Not so long ago we started over again

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you went your way, I stayed behind…

The above is from Life By The Drop, one of my favorite songs (I know, I’m a dinosaur) and one I’ve quoted here before. In part because it’s one of the few songs to which I know all of the words, but more so because I love the words. The above image is from my flourishing career as a painter. I started painting, as I believe I mentioned, after getting a set of paints and canvases for Christmas, a reaction to my having told someone that “I don’t know how to paint”. He insisted that I do – that everyone does. So this is one of my projects for this year, or until my paints run out – I will continue to experiment.

This sophomoric combination of color is called Lunar New Year. As of right this second. 

Happy Lunar New Year! Year of the Horse:

A high-spirited, hectic, and adventurous year. An exhilarating time of reckless and impulsive action and risk-taking. This year people are confident, carefree, whimsical, capricious, and romantic, and everything proceeds at an energetic if not frenzied pace. Things are done on the spur of the moment … Good humor and optimism prevail. Old boundaries are broken, and the world’s economy could experience a boom period. this is an excellent time to launch new ventures and boldly go where you have never gone before. 

–Simple Chinese Astrology, Damian Sharp

The year ahead will bring health and prosperity. It is said to be an excellent time to travel, as the next 12 months will bring good luck.

-International Business Times

So there you have it. For those of us in need of high spirits, adventure, risk-taking, confidence, whimsy, good humor, optimism, increased health and prosperity, this is our year. I know these things are meant to be taken with a grain of salt by most of us, but I do believe in the power of BELIEF. And in manifesting our desired lives. Let us choose to believe that the Year of the Horse (the Equine-nox?) will prevail, and we can make it so. It’s as much about how we choose to see things as anything else. I, for one, choose to see the Lunar New Year as a brand-new start. This new year has existed since long before our western one has, and so if you believe in the potential for new beginnings, treat this as the gift that it is.

Now then. 

My dear friend K is starting her own blog, and I am so very proud of her for this. She has always been a wonderful writer – we took a course together some years ago and I was blown away by her innate talent. She has decided to make some changes in her life and this is her first step in doing so. Her second, actually; deciding to make changes is the first step. She voiced to me her concern about revealing so much via writing, and asked how I decided to feel comfortable doing so. 

For years I didn’t. I held back on writing about my struggles (relative as they are to the struggles we all face). Last year I had the opportunity to write a few personal essays for an online magazine, and I knew that it was an opportunity I wanted to take. I knew that in order to do so authentically, I would have to process my deep-rooted fear and shame and regret. I’ve written about this before, so forgive me if it sounds redundant. 

When I finally did write and publish these essays, it was with a healthy dose of trepidation. And in those cases, the feedback I got from readers was what made me realize I’d not written those essays in vain. I wrote about my struggles with depression, about my former Ambien addiction, about having been bullied in junior high school. And readers thanked me for doing so and told me that my words were helpful to them. This was amazing – was far more than I’d expected. I’d expected a teeny paycheck and another notch on my writing resume. I got those things, too, but the knowledge that I’d written about things that so many – in this case – young(er) women could relate to was an enormous and unexpected gift. Through this blahhhhg, too, I’ve received feedback implying that my words have made others feel somewhat less alone. That is one of my raisons d’etre – to help as many people as I can reach feel less alone. Because even at our loneliest, we’re not. Perhaps we’ve not met the people we’re yet meant to meet. Perhaps we’ve not yet been validated by the “right” people. But that’s one of the beautiful things about this albatross that is the internet. We are, for better or worse, connected to far more people than we otherwise would be. 

For me, K, writing about these things is helping me to come to terms with, and thus move past, my fears and shame and regrets. With depression, for instance, I’ve learned that not speaking about it does not lessen it. Our society is plagued by a seemingly unshakeable stigma against this condition that is never the “fault” of the sufferer. The more open we are with our struggles, the less of a stigma society can attach to them – it is totally illogical that we stigmatize anything that is this prevalent a part of the human condition. 

There is absolute vulnerability to writing about such things. Writing about them makes them more real. Writing about them marks us as people who have experienced them – and that can never be erased, now that this amorphous world of cyberspace has proven itself permanent. But all of our sufferings make us so much more a part of the world. Does this make any sense? 

There are also ways to write about them without being too deeply personal, for one can have an understanding of aspects of the human experience without necessarily having lived them. But for you, K, the draft that you sent me speaks to something that so many of us have experienced or are experiencing – and you state your case so eloquently – I don’t think you have any idea how eloquently you write. So many of us have looked at our lives thus far and realized that we’ve picked left when we should have picked right, that we’ve let opportunities slip away through inaction, that we’re no where near where we “should” be. I think that you’ll find that articulating what you’re going through will help you move past the inertia you’re feeling and get to a better place. You’re so amazing, lady. You really are. You’re so smart and kind and profound and such a beautiful, wise old soul. 

You can also, as I did, keep your blog private at first, share bit by bit with people you trust and gauge your next moves from the feedback that I know you’ll receive. You can write anonymously, you can password-protect the most personal entries, you can un-publish, you can edit, you can do anything you want with your forum. It’s yours. But admitting to our perceived shortcomings does not, in fact, make them more harmful or stronger; quite the opposite. Putting it all out there makes “it” actually less scary and unwieldy and uncontrollable. And it is intensely liberating. When I started this blahg I was going through a terrible thing – and writing through it helped it to become less important and helped me to move on from a situation that needed to be left in the past. Sometimes if we’re left alone (by choice) with our thoughts and fears, they can grow into huge, unwieldy, cancerous masses that seem insurmountable. “Reducing” such things to words actually helps us to realize what we need to do to move forward and, most importantly, that we can, indeed, move forward.

It’s the Year of the Horse, dear. It’s the year to take risks. To launch new ventures and to boldly go where you have never gone before. 

 

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3 thoughts on “Not so long ago we started over again

  1. ‘There was a time when people were in the habit of addressing themselves frequently and felt no shame at making a record of their inward transactions. But to keep a journal nowadays is considered a kind of self-indulgence, a weakness, and in poor taste. For this is an era of hardboiled-dom. Today, the code of the athlete, of the tough boy – an American inheritance, I believe, from the English gentleman – that curious mixture of striving, asceticism, and rigor, the origins of which some trace back to Alexander the Great – is stronger than ever. Do you have feelings? There are correct and incorrect ways of indicating them. Do you have an inner life? It is nobody’s business but your own. Do you have emotions? Strangle them. To a degree, everyone obeys this code. And it does admit of a limited kind of candor, a closemouthed straight-forwardness. But on the truest candor, it has an inhibitory effect. Most serious matters are closed to the hard-boiled. They are unpracticed in introspection, and therefore badly equipped to deal with opponents whom they cannot shoot like big game or outdo in daring.
    If you have difficulties, grapple with them silently, goes one of their commandments. To hell with that! I intend to talk about mine, and if I had as many mouths as Siva has arms and kept them going all the time, I still could not do myself justice.’

    – Saul Bellow, opening page of his first novel, ‘Dangling Man’

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