Tidings of Comfort and Joy: On a New Year

This past year, I survived my first surgery and my millionth break-up; I lost and found both of my mothers again; I felt true support for a few moments, a type of love I could briefly accept, from my now-ex boyfriend of several years; I took several steps backward in physical activity; I stopped coloring my hair, gradually cutting off the detritus; I saw my mother in fear of her life, hospitalized three times, then settle back home in a more grateful place; I heard my grandmother laugh at her own forgetfulness and take cheap shots at all of us under her breath, and I admired her grace; I’ve felt defensive, hurt, and fearful more than usual but was able to push it aside to plough through much of the above.

But at what cost? To be a hurt child afraid of nearly everything takes so much from experience, especially joy. There have been many moments in 2015 that brought great relief, appreciation and gratitude, but rarely proper joy. I think I felt it when Ryan came home in 2014 for the academic year we had mended some things, or were at least willing to put those things aside out of care for each other and to move forward. His transition to school so far South was not easy, so the idea of him coming home to re-evaluate was comforting. While it brought no promise of staying, it brought at least physical proximity and time together to heal.

While he was a great source of patience and kindness to me in many ways throughout the years but especially this summer, when my mother was struggling with health emergencies, and I had my own surgery, things still built up. There was still a residue of resentment when he left, or when I could not pretend fully to feel happy about his departure, or struggles with a disorganized PhD program that seemed to be stringing him, and therefore our relationship along, in terms of how long it would take him to complete his degree. I was and am glad for his pursuit of what he loves, but could not deny that while I was tolerating the long distance (much better this time around, I thought) that it was still daunting.

After my family health crises subsided, all of the stress that I had put aside to confront the details of getting us through it came down hard. I was not easy to talk to or deal with. I felt simply like I needed to fall apart a bit myself finally, once I had the time and space at all to do it. Of course, that did not yield any good results…I felt selfish and demanding, but after a lifetime of taking care of people I really needed some affirmation that someone could maybe take care of me, even if I was being childish, disagreeable, etc. That bit of vulnerability was tough for me to reach and that is rarely the case…and as quickly as I reached out I snapped shut, angry and fearful of being hurt, of all the people I had almost just lost (my grandmother also had surgery, and my biological mother was in a nursing home facing the loss of her leg), all those I had actually lost, and will lose. It turns out, now I have lost Ryan, too, and no doubt due in part to some of that behavior.

I have felt like I was organizing and coordinating, helping and assisting for a long time. It is in my nature, but it can become me too much, and I forget my other selves, and those people close to me who need more than just a two-dimensional version of me. I don’t like admitting it…it seems to be a functional coping mechanism, but it’s not been worth the damage it’s caused in my personal relationships. I thought I could trust Ryan again, and really be fine with the distance and him having an entire life separate from me. That was simply not the truth, no matter how much I loved him, or how good I know he was to me in many ways through my many issues. Still, I thought just staying and trying was support, and would will us through all things, considering all the things we had already willed ourselves through.

We want to believe, and belief is extremely powerful. It can influence our health, change our minds, create our afterlives. But it can also make us try and try and try again when we should know we need to rest, pause, and sit alone with all of our thoughts. Not just the hopeful ones, the familiar ones that we wish to become the truth, but those that can actually bring us to a fulfillment that remains, one that is fully dimensional or real.

Perhaps that is not a life without disappointment (and I doubt that there can be), or one that allows us to perpetuate our illusions of control, or our imagined path, but one that fosters a kind of unremitting joy only born of taking risks (sometimes those risks are small, or may even be taking care of yourself instead of putting others above your health and happiness), being vulnerable and getting hurt, only by all the things we allow ourselves to interact with and sense, not the phantoms of years past when we felt somehow certain that things must finally work out for us, even when they didn’t.

Too often they don’t, but I know how lucky I am to have the friends and family I do to see me through it, who can provide some wisdom and insight from making their own mistakes, but not allow those mistakes to undo their self-worth.

Take risks, and have a joyful 2016!

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