I haven’t written anything in quite awhile, and I do apologize. I could make a lot of excuses about how I’ve been living my life instead of writing about it, but the truth is that I have mostly been avoiding writing about some of the harder parts of my life, because I don’t want to drudge up a bunch of emotions. Let’s call it emotional recall avoidance or something fancy like that. I have even been avoiding writing in my own personal journal because I’d rather pretend everything is peachy than sometimes admit that it is not, or rather, I am not that at all. It is easier to lie to oneself than to confront the truth, isn’t it? Lies sound better but make you feel worse in the end, no matter how bad the truth makes you feel. The lie delays the hurt, but also adds to it.
I know everyone is spending today reflecting on the past year, and I am no different in this regard. New Year’s Eve is about looking backwards and forwards at the same time, planning out what to change or keep for the year ahead. Other than our birthdays, it’s the only celebration of time itself; it is a call to be present in the here and now but ever mindful of the past and future. We want more time to do the things we love or spend with people we love, we wish for less time spent on things and people who have or may hurt us. We’re going to change everything in the new time given to us, so we all say each year. Time is a valuable currency, and we’re all greedy for more. We think a new year will solve all our problems, because we have three-hundred sixty-five new days to sort everything out, but life has a way of surprising us and filling up our days with events and people for which we never planned.
I could keep lying and say my year was capital and simply post all of the best parts on my Facebook to “keep up with the Joneses” as it were, but frankly, I’m a little exhausted with pretending my life is perfect and wonderful one-hundred percent of the time. I’m not saying all of this to bum you out or to feel fatalistic, but because I want you to know it’s okay to not feel happy or “blessed” all the time. It’s okay to feel morose or livid or terrified of the future. It’s okay to admit to others (and especially to yourself) you really AREN’T “fine” or perfect (whatever THAT means to you). I think we’re too obsessed with creating societal camouflage for ourselves; that is, creating a version of ourselves on and offline that looks better than maybe how we really feel or who we really are for the sake of “saving face.” I know I am so scared, sometimes, of really showing other people who I am, because I have been hurt deeply a few times.
Vulnerability makes us feel weak sometimes, yes, but I’ve also realized there is great strength in it too. Recently, I was talking with someone very dear to me, and the conversation turned intensely personal. He asked if I had ever been in an abusive relationship, and while the question took me by surprise, I felt safe enough to answer. “Not that I am aware of,” I said, “why?” He looked me directly in the eye and replied, “Because sometimes I will say something as a joke or whatever, and you’ll do a total 180 as though you’re afraid of having a differing opinion than me. Your whole demeanor changes. Did you know you do that? You don’t have to ask permission to have an opinion, let alone to feel like you’re not allowed to disagree with someone ever. It just seems like such contradictory behavior for who I think you really are. I like who you really are, so why do you keep trying to change yourself for me? It’s okay to be yourself; no one should make you feel otherwise.”
I felt so incredibly exposed, because I realized that I HAD been in an abusive relationship after all, and the abusive relationship was with MYSELF. In the past year and a half, I have worked so hard to present myself to the world in certain ways that I have sacrificed and compromised too much of myself for the sake of others. I have abused myself. I have let boyfriends condescend to me and try to tell me what to think and believe. I have let people in audition rooms make me think I am not good enough. I have pretended I am fine when I have been falling apart inside because I have been so worried about burdening anyone else with my feelings. The vulnerability I felt in that moment with my friend made me feel stronger than I have in months because I finally saw all of myself, but here was a person (among several I have currently in my life) who saw all of me too, and I felt relieved. I felt relieved to be able to be vulnerable and flawed and human and to have all of it be accepted and encouraged and dare I say, loved, by someone else. My “mess,” in all its glorious technicolor, is part of who I am, but he and others have helped remind me it’s not ALL of who I am either.
I’m not going to lie and say 2014 was my best year. The first few months were spent in heartbreak and depression. There were days I nearly fainted at work because I wasn’t eating; food seemed like the only thing I could control when I felt like the rest of my world was in chaos. I cried myself to sleep every night. I’d scribble horrible, dark thoughts in journals. I found parts of myself I didn’t even know existed, and I would rather pretend didn’t. I am not always such a nice person, and I found out I am capable of saying and doing some terrible things when I am pushed to my limits. And I am still dealing with some of my anger now; anger at people who hurt me deeply. I am often scared I am too much for any man because the last one made me feel that way. I still worry my feelings, especially the ickier ones, are a burden to others. I often feel lost and anxious when I think about the future because I’m not one-hundred percent sure of what I’m doing, especially when I see what others are doing (and trust me, I know comparison is the thief of joy, Roosevelt). I know I have let some friendships wither a bit because I haven’t done enough to cultivate them, and for that and those friends, I am sorry. And I do so, so wish I had had more time with my friend James; not a day goes by I don’t think of him and wonder if I had tried harder to reach out, would that have made a difference? Would he still be here?
But like I said, life has a way of surprising us with people and events for which we never planned. I have met so many people in the last year who have healed me and helped me and taught me things. Many have made me laugh until I cried (which is a far better kind of crying than what I was doing at the beginning of 2014). I found freedom in bicycling and going back to ballet class. My church gave me solace and solidity when I needed it the most. I saw so many amazing plays and musicals and ballets and concerts and movies, which reminded me how much I need and love creation. 2014 was the year I knew true despair and also true joy; in essence, I learned what it is to be human, and that is humbling. But also freeing. Not to get all Marlo Thomas-free-to-be-you-and-me on you, but when you finally let yourself BE yourself — the good parts and bad — all the weight is gone. You are free. It may mean not everyone likes you, but that’s okay, because the right ones will, and the wrong ones won’t. It’s the wrong ones who make you feel like you need to lie about who you are and how you feel; they’re not worth it anyway. They’re assholes.
I know you’re excited and hopeful about having a fresh start tomorrow. Trust me, I understand how important and necessary a fresh start can be. So many of us focus on remaking the outer parts of ourselves by pledging to go to the gym or eating better, and that’s fine, but the inner parts need love and attention too, sometimes even more so. As someone who feels a bit like a phoenix this year, rising from the ashes of her own life, I ask you to check in with yourself once in awhile and really consider how YOU are doing.
When someone asks you how you are, why not be honest and really tell them? You’re not always “fine,” and that’s okay; believe me. Let yourself be human, because that’s what you are, flaws and all! I say this because I don’t think these things get said enough, and I know what it feels like to have to be “on” and “happy” all the time when maybe you aren’t. Whoever you are reading this, know you, all the parts of you, are ENOUGH.
Stay present. Love yourself. Love others. Seek peace. Have a happy, truly happy, 2015.
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald