On Thursday I thought my next post would be about ‘goodbyes.’ It’s the end of the year, there have been so many losses of good and beautiful people, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue here or not. ‘Goodbye’ seemed a useful way to explore that.
Instead, it is the age old question of the New Year: what wisdom will we bring with us from this year and what dreams will we create?
2016 was nearly universally recognized as a crappy year. As the months rolled by, everyone I know seemed to have to deal with some kind of issue or problem or recurrent bullshit. 99% of people I know are ready to see the back of this year as it walks its ass out the door of our lives. We hope 2017 will be an improvement.
But as I began to ponder the year for myself, what I realized is that 2016 was a year of learning things we did not want to learn. And yet, they were still things we had to learn. Life was directing us, instead of the other way ’round. We think we have it all under control; 2016 taught us better.
Thinking about it this way, that Life taught me what I must know this year in order to be prepared for my future, makes the lessons easier to accept. Still, they were not pretty.
Boundaries. I had to learn that sometimes love, concern, care, and loyalty are not enough in a relationship- whether it is with friend, lover, or family (there are times when ‘love’ cannot be the deciding factor in whether we stay or go). There were situations where my own spiritual and emotional health suffered and I had to draw boundaries in order to be healthy. So many times, with so many people, I said, “I can make this work,” and “I will make this work,” and “I will learn something about myself to make this work.” Over and over until I finally realized I was hurting myself. I had learned all I could, and going back was simply destroying my own mind and heart.
We can compromise so much to make something work (and sometimes we need to compromise so we can grow), but in the end, if it destroys our health in the process, it is no longer useful. I learned to create these boundaries this year, even though I did not want to.
Self love. The act of setting boundaries and taking care of our well-being is an act of self love. Refusing to be treated poorly, by ourselves or others, is huge self love. I learned that killing myself for another person was self cruelty, the opposite of self love. I learned to stop hurting myself and began to treat myself kindly and well instead.
Letting go. I wrote often about letting go this year. And it wasn’t just people I let go of, but ideas of myself and my life. I did the exceptionally hard work of closing off my heart and killing love (which is really the opposite of the way I am built- it was very tough work). I worked through the grief. I got better. As before, this wasn’t what I wanted to learn, but it was what I needed to learn. I already see ways in which the skills I have gained from the difficulties of this year will serve me in the future. I’m much more informed, aware, and choosy than last year.
Realizing my own racism and classism. Ah, the wake-up from my middle class bubble happened on November 9th this year. And how awful it was. I thought America was a reasonable place. I thought it was pretty fair. But no- it is not. And my eyes were opened that day. I am grateful for this- I have felt a lot of pain around it and started the process of digging out the poison within my own mind and heart and healing. I am feminist, anti-racist, pro-choice, and laud diversity in our country. I’m proud to say it, and I am doing the internal work that will allow my actions to line up with my convictions and values.
Being the change. Before this year, I knew what I cared about, but I wasn’t ready to fight for it. 2016 taught me to take action for the things I love. To know what I would die for and be prepared to do it. I was never much of an activist before 2016, but I will be now. Integrating activism is part of what I will carry forward as wisdom from this year.
As I look at them now, I can see that all these lessons reconnected me to my values: health, truth, and love. Probably because of them I was so challenged by the lessons this year- I wanted my values to be beautifully expressed, always. Instead, I learned about them by their opposites. But learn I did.
I am also grateful to 2016 because, for so many people, it became a year in which they simply would not tolerate the bullshit anymore. I’m talking about artists who are making protest impactful and beautiful, such as Nona Faustine. Writers (Desiree Lynn Adaway, Christian Fabien, and Kelly Diels, of course) who are opening my eyes and making me smarter so I can be a better fighter. And everyone who has decided to tell the truth of their life because it is time. These make me so grateful for 2016.
One of my favorite thinkers and writers, Brene Brown, says courage is born from struggle. And I think this is true. For those who struggled with difficult situations this year, I know they are stronger, wiser, and better prepared for their life. I am more of an adult than I was December of 2015. And I am grateful for it.
This is the wisdom I will bring with me into 2017.
Dreams for 2017? Yes, I have those, too. Some are simple, others complex. Some reach for the stars, others place me squarely at home. Most of my dreams are experiences- I want a life rich in experience. Of course, we don’t know what 2017 will bring- I might be writing from a nuclear fall-out zone next winter. But wisdom + dreams keep life worth living.
Was 2016 hard? Yes. But only because learning is hard. Learning is also worth the effort. I am so much more happy, free, and healthy than I have ever been before. It was a good year, too.
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If you want to gain some wisdom from your own year, try these questions:
[And seriously, take some time with them. A few hours and a journal- alone. A long, long walk in the woods. You will have ‘right away’ answers, but the good stuff comes after a little quiet has settled into your body and mind. Wait for the deeper stuff; the gold will rise.]
Who, what, or what experience did I over-value? And why?
‘Why’ is probably the important part. Lots of willful ignorance or old family issues stuck in the ‘why,’ usually.
Who, what, or what experience did I under-value? And why?
When fuck-ups happened, what was my part in them?
Answer: at least 1% of any given situation is your responsibility. No one is utterly innocent.
What do I need to learn from my fuck ups/this year?
What do I want to learn from my fuck ups/this year?
[[ You can also use these questions in positive mode. ‘When good things happened, what was my part in them?’ etc. ]]