I’m not going to lie to you—2023 was a trying year for me on a number of levels, but it was also one of the most clarifying years of my life. Last year, I wished for clarity, and boy, did I get it. No, I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to with everyone I wanted to do them with. No, I didn’t miraculously shed every insecurity I’ve ever had and transcend the weight of grief.
But I did grow things. And I did rest. And I did learn.
The biting reality of pet ownership and the despair of helplessness
They tell you when you get a dog, it’ll be many years of happiness and friendship in exchange for one devastating, soul-crushing day.
That day feels so far away when you’re holding a wiggly puppy and trying to teach them how to respond to their name and not eat every toy you give them.
But that wiggly puppy just turned nine and has been having seizures off and on for almost a year. Nothing could have prepared me for the helplessness of watching him struggle and not being able to do anything about it but wait until it’s over and give him a helping of vanilla ice cream.
The reality is no matter what I do, he won’t be here forever, and that fact hit me like a Mack truck this year. The next step is medication, but beyond that, all I can do is treasure my time with him. I can’t even write this without dissolving into a mess of tears. Let’s move on before I lose it entirely.
Flaky fake men and persistent disappointment
Ugh. Do I even need to elaborate on this? Probably not, but I will. All I’ll say is if you have plans with someone you met online, just always confirm before going to meet them, lest you end up at a café sipping coffee alone, questioning how awful it would be, really, to just stay single forever and live a peaceful, joyful life of gardening and baking and reading undisturbed while everyone else gets stood up instead.
Further, if a man says he “forgot” about your plans, don’t bother with a second chance. He’ll cancel an hour beforehand because he met someone better who he liked more, so don’t feel too bad about cutting it off.
The bright side is I’m becoming an expert at staying detached from people who have not earned my loyalty or respect. No more building futures out of breadcrumbs and good intentions! Action-backed words or nothing!
The sometimes overwhelming responsibility of self-regulation
This year, I took more active steps to take responsibility for my emotions and feel them without becoming them, and with that comes accepting that I won’t always have the answers. Did I always succeed at that? Well, no. But it’s a work in progress.
If we attach ourselves to specific outcomes we deem “good,” we lose sight of alternative versions and the reality at our fingertips. Looking at what is makes infinity more sense than trying to peer into the future and nail it down.
Think of the old man and the horse, right?
There are a few different versions of the parable, but the point is we never really know what could work out for the best or the worst. Everything is a maybe until it isn’t.
That means there’s the chance for unexpected joy out of pain and, yes, unexpected pain out of joy. And as non-comforting as that can be to someone hurting, it’s true.
Either way, we have a responsibility to manage our judgments around what is good or bad and not believe we know what the best outcome for any given situation would be. That’s kinda God’s job, anyway.
A raspberry by any other name would be as sweet
My garden was a true sanctuary this year, and I mean that quite literally. Almost every morning this spring and summer, I was out in the raspberry patch humming and praying and thinking through the tangled wires in my head. And then there were my roses—yellows and reds and pinks, healthier than they’d been in years.
I baked delicious pastries with buckets and buckets of berries and collected petals to dry for baths. I harvested dandelions and made dandelion shortbread. I counted at least six different types of wildflowers in my yard and made a bouquet for my windowsill. My basil plant provided bright, fresh flavor to home-cooked dishes.
This coming spring, I’m planting as many sunflowers as I can.
Inspiration?? Is that—is that you???
Oh yes, gals and pals, it was, in fact, inspiration. I wrote more consistently and passionately this year than I had in what felt like a long time.
I figured out my outlining process—finally!—and made progress in not one, not two, but three projects, and I am going to keep that energy as long as I can. At least one of them will probably-possibly-maybe never see the light of day, but no writing is ever wasted, so I maintain my enthusiasm.
People will tell you that there are a million ways to make yourself write more—and there are—but the truth they forget to mention is that the best time to write is when you have something to say.
NOT going gentle into that good night (aka making a ruckus in Nola)
I got to explore New Orleans this year with friends and succeeded at traumatizing myself at the Museum of Death, plus two equally wild comedy shows.
Haunting imagery aside, it was an incredible delight to come together with friends new and old to gallivant down Bourbon Street, drink lavender-flavored mimosas, make an unavoidable mess with beignets, stroll through sun-dappled parks, and laugh into the night after a dinner of gumbo.
My travel bug is only growing, and I don’t think it’s curable, unfortunately for my wallet.
The wonders of automobile autonomy
I’ve had my first car for over a month now, and, let me tell you…wow. I can just—go. No coordination, no waiting around. Amazing. My teen self would be gobsmacked.
I’m still gaining confidence being back on the road again, but I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to be in charge of my own transportation. How else would I get to dates that never happen?? I kid, I kid. Sometimes they actually show up! God bless.
Anyway. It’s magical to have the freedom of driving, and I’m excited for the coming year on those grounds alone. The road to car ownership has been a winding, weird path, but folks—I made it.
Thank you for reading, and happy new year. May 2024 be a year of warmth and prosperity.
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.– T.S. Eliot