Earlier today, in between nibbles of homemade spice cookies and short lived naps (as many naps on trains are), I found myself looking back over past posts I have written on or around New Year's Eve. I simultaneously love getting my thoughts out on the page (er, screen) as we embark on another trip around the sun and loathe the pressure I feel to broadcast something meaningful to the social media world that sums up how I am feeling in the present moment, caught on the cusp on a brand new month, the first steps of a shiny new year. As such, I let these two feelings, Love and Loathing, play tug of war for awhile in my mind and heart before calling a truce and opening up a new email, committing to capturing my tangled reflections on New Year's Eve before the train docks in Boston. Midnight approaches, as does South Station, so here goes some imperfect insights.
I resist nailing down some grand conclusion for the year that's on the way out because too many times (at least for my taste), I see folks proclaim things on social media, such as "Good riddance (fill in the year here)!!! You sucked!! This new year better be AWESOME!!!!" Or similarly, "(Fill in the year here) was the BEST YEAR! So grateful and excited to see what wonderful things the New Year brings!"
While I respect everyone's own lived experience of a particular year, these two sample sentiments make me feel an uncomfortable amount of pressure to slap a simplified label on the last twelve months of my own life, deeming it as either the BEST or the WORST. The expectation to reflect on the year in such a binary way feels inauthentic at best, impossible at worst. It's confusing, isn't it?
Melissa: "Well, 2022 was the year I graduated with my MFA, so that's awesome."
Also Melissa: "Oh - 2022 is also the year that I experienced an intense autoimmune flare - not so great."
I could go on and on with these seemingly competing pieces of evidence, each doing its darndest to prove why 2022 was amazing or not, but the arguments would be endless, and no conclusion would likely be reached, at least in a way that felt true. Because none of it's true AND it's all true.
As I embark on my sixth year of therapy, a space in which I am doing a mediocre job of learning to lean into the messy middle where things don't fit neatly into boxes, pressuring myself to check a box for the year (good or bad) feels counterintuitive to all I want to be moving towards, step by shaky step. In this spirit, rather than make a massive statement about 2022 and 2023, I'll offer a smattering of moments and mantras, tiny and towering, that feel meaningful for me as I do my best to show up each day and root myself in the values that feel important to me:
- Breaking a nearly three year long flying fast by getting on a plane to London this summer and having the time of my life in the gorgeous windswept landscapes of England and Scotland (more posts of these treasured moments to come)
- DO IT ALL SCARED (Note to self: No such thing as feeling 100 % ready or prepared. For anything.)
- Dancing in Missouri under an October moon to Lizzo after having the privilege of officiating the wedding of a dear, dear friend of mine
- A student telling me they are going to stick with theatre in part because of their experience in my class
- Ask people you trust for advice AND TAKE YOUR OWN ADVICE AS WELL (you are wiser than you think)
- Continuing to make things, both wonderful and wonky: poetry, blouses, pies, and plays (both finished and in-process)
- On the note of advice, KNOW WHOSE EXPERIENCE DOESN'T APPLY TO YOU (or as Tish Melton says, "Stop asking [people] directions to places they've never been.")
- Beginning Exposure Response Prevention therapy for OCD in order to get some much needed relief
- Continuing to connect / reconnect with My People (near and far) who make life magical
- TWO TRUTHS CAN EXIST AT ONCE (you can be mad as hell at someone and still share love and compassion with them)
- Performing in my first Shakespeare play and having fun with swords
- Getting Covid and having a much anticipated Shakespeare production run cancelled because of it
- Learning to make ramen in my own tiny city kitchen
- STOP FEEDING YOUR OWN SUFFERING (acknowledge that it's real AND don't build your identity around it)
- Continuing to connect with kindred spirits in a house that has a rich history of kindred spirits connecting within its walls
That's all I got for now. Even as I feel slightly let down at the lack of fanfare in this post, I remind myself that I never promised myself some grand conclusion that could be set to swelling music, but rather the acknowledgement that ordinary observations scattered across the spectrum anchored on either side by "BEST!!!!!" and "WORST!! :)"
At the risk of being a real nerd (or a narcissist?), this quote from one of my past New Year's reflection posts, Tangled Treasure feels like a good place to put a pin in this post:
"We always want things to be OR. Gratitude OR despair. Love OR hate. Inspiration OR depression. What if we allowed ourselves to feel confusion AND curiosity AND grief AND hope for the next twelve months? The human heart knows not of the rules we fashion for how we think we should feel. It's all in there swimming around together. I am starting to think that's ok? And if that's ok and we don't have to spend our precious energy fighting ourselves, putting things into categories, locking some things away to keep forever and banishing other things, desperate to cut them out of us for good, what would we have the energy to do? To see? To make? To BE? Gosh, I really want to know."
I still want to know. And I am signing off of the interwebs now to keep swimming in that sea, chock full of wild things that refuse to be wrestled into categories.
May this post be the big permission slip you might need to need not proclaim 2022 best or worst, but something altogether much more nuanced and true.
May you offer yourself grace for however the New Year's reflection feels for you (or throw out the reflection altogether and do something else entirely!).
May you ring in the New Year however this moment calls for, and as you do, take heart that you aren't alone in that messy, mediocre middle.
A few past tries at reflecting on a New Year, if you want to keep reading:
Poem in a Panic
Radical Acceptance for a New Year