For my grandmother: Vesta “Vicky” Davis Cook
I mark my life with music. If there’s a song in my playlist, there’s probably a strong memory associated with it. With the rise of streaming services such as Spotify, I have enough data to serve soundtrack to my years going back to 2016. There’s always a theme (and that theme is usually “Power ballad me to work, Glass Animals”), but this year was different. 2019 was hard as I came to terms with parts of myself I didn’t even know were there. It was hard as my family struggled to keep itself together. It was hard as I said goodbye to things that I loved. It was hard as I realized that this was a year of healing stasis, not action.
Admittedly, 2018 was a tough act to follow. Those playlists were about empowerment, exorcising sad bois from my life, and learning to be at home in my body (hello, rachel kann, Run The Jewels, and Vernon Jane). It was a year where I felt like I could breathe fire.
But 2019 had me coughing smoke. My top song of the year was “Ballad of the Lady” by moow, which is some the most lo-fiest bullshit if I’ve ever heard it. There was a lot of that beat-heavy, lyric-bereft music woven throughout the whole 2019 playlist, which says to me that I lost part of myself and am looking for my next vibe. No surprises here. After shedding so much of my former self, I’m not sure I could tell you who I am right now.
It would be easy for me to say that 2019 blew, but that would be a lie. While there were some parts that were objectively awful, it was a year full of some of my best moments to date:
- Traveled extensively: London, Montreal, Vancouver, and New Orleans being some of this year’s bigger adventures.
- Learned that travel doesn’t have to be a big ordeal, but can instead be something one does over the course of a day or two.
- Got to be a witness for my best friend’s wedding.
- Went out a lot more to talks, galleries, breweries, weird conversation events, classes, brunches.
- Saw some great bands live (Mother Mother, MISSIO, Andrew Bird, Slothrust, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, All Them Witches, Cosmo Sheldrake) and danced my ass off.
- Consequently, met a lot more wonderful humans and practiced spontaneous vulnerability.
- Got way more in touch with my spiritual self via meditation.
- Decided that if therapy wasn’t readily available, I would do my best to take care of my own mental health via books on trauma and gentle self-talk.
- Got serious about boundaries and cutting things out of my life that aren’t good for me (i.e. negative mental states in myself and others).
- Allowed myself to go slower after realizing that there were so many things in my life that needed deep healing.
- Practiced the radical art of forgiveness, even when it hurt.
- Practiced the even more radical art of honesty.
- Finished editing my manuscript, yet again.
- Took pride in myself and the things I’ve accomplished.
Despite all of this, I want to acknowledge that this year was hard. I got so many writing rejections that I stopped submitting. It was hard to create. My family suffered in so many ways. My grandmother died. My other grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. I cried a lot. A lot, a lot.
So, yes, this year was hard; but it is often in the depths of despair that we learn the most about ourselves. In that way, 2019 was kind in its cruelty. I am beginning to know myself, and realizing that this relationship is ever-changing.
May 2020 be gentler with us all.