In case you’re bored of seeing all your friends having a wonderful time / Xmas / life in comparison to yours… here’s my self indulgent round up:
I’ve spent New Year’s Eve alone twice already this year. Valentine’s Day isn’t as hard as Fireworks Night, but the evening of my birthday sat watching sunset on my own felt curious: a mix of melancholy and inevitability. I make myself so busy I can’t breathe and then end up feeling quite isolated from the hundreds of you I love. And I love. I am very aware that the general presumption of me is that I am too busy to bother, but at key moments I am still having to concoct new recipes for a stand alone spirit.
I’ve been single for over 10 years now, and it’s hard not to wonder where my chance went. And I know where they went, they got jumbled in death and cancer and grieving and rape and confusion and self esteem and suddenly I am pushing forty and it looks like Disney might have been lying. Being alone isn’t awful. But it’s made me hungry, and I worry I have lost years endlessly chasing things which never happened when I could have learnt to like the person I am. I think I’m learning. But goodness I’m a slow learner. I’ve not worked out how to stop comparing my failures to everyone else’s seeming to glide and sometimes I can’t work out how to walk one word in front of the other.
But the change this year has been a slow realisation that I think I’m starting to be alright with all of that. Maybe I’ll never have a happily ever after, maybe I won’t have kids, maybe I won’t be able to drag my business out of a seemingly endless recession, maybe I’ll never have a body that looks like I work out as much as I do, maybe I will lose my house… and all of it kind of just is. It’s not terrible any more. It just is. It’s when I am fighting this stuff like a toddler in a tantrum I feel lost and out of my depth, but accepting that this is the story I have, rather than the one I was sold and being grateful for the adventure and those I journey with is the rope ladder out of existential oblivion.
And an adventure it has been: I cuddled and held and nursed my Nan for nearly five months. We giggled, and cried and told stories and held hands in the dark. I walked in sleet and snow for hours every day to be there when she woke and tell stories all day and put her gently to bed. I hope Mum would think I did her proud. I stroked her forehead and sang with her and when she died in my arms my whole jigsaw came apart. I became the eldest woman in my family and I felt like I had cheated both my Mum and my Nan out of their chance to see me do ok. I ran up and down the country, I got tricked into believing hope, I stood outside an internment camp for cruelty and held a free baby near a wall of caged women, I apologised, I hurt, I learnt, I grew, I was lied to, I was deceived into becoming the other woman, I saw a surfing turtle in Tottenham, I made peace with someone I lost in Australia ten years ago, I ate a lot of hospital canteen food, I starved myself a lot, I watched my Dad lose his best friend, I nearly fell into a trap, I went on vipassana, I fought some shadows, I made an enemy of mirrors, I stopped having sugar in my tea, I sold clothes to pay my bills, I wove flowers into a coffin, I made some greetings cards that only I found funny, I chalked names into Old Compton Street of people massacred, I lit candles with tears, I reached out to someone I thought would never forgive me and was granted some peace, I took some photographs, I roamed with a poet, I got dismayed by politics, I went dancing on my own, a lot, I wrapped people in love when untimely death stole into our lives, I marched through streets, I engaged in tricky conversations because it was the right thing to do rather than decide it was easier not to, I recited the mantra and explained why the words needed no amendment: Black Lives Matter, I travelled somewhere I was so unwelcome I was hyperventilating in order to defend another, I watched my Sisters open a house and build a community, I had an accident on a fairground, I watched a festival being built on a wasteland, I had a candle lit dinner on a cable roll, I saw butoh by a bus, I sat on a beach and found myself in the ocean, I watched a plane crash, I found graffiti and emptied a house, I played with bubbles and realised my niece may just save the world with her joy at life, I didn’t read enough, I fell out with the one I love most over a racist rant, the sky turned to ice cream, I left a dinosaur on a boat, I lived in a redwood forest for a week without electricity, I got carried to California to document declarations of love, I lay in a penthouse in Hollywood and found redemption, I was brought to my knees by the love of my friends, I didn’t “slip” off a balcony, I rinsed Tinder, I became someone’s mermaid, I got a job, I ran after an airship, my brother got married and I gained a sister, I made old friends meet, I stood next to a man who had braved life beyond anything I could ever imagine, I stood next to Albert Woodfox, a free man, I got kidnapped to a beach to walk and read and consolidate, I got sunburnt in November, in Norfolk, I got invited on dates and then blocked by the invitee: three times, three guys, I realised I’m too old school for these modern times, I realised technology moves quicker than morality, I stood for water protectors, I got a cold for the cause, I was part of a journey of growth of three women trying to build a path to peace that paved their own bridges, I changed, I laughed, I had both paper aeroplanes and custard pies thrown at me, I chanted, I listened, I tried to help, I grew.
There has been a lot of talk of late about how bad 2016 has been, and in that Internet conspiracy way it seems to me that this narrative diminishes a thousand victories and losses. Each story is an onion of depth to be peeled back and peeled back and peeled back and to clump it all together as a shit year feels like we’re draining the colour from our own photographs.
This year I learnt that I make myself sick when I try to cover up my inadequacies by trying to do three lifetimes worth of stuff in the hope people will like me. This year I learnt I can’t do enough but I can be enough. This year I learnt big dreams can leave you hungry.
And this year I finally started feeling like this is how it’s meant to be, so maybe I can stop running.
2017? I’m up for you now.