Debi: You know what you need?
Marty: You wanna tell me what that means?
Debi: It’s a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.
Marty: Oh, that’d be good. I think.
Grosse Pointe Blank, 1997
* * *
I wouldn’t say I’m prone to soul-search any more than the average person, but here I go. Friends, 2015 was hard. Difficult for me and for humanity at large, I’d venture a guess, just from paying attention to news cycles. January and February were okay enough, Spring got a bit weird, Summer was fun in a train-wreck kind of way, and if I could figure out a way to completely delete September, October and November from my mental hard drive, I’d give it the ol’ college try. But still, I don’t believe this year was a total loss. As an individual, and as a society, I think we are learning from our failures and our self-sabotaging.
I am ever hopeful.
I could write in excruciating detail about my own 12 months, but I’ll save the internet from most of my overwrought reflections on
rejection and relationships and anxiety and child-rearing and career and finding a passion and finances and decision making and time management and success and happiness and personal validation and and and and life. Hand-wringing and navel-gazing are getting pretty old around these parts (these parts = my brain.) I can roll my eyes at myself enough for all of us.
But a few thoughts, anyway. (I just can’t help it!)
- It’s hard not to act like a petulant jackass when you find yourself in the scary position of requiring more than typical attention or affection from near-strangers. It’s hard not to scream “WHY DON’T YOU WANT ME? WHY AM I NOT WORTHY?” at a world that doesn’t really want you to be a part of it. It’s hard to be picked last in gym class. Craving personal or professional validation is a poorly disguised form of craving love, and it’s embarrassing to feel unloved.
- It’s hard to watch a perfectly imagined plan disintegrate. Jess Zimmerman said it beautifully in a 2013 Hairpin essay: “A feeling where you’ve built an idea about the future like an intricate origami creature inside your chest, and slowly or suddenly the possibilities turn into impossibilities, and for hours or days there’s a rustling in your rib cage as the complex structure destroys itself, unfolding and flattening, unfolding and flattening pleat by pleat.”
- It’s hard, adulthood. It’s hard, jealousy. It’s hard, frustration. It’s hard, patience. It’s hard, putting yourself out there and being marginalized in return. It’s hard when your hustle fails. It’s all very hard. So a career option didn’t pan out. I’ll live. So a friendship fizzled. It happens. So I’m disappointed in myself. It won’t be the last time.
* * *
This rambling mess may read morose at best / a champion first-world whine marathon at worst, but please trust me - I know exactly how fortunate I am. My family is healthy, my children are thriving. My mortgage is paid on time, I adore my co-workers, I didn’t get in a single car accident this year (better than my 2014!), the dog is still alive, there are people in this world who still hold a great fondness for me and I for them in return. The food is plentiful, the cocktails are appreciated, and the media I continue to consume at an alarming rate is really getting terrific. (Kudos, Netflix and podcasters and Twitter and comedians and Instagram and Internet and modern authors!) I can still find the humor in almost any situation, a trait I will always love about myself. My close friends are remarkable, as always. I mostly appreciate the new people who enter my life - some folks who root-in with plans to stay, and others who float through quickly - because they all teach me… something. (There are a few “somethings” I have yet to find the value in, but I’m absolutely certain a lesson with teeth will pop up eventually.) I have a history of being able to mentally remodel bitter memories into bittersweet ones, and so far it works. Y’all, we’re all gonna be okay. I’m certain of it.
So, no list of concrete resolutions this New Year’s Eve. Instead, just a promise to attempt to be more grateful, gentle, and gracious, both with myself and with the people around me; to take the reigns with regards to my own self-worth and happiness; and to let good things come to me, rather than set myself on the chase. (Oh, and less yelling at my kids. Definitely less yelling.)
2016, I welcome you with open arms, and I’m pleased I get another shot. I think that’s the best any of us can ask for. Once more unto the breach, pals.
Happy, happy, happy New Year.
* * *
A selection of my Kindle highlights in 2015, from a variety of really great reads (see previous post):
“To regret is three things: to lament our personal failings; to mourn the lovely things that are irretrievably past; and to know our own brevity, the fleetingness the bad, as well as the good. It is among the sweetest and most perfectly human of emotions, and it is to be sought, and savored. Without regret we will understand nothing about where we are, or how we arrived here; what we did right, or wrong."
“Like all our memories, we like to take it out once in a while and lay it flat on the kitchen table, the way my wife does with her sewing patterns, where we line up the shape of our life against that which we thought it would be by now.”
“Any fool can be happy, she liked to say. The hard part is feeling like you matter.”
“Most of us have unconscious disbeliefs about our lives, facts that we accept at face value but that still cause us to gasp just a little when they pass through our minds at certain angles.”
“What I miss is the feeling that nothing has started yet, that the future towers over the past, that the present is merely a planning phase for the gleaming architecture that will make up the skyline of the rest of my life.”
“As far as I can tell, most worthwhile pleasures on this earth slip between gratifying another and gratifying oneself. Some would call that an ethics.”
“It speaks to the inability of most people to tell the difference between putting yourself out there and letting it all hang out.”
“Careerism’—the pathological need to have paid employment—is an affliction that only affects women, apparently.”
“Nostalgia is recall without the criticism of the present day, all the good parts, memory without the pain. Finally, nostalgia asks so little of us, just to be noticed and revisited; it doesn’t require the difficult task of negotiation, the heartache and uncertainty that the present does.”
“I will always aspire to contain my shit as best I can, but I am no longer interested in hiding my dependencies in an effort to appear superior to those who are more visibly undone or aching. Most people decide at some point that it is better … to be enthralled with what is impoverished or abusive than not to be enthralled at all and so to lose the condition of one’s being and becoming. I’m glad not to be there right now, but I’m also glad to have been there, to know how it is.”
making our mothers, our grandmothers as angry as starving dogs. They were more severely infected than the men, because while men were always getting furious, they calmed down in the end; women, who appeared to be silent, acquiescent, when they were angry flew into a rage that had no end.”
“Memories are so often made by one hand and deleted by the other, and living is a long churn of making and deleting and we all forget so much of what we could be remembering.”
“You can’t just go sit in a pretty landscape and bet on it changing you into a better person.”
“In life though not in myth we grow more not less aware of ourselves as we fall under the influence of any particular spell; we do not forget but feel ourselves peeling from our original objectives toward whatever siren calls us, as aware of every misstep as can be.”
“You are not in this life to count up victories and defeats. You are in it to love and be loved. You are loved with your head down. You will be loved whether you finish or not.”
and my personal favorite from ‘15:
“I know now that a studied evasiveness has its own limitations, its own ways of inhibiting certain forms of happiness and pleasure. The pleasure of abiding. The pleasure of insistence, of persistence. The pleasure of ordinary devotion. The pleasure of recognizing that one may have to undergo the same realizations, write the same notes in the margin, return to the same themes in one’s work, relearn the same emotional truths, write the same book over and over again-not because one is stupid or obstinate or incapable of change, but because such revisitations constitute a life.”