A few weeks ago I found my notebook from January 2016.
In black ink, I had listed the things I was hoping for in the empty pages of a new year.
I had just started a dream job. There were 363 days to fill with goals and books and friends and growth opportunities.
In March of that year, my optimistic self was whacked to the knees with loss.
My world contracted and my goals mixed with tears in a confusing, sloshing slurry.
I threw out my resolutions and sat and stared at walls.
Recently, I sat in my dark basement reading my old words, my heart ached for my younger self. Ambitious. Hopeful. Unscathed by the flickering cold flames of loss.
I felt ashamed and embarrassed of my previous positive outlook. Foolish for hoping in a hurting world.
‘Silly girl, you didn’t know what was coming,’ the bad voices said. I knew it was bad out there – it just wasn’t bad for me. Not yet.
I can now see I did, in fact, fill 2016 with books and I learned about my friendships and I grew tremendously – just not in the ways I expected. Grief tore things, and stretched, and re-arranged my definitions of success.
As the sun set and rose on repeat, I’ve welcomed four more January 1sts. At the start of each year, I’ve made lists to direct my efforts, and set goals to move myself into new places. I carried forth optimism and an appreciation for aesthetics. Yet, even with my devotion to hope, I moved with clenched fists and braced myself for more.
For resolutions were my buffers and achievements were my shields. Chinks in armor. If I do enough, then this won’t happen again.
When I was a toddler, I had to wear braces so I could learn to walk. I don’t remember much of the plastic structures that covered my ankles and went up my tiny calves into Keds sized large to accommodate the extra support. I have one blurry memory of blue gymnastic mats and afternoon light as I put heel to toe, heel to toe, heel to toe across the room towards the voice of a physical therapist.
The braces gave me support, structure, and a permanent bend in my big toes.
They also, eventually, got to come off.
In my grieving, my braces – preservation and structure – have looked and sounded like many things.
… no-thank you’s to invitations
… doubts and fears and the I couldn’ts, I shouldn’ts because walking without leaves one wobbling
… I’m not ready, yets
Some were healthy. Others I’ve outgrown. As a result of the spiritual supports, I’ve got a permanent bend in me now – a wound – a wonder – a missing.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – SemiSonic
I sat under bad lighting at an oak kitchen table in a cabin in the woods as December turned to January in one minutes time. A decade slipped from one to the other in a split second. There was no Ryan Seacrest and my young cousins had never heard of Dick Clark. No confetti. Just falling snow and the flick of a switch and we arrived.
Scrolling with my thumbs, I missed the moment the ball dropped. Two minutes into the new year I turned to kiss my husband on his forehead.
This year, I’m removing my braces of fear and of worry. I’m kicking aside the lie that accomplishment protects me from all that could be coming round the corner.
There’s a voice calling me to keep at it.
I’ll be seeking the magic and believing in the good.
I won’t be ashamed to hope. I’ve just learned to carry my humanity differently.
I’m moving heel to toe, heel to toe, tentatively in the new year, with my braces kicked to the side of the room. What a beautiful thing.