I tried to write about 2016 this past week and I couldn’t do it. I wrote some words, but then I thought, these words don’t matter to me, and I let them languish unpublished. Instead I spent most of the week alone, reflecting and resting and, perhaps most of all, listening, giving myself the deep focused listening I craved.
When I think of 2016, the first memory that comes to mind is a day in early August. I was lying on one of those vaguely uncomfortable exam tables in a small private room at Urgent Care, wearing jeans and a thin cotton hospital gown. I was cold. I was frightened. I kept accidentally beginning to cry, not a loud sobbing with lots of tissues but more of a silent scream where I’d suddenly find tears plastered to my cheeks. My head hurt so badly, I was so confused, my brain kept betraying me again and again. I was alone.
I was waiting for my CAT scan to find out if my brain was bleeding. If my brain was bleeding I’d go in for brain surgery. At least that was my understanding from the brief forbidden peek on the internet I’d allowed myself. If I went in for brain surgery, who knew if I’d come out. It didn’t sound particularly promising. I knew I’d do whatever the doctors said without asking questions because I wasn’t capable of making any important decisions and there was no one else there to help. At that moment, it was out of my control and all I could do was sit and wait and try to hold myself together even though it felt like I was watching my brain disintegrate.
I wish somebody had been with me then. And I know some of you reading this right now are wishing you had been there, and in my imagination I edit it so you were there holding my hand. There is some comfort there. But at the time, of course, I wasn’t able to imagine things, and I couldn’t even access or control my own thoughts properly, and I was very alone, and I thought: “This is what people mean when they say everyone dies alone. I never realized quite how horrific that idea was until this moment.”
But I didn’t die. Instead I got some valuable practice, and maybe next time I’ll do better. Maybe next time I’ll find a small core of peace inside myself. Maybe next time I’ll have more grace.
When I think of my 2016, I think endurance. I endured, and I’m proud of what I accomplished. I made some difficult decisions that led to big changes that I believe will make my life better down the line. I suffered from the worst injury of my life and I didn’t give up. I learned a lot. I didn’t close down, and I held onto my vision of a brighter future. I found moments of joy and connection even in the midst of tremendous struggle. I went to great lengths to take care of myself and to respect myself, and I feel like, even though it was very hard for me, I did a better job of it than perhaps I’ve ever done before. I’m very tired, but here I am.
I didn’t like 2016, but I’m grateful for the time I’m getting, even when it really sucks. I feel lucky to be here.
For all of you who had good years, I’m so glad. You keep my hope strong. And if you had a bad year, I admire you for hanging in there, and I really hope the next year is better for us both.