I couldn’t find a word for this year, so I put it to my siblings and my mother. “What would you say the theme of this year has been for me?”. Resilience, they answered. I’ve sat with this for a little while, because I’m unsure if I agree; I didn’t feel resilient, brave or strong at all last year. I allowed myself to slide into a mental slump that I’m now finding difficult to climb my way out of.
Instead, I’ll face up to myself and say that 2018 was the year of resistance. I stood at the shores of change in all its forms, stomping my feet and yelling, “I don’t want to”. Paralysed by all past & perceived hurt, and all future unknowns, I was neither moving forward, nor staying here. I was somewhere else, becoming someone else I no longer knew, letting it eat away at me from the inside-out.
I stopped viewing life’s challenges as opportunities to grow and my pessimism reared its ugly head over and over. As a person who is already constantly waiting for the worst to happen, the year that was 2018 reaffirmed my unfortunately deep-set belief that if I let myself be happy, something bad is bound to happen. As Brené Brown has written, “when we lose our tolerance to be vulnerable, joy becomes foreboding.” Trying to protect myself from future pain after a hard year meant that I actually hindered my ability to experience happiness to its fullest degree in the present, and I regressed into old habits, behaviours & mental patterns that did not help my thinking become any more positive than a polar bear’s chances of surviving in the jungles of Borneo.
Now, here we are, at the start of another year, and I still feel exhausted (a fate of my own doing). “New year, new me” doesn’t work when the old me is still here, corroding my mindset from the start & dragging everyone down with me. Time is a man-made construct, so don’t think for one second that the clock ticking over to 2019 equalled a simultaneous uplift of my general mood & demeanour.
2018 wasn’t all bad. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t bad at all. Lots of good happened; perhaps it was that the good was all bittersweet. I started the year off separating from my long-term partner of 6 years, a decision that was ultimately for the best but was difficult nonetheless; I then decided to apply for Permanent Residency, something I have only been able to afford with the help of my parents—meaning the vision of my future and any dreams I aspired to that were connected with my life in Australia are now an empty slate, not to mention the sadness tied with being so far away from my family and friends who have known me for years. I unexpectedly fell in love with an incredible man, an artist and a deep thinker, the very person who has seen a lot of the darkness in me and is pushing me to grow; who believes in my potential to change and be the best I can be. He is helping me learn more about myself; helping me to learn how to shine light on my own shadows.
I was able to go back-and-forth to Vancouver several times to visit my aunt before her passing in October; during at least three of these visits I was also reunited with my mother, who flew to and from Australia to spend time with her, also.
Writing is continually proving to be cathartic (so long as I can let go of my fear of what you all think). Just like talking, writing helps me to process my often very tangled mess of thoughts & emotions, sorting through it all to pick out what I need to work through and leaving the rest. In being able to articulate (and often, ramble—my apologies), I am able to empty, get through the hardest and last remaining pieces, see things as they truly are and sit with them. A lot of the time for me, one painful thought goes careening into another, gathering momentum as a well-packed snowball of horrible and often irrational (but seemingly rational) thoughts and whatever I am experiencing becomes way more painful than it is or has to be. Slowing the snowball down is something I got better at, but I still have work to do.
Moving into the new year, however man-made the construct, it’s still nice to imagine a reset, and a clearing of the old to make way for the new. It is my intention (feel free to hold me accountable) to discard the old habits that cause me pain and to remember how to find my strength in my own vulnerability; to face up to my flaws and my fears and to be okay with the imperfections I carry, as well as the imperfections life has to offer. I am reminding myself that life, too, is a vinyasa*; there are ups and downs as with anything else. I cannot control what happens, but I can control how I react to adversity; I can choose to rise above and maintain a sense of contentment & equanimity anyway. Yes—rather than aiming to maintain a forever happy attitude (which would also be unhealthy, unnatural and unrealistic), I will aim for acceptance; rather than saying onwards and upwards, I’d instead like to say, onwards and forwards. This is what I am trying to learn from my aunt Julie. This darkness and heaviness is not me, and it does not have to be; and whilst I don’t feel entirely myself right now, I know that someday soon, I’ll get back there. Onwards and forwards.
*Vinyasa: a word originating from Sanskrit, this word means flow, used to describe a form of yoga but also a concept in yoga philosophy.