December 28, 2009

Maybe It's Me: Hope in Solidarity, or, Gratitude and Grief

I’m saddened to see this year come to an end.

I know that it was a troublesome year for most people in my world. A year plagued with endless heartache; a year where our hardships were on display for the world to see; a year where when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, for a lot of people, it did.

There wasn’t one thing about this year that defined it as especially bad. Perhaps it’s just an overwhelming sadness deep within all of us from the burden of responsibility I think we all innately feel regarding our ever weak economical situation, the slow and inevitable destruction of our earth’s resources, and for our continual disrespect and misunderstandings of each other.

And of ourselves.

This was a difficult twelve months for me, I certainly didn’t get through it unscathed, but it was an important year as well, which is why my head and heart are caught somewhere between joy grief and gratitude.

This time last year I had just finished what would come to be known as my “Year of Self Destruction” where I did absolutely everything in my power to make sure I could not flourish as a human being. Happiness, success, worth – I made sure these things were unattainable to me as I continued to poison myself with wrong choices.

Coming into this year with my head held high, despite the self-inflected annihilation of my character, I had great expectations for myself. Nothing, I thought, could be as awful as what I just put myself through. I had suffered at my own hands, and it was time to rebuild.

And rebuild I did.

I went from being the marketing specialist for a major alcohol corporation, making a ridiculous amount of money to being completely unemployed for six long months despite my best effort to find a job. I eventually was sought after by two separate companies to work for them as their marketing director – despite not having a college degree – and took the one that was less established and less stable, because, hey!, life might as well be an adventure right? I make barely enough money to pay my bills and feed myself, but I make just enough money to pay my bills and feed myself. And in this world, sometimes that’s all you really need.

I started the year as a hopeful novelist and am ending the year as proud award-winning author.

I gave up snowboarding and playing the guitar – two things I was very passionate about – so that I could take my emotions head-on. Over the years it had been so easy to take my frustration out by carving down a mountain at irresponsible and reckless speeds. It had been so easy to work through my sorrow and anguish by plucking at strings that gave my sadness a sound, something tangible I could pass off as art.

Have you stripped yourself of excuses or guards lately and just let yourself feel? Raw emotions are incredible! They are consuming, empowering, and make life worth living.

I met the love of my life. And he shattered my existence. I have no faith in my ability to fall in love again at this point. And I’m okay with that. It’s okay to be broken; it’s okay to embrace our brokenness and wear it as a badge of honor, especially when it comes to affairs of the heart.

It’s a lot better than pretending that we’re all fine.

Because we’re not.

I watched the strongest woman I know, my mother, get diagnosed with MS - what it does to her body frightens me senseless and makes me thankful every hour that modern medicine is going to let me have her in my life longer than if this was fifty years ago. I watched the most independent and creative mind I know, my sister, fall so deep into depression she physically doesn’t even look like herself anymore – and there’s nothing I can do for her except love her. I watched my own flesh and blood verbally persecute me before turning their backs on me probably for the rest of my life, all because I stood up for what I thought was an injustice.

I sleep well at night knowing that I stood up for what I believed in.

In June I was rushed to the hospital because I was having stroke like symptoms. I’ve spent the last six months in and out of the neurologists having tests done, because there’s something misfiring in my brain that leaves half my body numb and weak. Imagine being a healthy twenty-something and overnight not being able to feel the razor on your skin as you shave, or, being unable to hold a cup in your hand. I’ve been tested for Lyme disease, thyroid disease, hepatitis, chemical poisoning, vitamin D deficiency, Parkinson’s, MS, scoliosis, and hysteria. I’ve had two MRIs, an EEG, an SMPS, and a lumbar puncture. I am scheduled for more blood work and an EMG in a couple weeks.

I’ve only had one cold all year long.

I discovered yoga. Oooohh, did I discover yoga!

I studied food production and animal rights, and came to the conclusion that I would be a healthier, happier me if I became a strict organic eating vegetarian. And so I did. With that, I altered seventy five percent of my existence to exclude items that were test on animals or include animal byproducts. It was an expensive and overwhelming transition – but it was absolutely worth it. I’ve never felt better about what I consume, my overall impact on the planet, or my ability to truly practice the act of compassion.

I read more.

I laughed more.

I wore my favorite sweatshirt and listened to my favorite music more.

And through this all, I became me.

So yes, I am sad to see this year pass, as it was the year I rebuilt and found myself.

It was my “Year of Self Discovery.”

The truth is: the world keeps getting darker, despite our common efforts globally to preserve our individual integrity; despite cultivating the communities to which we belong. Everyone is looking for The Answer. What is The Answer to our problems?

There isn’t one.

Because the problem is ourselves.

We’re not gonna find peace or happiness from any one, or anything, or any place. Because, cliché as it is, it comes from within. Peace, love, happiness – that comes from a deep place inside all of us. It’s deciding to smile in the face of adversity; it’s accepting the fact that sometimes we’re not where or what we thought we were going to be and taking the responsibility for that instead of blaming our age, our socioeconomic situation, our gender, our ethnicity, or our government on our troubles; it’s recognizing that we are worthy of love and of loving; it’s embracing hope when there is none.

So, for this New Year, I encourage you, despite how dark your work is, take solace in knowing that you’re not alone, because everyone in their own right is troubled.

And there is hope in solidarity.

And hope can be a mighty powerful force.