I usually love celebrating the new year. It's incredibly fun to spend time with people you love, yelling loudly and drinking alcohol. I think we can all agree on that. But this year, I'm struggling. A lot.
That's kind of a taboo thing to say, isn't it? At the outset of each trip around the sun, we're supposed to be full of optimism, excited about fresh starts and new beginnings. That required mindset is so ingrained in me that I actually feel an odd sense of guilt for my lack of enthusiasm. I wanted to write a blog post about the end of the year, but I didn't have any lists I wanted to write, or extreme cheer to share, so I almost didn't even bother.
But then I realized: this is simply how I feel. That in and of itself is legitimate, and worth expressing. Life is not always sunshine and rainbows, even if that's the image we're all constantly trying to project to each other on social media. And whatever events are taking place in our real, gritty lives, they do not stop just because the holidays are happening. As Brene Brown says, "The gremlins don’t go on vacation. Checks bounce, chemotherapy appointments are scheduled, interventions are planned, relationships keep unravelling, being alone feels even lonelier, parents negotiate who will have the kids on Christmas morning, and the “never enoughs” are in full swing."
The magic is in the mess. And I know we're not supposed to talk about the mess, guys. But if there's any resolution I'm going to make for 2017 (I'm not much for resolutions), it's that I'm going to be at least a little more open about my mess, so that others can feel at least a little more comfortable in theirs. I've had some great conversations in the past few months, with people I respect and love, and one thing that seems to be a universal truth, is that acknowledging your struggles to others is a source of connection. It's a way of saying, "Me too", in a day and age where it's so easy to feel like "It's just me".
So, here it is: as 2016 comes to a close, I'm not okay. And that's okay.
A lot of shit happened in 2016, both personal and global. Massacres, violence, bigotry, displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, loss, turbulence, limbo, heartbreak...the list goes on. These are all reasons to give a big middle finger to 2016, and from what I've seen, that's what many people have been doing. And that's okay. It's okay to be frustrated, to feel unsure, to throw your hands up and say, "What the hell, universe?". It's okay to drink champagne and shout "Happy New Year!" while at the same time wondering if things are going to turn out all right.
Because here's another universal truth: Life is constantly in flux. People and circumstances come and go. The only guarantee in life is that nothing stays the same. Which means that eventually, things will be okay again. No matter what happens. Chances are not everything will be okay all at once, and that not all people will be okay at the same time...but okayness does eventually come back around.
And no matter how dark and shitty things get, I still strongly believe that joy and love are the everlasting, underlying cornerstones of humanity, and that they will always prevail. There is no light without darkness, and no hope and courage without struggle. When I feel the most hopeless, this is what I continue to come back to, time and time again, no matter how hard it is, or how much I want to say, This is pure bullshit. Just the other day, in a fit of hopelessness, I lay down on the floor, spread-eagled, and said out loud to my empty apartment, "Why does this have to be so hard?". And then I got up, watched some Parks & Recreation, and kept on going. Because that's what we have to do, struggle or no struggle: keep on going.
As I was writing this, Elizabeth Gilbert posted on Facebook, and said things with more grace and clarity than I have yet to be able to achieve, and I want to share one of the parts of her post that resonated with me most: "I know it's been a hard year for many of you. ME, TOO. But you are still here. I am still here. We are still in the ring. We still have choices. We still have power. And that's incredible. Also: frightening. Also: sacred."
It is scary to admit you're not okay. It's scary to not know when you will be again. But having the opportunity to move forward in life, muddle through stuff, and come out stronger on the other end of every obstacle that comes your way? That's sacred. And that's why not being okay is okay: It makes the okayness that comes later that much more beautiful.
So to everyone out there who isn't okay: you are not alone. You are not alone, and you are good just as you are, in the midst of whatever you're going through. Do not feel like you have to be miraculously better, or inspired, or happy, when the clock strikes midnight. Life will unfold as it should, and if you are struggling, you are in the middle of a journey that is going to wind up where it should be. Even in my darkest moments, I truly believe that. And I am right there with you.
Cheers to you. And cheers to 2017, no matter what it may bring. Lots and lots of love.