Just a few more weeks and this whole thing’ll be over…
We keep saying it: 2016 has been the worst year. We lost Bowie right off the bat and the fabric of the universe seemed to fall apart. I began the year separated from my husband. And if you think being the one to leave the love of your life is the easier role in divorce, you’re pretty fucking naive. A lot of things went wrong this year. It almost feels like the third act of some bad 80’s movie—Biff, or some other evil villain, has taken over and we’re all counting on some last minute hero to show up and rescue us. But
he they won’t.
But, it’s occurred to me that although this has been the hardest year of my life, in a lot of ways it’s been magic. I’ll never have another year like it. This was the year. The year. You know? The year everything changed. The year of growth. It hurt. A lot. I almost gave up a few times. But how many people have years like this? How many years like this do you have in your entire life? One, maybe two or three? I’m so completely grateful for coming out the other end of it transformed that it’s humbling.
I started making weekly contracts with myself recently; goals I hoped to accomplish each week. A sample: drink more tea, go to bed early, turn in invoices, buy yourself flowers. The idea was to include nice things for myself as well as small ‘to-do’s’ I needed to check off. In that spirit, here’s a much bigger list I needed to write (and it was a line-item on my contract this week).
Things I’m grateful for
Spotify’s Discover Weekly Playlists. Handmade things. Burt’s Bee’s lipbalm…oh sweet god, the lipbalm. Free People Aaanythaang. Coffee. Getting breakfast by myself. Rain. Putting art up in places where the walls were terribly empty after all the photos came down. Danny McBride’s deadpan humor. Bralettes. My dog. The block feature on iPhone. The block feature on Facebook. Guys with great hair. Men with good hygiene. Cooking. Old friends. New friends. Stories about robots because they are always stories about humans. Learning to play the guitar (FINALLY!) when it was something I’d always wanted to do (but was too afraid to try it). Singing in front of people again. Going to see bands play again. Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls because it was the single greatest thing I’ve done that truly helped someone.
Things that were harder than expected in 2016.
Weird ones, like Memorial day. Three day weekends when I didn’t have plans. Facebook’s “on this day” reminders. Turning off the “on this day” reminders…
Right after Ryan moved out. I’m not sure why. We never went grocery shopping together in the 8 years we were married. Ironically, our first “date” (we used to joke) was at Walmart. It was a late, drunk text one night where we met up and bought cinnamon rolls. But as a couple, we never planned meals or bought food together very often. It wasn’t good. I remember standing in the frozen food aisle at Harmons, looking at ice cream, “What am I doing? I don’t even like ice cream! Am I really doing the sad-break-up-ice-cream thing?” Looking down at my nearly empty basket, realizing I still had no appetite, I didn’t know what to do, where to start. How do I buy food on my own? Haven’t I been buying food alone for years? Why does this feel different? God, can people tell that I’m crying?
Last year was different. We had just separated. This time around I should be all better, right? Shouldn’t I be further along by now? Being forgotten by my family didn’t help. But they have a lot going on right now.
It saved my life a lot of the time. But sometimes it was hard to pick it up just the same. Some days it didn’t sound very good and that was a failure I wasn’t ready to carry on my shoulders. I rage-quit altogether at one point. I’m slowly making my way back.
Seeing your loved ones suffer and not having the support of a spouse to console you is a bleak reminder that you’re going to be terribly alone during some very difficult times. But, you were alone before anyways.
Pulling into the garage at night alone.
Sometimes just getting out of the car and going inside seemed impossible.
Especially going to bed sober. My mind is a dark, fucked-up place. And, it’s been working through some shit I wish it didn’t have to.
Good hair days. Getting out of bed. Being sick. Sad movies.
There were one or two mornings, out of the blue, I was genuinely surprised to wake up alone and it scared me.
Things that were easier than expected in 2016.
Putting my money where my mouth is.
I’ve always talked about doing more solo travel. Boom: trip to Europe booked. Want to hit the road? Vroom-vroom. Feel like taking a huge risk and doing something I’ve never done before like jumping into a volunteer group that teaches kids how to rock? Done.
Putting myself out there.
Meeting people. Turns out people were actually receptive to that. Maybe I’m not so awful after all.
Need to replace this and that? I can do this. Asking for help? People showed up. You can outsource things, ask for advice, and, generally, people are willing to be there.
I had a straight streak of just winning random shit. It was odd.
Getting my ducks in a row.
Focus, focus, focus—you can do this, Benji.
Learning in general.
Never. Stop. Learning.
I am a master.
Good hair days. Getting out of bed. Being healthy. Sad movies.
Some mornings, out of the blue, I was genuinely pleased to wake up to the sunshine in my window and birds singing outside.
There’s probably more to the list and I’m leaving things out. I’m certain I am. This list was inspired by countless sources and is in no way original—like all art, stories, and everything else. But it didn’t stop me. Go write your own list. Put it in a journal, make a video, tell your friends or (if you’re lucky and someone cares about you) someone you share your life with. Take stock of the good things, but also the bits that made it hard. Those things make it good too. It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows. That shit gets old fast.
The hard years, the truly tough ones, they make us who we are.