This year has been quite something.
I had originally thought once I finished work for the year, or perhaps at new years, I would have some kind of cleansing bonfire. This year has been so, so hard it seemed to warrant a fiery send off.
Not as hard as it has been for many people though; I am hyper aware of how many people seem to have had an absolutely shit 2013. It seems to have been an extra awful year, or perhaps an awful year for an extra large amount of people.
Often I watch people’s furious end of year retrospectives and reflect on how lucky I’ve been to have a year I enjoyed, but not this year. This year I have a retrospective of my own.
This year I had asthma so bad I was bed ridden at times.
This year I injured my back so badly it still hurts to sit down.
This year I left the Wellington Young Feminists’ Collective, a project I started from nothing and spent on average 20 hours a week maintaining. I left because I fucked up. I allowed a number of events to be planned that weren’t accessible in a number of ways and I reacted incredibly badly to criticism. I shut down conversations and I hurt people in doing so. People called for me to step down. So I did, because hurting people is unacceptable. I needed to allow other people’s clever brains to do better with an organisation so many people respected.
This year I realised, after repeatedly being shocked to see friends of mine favourite shitty tweets about me, that performance activism and performance social media is toxic as fuck.
I have perpetrated this. All social media is somewhat performance in nature. It’s ridiculous and self-centered that it took me feeling like I’d been blindsided with a punch in the gut to come to this conclusion. I am still trying to figure out how, when and with whom call-outs are powerful tools to fight marginalisation and when they are the online version of the mean girl’s clique at high school. I don’t have the answers. But I do have a stronger resolve to only surround myself with people whose criticism hurts but helps because it comes from a good place in their heart, and nothing less.
This year I became a parent in a shared custody situation. Fairly instantly. I had been on the periphery, trying to help my partner navigate the challenges of shared custody and the interpersonal stuff which always happens with previous partners and new partners and a little person in the middle of it all. But then I moved in.
In hindsight it’s unsurprising that this huge lifestyle change, increase in responsibility, exposure to animosity and the expectations I put on myself to be perfect in the face of all this caused me to get pretty unwell. I had an ‘anxiety flare up’. The same kind of anxiety I’ve had since I was 7 years old that bites me in the ass when I feel like I’m not coping, or might not cope, or have too much to worry about coping with.
I was diagnosed with OCD. It had always been that. It will probably always be that. And now I needed to deal with this head on and change the unhealthy patterns of behaviour I had ingrained in me after 20 years of just sucking it up.
I have spent 6 months getting myself well again. And making peace with the idea that it’s okay to not always be well.
During that time, the idea of the cleansing ‘fuck right off 2013’ bonfire came about. I just wanted it to be over and be better.
But as this year has wound down, and as I have come be well again and reflected on how much work it’s taken, I don’t think I want to burn this year.
I faced my darkest parts this year. I got up and I went to work more times than I didn’t. I cried on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere feeling like everything was going to end and it didn’t. I did things that scared the shit out of me and I am continuing to do that. It’s making me stronger.
I got engaged to my best friend this year. I have never felt so loved. Our friends and family joined us to celebrate this and it felt like the air in the room was thick with goodwill. He knows my darkest parts. He has held my hand the whole time.
I have made friendships that feel so easy and close they have become my family.
A tiny person calls me “mum” or “coley” in a tone that makes it clear he knows I am his. He wants me to tell him about how heat works and that he loves me 100 53 97 chocolate chip cookies. That’s a number, don’t argue.
This year has been hard but it has been important and I don’t want to burn that. I want to be thankful for that. Things aren’t always awesome. But I’m learning that wanting to burn that only makes me feel worse.
I am officially on holiday now for three weeks, and I am going to spend that time swimming and sleeping and cleaning and making pottery. When new years comes I might have a bonfire, but not a furious one. Perhaps an exhausted but proud one where I go home smelling like soot and knowing that next year will be better, maybe not for a lack of challenges but for better practice at it, and the fearlessness I am always working on.
I think I will toast some marshmallows in it.