Days 3 & 4: In which we gently wonder and in which we are wiser | #Adjourn2017
I struggled writing this letter. What I probably didn't tell you was that my 2017 started off with a clearing but as I stepped into the last two quarters, it was with a bit of confoundment. I was, to put it simply, very hard on myself. I had doubted everything I’m doing.
I had been plagued by questions of identity and the role I play. See, the more “connected” we’ve become, the easier it is to see that despite our differences, we are totally unlike each other. Our struggles & issues and sources of humor & excitement intersperse. When you’re finally aware of this interdependence, it’s hard not to think about what you’re actually contributing. So the hard question had been: What really is my role here? What part do I play in the web of humanity?
This was hard to reflect on for someone who writes about the elusives. Self-growth, art, and love tend to come off as fluff because these things can’t always be measured. With this, I’m inclined to believe that what I do bears no importance which has resulted to the great resistance and cynicism that crept in towards the final quarter.
How exactly do you put in your track record that something you wrote moved someone to forgive their significant other, that a parent tells you that she reads to her preschooler one of your pieces as a way to teach about empathy. That you hear from an aspiring surgeon that you made her see anatomical investigation as a fine art — and her patients a masterpiece. That the few who read your vulnerable letters tell you it helps them sort through their own sh*t. How do you take pride in what doesn’t scale? What is the metric system for awe and resonance? How do you confidently say that your legit job is to tell the hurt and confounded, “it’s okay” and to remind them of the ways the world is, alas, still beautiful. How do I tell you that I’m really just here to make others feel a little less hardened by their circumstances, and a little more hopeful?
When I asked people on my list what they look forward to reading from The Mad Muse, it was personal stories, mindfulness, and emotional intelligence ranking highest. I wasn’t intending to put these on the list, so I found it very telling, and fateful. I had been denying that this is the role I play. In fact, I would say it with dishonor: This is the only role I play. I am only an artist and a storyteller. And that’s where I ultimately crashed - in failing to see I am and it was enough.
To give hope is enough and as I learn the value of forgiveness through the #Adjourn2017 challenge, it’s high time I take pride in that.
Me giving hope does not necessarily mean me giving you concrete how-to’s. I don’t really have a lot of strategies to "success" to offer at this point (I know this will cause a shudder) - I am still figuring it all out again and collecting my bearings after an anxiety-riddled quarter tbh. Me giving hope is me just doing more and worrying a little less. In between, I tell the stories. They won’t save the world and they may be nothing like you’re hoping for but, as I always do, I will write them true.
With that, I feel like 2018 won’t be anything much but a time for living and writing more and embracing what needs to be embraced like the intermittent mess that is my life. I might be resting a lot too. I’m scared because I can already feel it’s going to be a bit of a “selfish” year. But it’s a conscious, hopeful step towards my own healing and homecoming. And honestly, I don’t mind being a little selfish if it incites that I become a more happy giver.
The theme that I have in mind for 2018 is hope and hope-giving. See, when you're in your late 20's the scariest thing you can subject yourself to is cynicism. These are the years you will know the world better and discover that it isn't a generally happy place. Humans are manipulative, taxes are absurd, and love is sparse — and these will not only give you periodic funks, they will most of all harden you. I've seen people I love turn into stones, and it's the greatest tragedy of all — dying before you're even dead. It happens. But not to me and you. At least I hope we'll keep doing our damnedest for it not to.
Some time in 2016, I found home in the words of Maria Popova:
"Strive to be uncynical, to be a hope-giving force, to be a steward of substance. Choose to lift people up, not to lower them down — because it is a choice, always, and because in doing so you lift yourself up."
Thank you for sharing a beautiful year with me — beautiful against all odds. And advance Happy New Year's Eve to you! Here's to making 2018 the year we dream, hope, do, and blossom into something better and truer.