2019 was the end of a lot of things in my life, which means 2020 can only become a beginning. I had 5 goals at the end of 2018, and of those 5, I think I managed to accomplish most of them. Getting back to writing was the great failure, but I did continue querying, get back to exercising, get more comfortable in my role as a Co-Head of Operations, and sort out the housing situation.
I did query the novel hard — more than 50 queries sent. Now the time comes to end that process. If someone chooses to pick up the book, I would be MORE THAN THRILLED, but I gave it its shot and now I need to move forward. Write the next one, begin again. If a single book that failed to gain traction was the end of my willingness to work towards publishing, I would be a poor author indeed. Writing is always about failure and trying again. Every novel is better than the last, every character stronger, every quirky use of language more deliberate. Writing is a constant process of growth, and that includes abject failure to launch. It hurts, of course it does. But it’s part of the cycle and publishing wouldn’t mean anything to me if it came easily.
On the exercise front, 2019 is the year that I came to terms with the fact that now is the opportune moment to be real about my own health. After watching heart attacks and health scares throughout my family and friends, it’s impossible for me to blithely assume that I can live as long as I want to live and be healthy, and not do anything to help it along. It’s not about body shape or size — it’s about keeping my heart young and fit, my lungs strong, my tendons loose. It’s about putting in the work now that will pay off in twenty years when things start to weaken. I’ve never been good at exercise, but I very much want to have enough time to write all my stories and be with all the people I love, and so for those things I can get on the elliptical.
2019 is also the absolute last year that Sarah and I will ever want to own and live in a house. Holy CRAP is it nice living in a condo. Seriously. Snow falls and we don’t have to think about shoveling. Windstorms arrive and there’s no need to pick up sticks. It costs more, which is a whoooole other problem, but overall, the change from house to condo has been the right one and has worked out beautifully. Plus, being downtown is amazing and I don’t think I could go back to the suburbs or a small town again if I tried. The energy of life here is great, not just nature (though having the Mississippi out my window helps with that), but of people, of ambition, of dreams, of creativity, of community — it’s so much sharper here than it ever was anywhere else I’ve lived. I can breathe up here in the sky like I never did on the ground, literally and figuratively.
We lost things, though. We lost Maia. We lost others (not friends of ours, but friends of friends, and sometimes the mourning process happens to you even if you aren’t the one grieving). I lost a lot of time and stress to personal grief about people I love who were on the edge. I lost a kind of blind faith in certain organizations. We lost a fridge to a squeaky death.
And yet, I can’t define myself and my life by what I lose. I can only define it by what I gain.
I gained a new job this year, a new perspective on city living, a new daily view out the window. I gained confidence in being a Co-Head of Operations, and gained greater trust in my team. I gained more closeness with people I love. I gained perspective on writing and how that intersects with CONvergence (post for another day). I gained a new appreciation for public transit. I gained the ability to sleep at night without worrying about noises outside. I gained the ability to run a lot farther and faster on the elliptical. I gained new music and new art on my walls and new shows/movies to watch and consider and new books to enjoy. I gained a new kitten.
This is Tadashi, adopted the weekend after Christmas at 7 months old. Because everybody needs a pause for kitties!
His current favorite pastimes include “burying” toys in the gaps between couch cushions, getting held and pet, pouncing on toes under blankets, wrestling with Kiba, aggressively licking and being licked by Kiba, eating, finding out what the humans are eating, trying to eat what the humans are eating, bonelessly napping, and purring while sleeping on feet.
There will always be more loss and failure and disappointment on the horizon, and usually not very far off, either. Death and grief happen because life is invariably fatal, no matter how much you love someone. The world doesn’t always give you the gift you ask for, and there isn’t always a fair or soothing reason why. Bad shit happens. People disappear. Hoped for dreams fail miserably. Future paths dry up and leave you stranded.
But, for me, I can’t measure my life by those. Life is dark and light, black and gold, wrapped around one another like twin vines. Growth comes in the contrast, in the places where they meet, in the glow of like crashing against unlike. And if I spent all my time looking at everything that didn’t go my way, looking at only one side of the coin, I would miss out on so much joy. I would miss out on so much laughter. I would miss out on so much hope.
In the middle of 2019, I had a lot of stress and despair and fear, and at points I was low and scared and sad and nothing in the world seemed beautiful. And looking ahead to 2020, it doesn’t mean those feelings won’t come back, or won’t find new life in new crises. But today I can let things end with peace. Today I can look back at all that was lost and gained, and I can see the wheel turning in all those changes. Life doesn’t stop, even when we wish it would, for good or ill. Death cycles to renewal, failure to growth, despair to relief and hope.
Life is a cycle, not a circle. It is a spiral, winding ever upwards. Even when you pass over what you’ve walked before, you aren’t in the exact same place. You’re up a level. You’ve come farther, even when the stairs are familiar.
And for all the pain and sorrow and grief, there are joyful, amazing, soul-affirming things too. 2019 has ended, and so much with it. I look forward to every new beginning 2020 will bring.