2016, I am glad you are here.
2015 was a year of growth, change, light shed, shed weight, uncertainty, difficulty, and learning. It was not all bad (I got transferred to a new school I love! I almost water-skied!), but for the most part it wasn’t easy. I’m kind of eager for a fresh start, and hopeful for what 2016 might bring into the world, for me personally, and also on a more global scale. We could all use a little more light, and hope.
Earlier this week I was lamenting to one of my sisters that my only real regret was dating the man who I believe caused the trauma that lead to nearly five years of intense anxiety and depression and a deep sense of worthlessness (that began to lift, finally, this past spring), as well as a near-total loss of trust in myself and others. She said that I shouldn’t regret it, that maybe I needed those dark years, and that if I hadn’t experienced them now, I may have experienced them at a different and possibly more difficult or inconvenient time in my life. I can’t know for sure, but I had no material to use in a disagreement, and plenty to use as affirmation (namely, my mom’s close friend saying “Katie always picks the hard way, doesn’t she?”). Either way, I can’t bemoan what is said and done. The best I can do is learn from my experiences and move forward. And that is what I aim to make 2016 about: learning and healing, becoming whole again. Also: living deeply, imagination, dedication, inspiration, responsibility, mindfulness, trying new things and meeting new people, being healthy, being good and more giving to others.
We arrive here tiny, but whole. Along the way we grow bigger and bigger but, sometimes, emptier, too. Smaller in total mass than we were the day we were born. Things happen around us or to us that we could never have imagined. Tragedy strikes for some, heartache for others, depression, social isolation, addiction, abuse, alcoholism, loss, divorce, bewilderment, neglect. The list is long and dark. And none of us gets to pick which happens to us. Things just come when they do. We can lay down in the middle of the road and stop, we can give up living without even knowing we are doing so. I did this, for a while. It wasn’t until this past year, 2015, that I realized where I was and that I needed to get up again. Because humans also have, I think, the ability to learn and grow from each experience, no matter how terrible, no matter how self-emptying. We may get caught in the process, stuck like a spider in its own web. But I think within us all exists the capacity to get out, to find our way again. Our complex webs become tools, not death-traps.
Tomorrow, (on the real 1st and not 3:00 in the morning) I move into a new studio apartment (with the help of some very generous and kind people in my life). The last time I moved into a new studio apartment, it was small, I was twenty-nine, I was single, and I was depressed but didn’t know it. I looked at the room I’d be sleeping in, the thought of an 18-month lease looming in front of me. “I’ll turn thirty in this miniature place,” I thought to myself, horrified. Now I am thirty-one, single, a little lost and confused but not depressed. When I looked at the small room I’d be sleeping in, my heart quickened, my head filled with light. “I will rebuild myself in this miniature place,” was what I thought to myself, no horror anywhere to be seen or felt. I’m going to do my best to look at the world from a place of abundance, not scarcity. I have a good life, a good job, a good mind, good people around me. But it can be easy to slip in between the pages and get lost in the dark and deep spine behind everything.
I’ll close this with a a short story about Zen Master Ikkyu I read recently, in one of my Christmas present books:
One day a man approached Ikkyu and asked: “Master, will please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?” Ikkyu took his brush and wrote: “Attention.” “Is that all?” asked the man. Ikkyu then wrote: “Attention, Attention.” “Well,” said the man, “I really don’t see much depth in what you have written.” The Ikkyu wrote the same word three times: “Attention, Attention, Attention.” Half-angered, the man demanded: “What does that word ‘Attention’ mean, anyway?” Ikkyu gently responded, “Attention means attention.”