the woulds and would’ves. I have a lot of friends who spend way too much time dwelling on them too. It doesn’t get us even a milimeter closer to our goals and dreams or happiness. Regret is not a good tool for growth. Everyone feels it, but we have to let it go quickly or it takes root and drives us into walls. It doesn’t matter what would’ve happened if only we’d made a different choices than the ones we made. Don’t dwell in that space. It’s not important how things would’ve been different if… The only thing that’s important when we make mistakes is to ask ourselves what we WILL do the next time we’re faced with a similar situation. So let’s crush those would’ves in our bare hands and refuse to let them become the anthem of our lives.
The can’ts are something I work hard at not indulging in. I have a habit of dreaming big. The blessing in this is that there isn’t much I tell myself I can’t do. I CAN become a career novelist. I CAN become a better mother. I CAN become a better friend. I CAN listen to people. I CAN move beyond my pain. I CAN make most things I set my mind to. But sometimes I come across a barrier so big I feel defeated before I have even raised a hammer to try to break it down. I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to chip away at barriers even when it seems to make no dent or change. I fall down, I get up, I fall down, I get up again. Sometimes my friends help me get back up again because they believe I CAN even when I don’t. So, my friends who are staring down the great wall of can’ts – listen to those people around you who are telling you that you CAN. They aren’t lying to you. They aren’t making empty promises. They aren’t blowing wind out their asses for a lark. They see things in you that you don’t always see in yourself. Let’s celebrate all that we CAN do together.
Dammit. I totally ruined the whole perfectly sequential points that I thought I cleverly fixed with the addition of the one numbered point by separating the last item into three. Errrrrrgh! I’m not changing it. It will just have to be jacked up because I can’t take any of it back just to keep order. You probably don’t even know what I’m talking about since my order is generally off-kilter anyway.
I’m halfway through the last day of the year, my favorite day of the year, and I feel peaceful, hopeful, and happy. I want the same for all of you too! I wish this feeling was a communicable disease. I’d infect you all mercilessly! I’d love to know what you’re letting go of and what you’re celebrating from 2013 before we say goodbye. But only if you feel like sharing.