I have had an okay year. If you know anything about me it’s that this year, unlike for a lot of people, wasn’t my worst year yet. If we could just forget for a second, that we’re in a pandemic, I’ve had a spectacularly ordinary year. I wasn’t dying. I stayed indoors, I wrote, I read, I laughed, I cried, I picked up some new skills. I stayed alive in the way that most people do—just getting by day to day, not surviving anything life threatening.
My word for 2020 was Recovery. Recovery in the sense of getting back to wholeness. Recovery as in returning to a state before loss or damage. At the beginning of the year, this is all I wanted. I just wanted to be Clarie before cancer. I now know that is an impossible need. I am as whole as I’ll ever be. I’m as whole as I’ll ever need to be. It’s heartbreaking and it’s beautiful and I’m incessantly awed by what I can live with, and even more amazingly, what I can live without. I still have days where I feel so inadequate and misfitted—like trying to ram jagged pieces of myself into an elaborate idea of myself. But I’m not an idea—I am a breathing, tangible embodiment of a spirit, a spirit that so far, has been unkillable.
I also came alive this year. It was an excruciating mess. I mostly felt like a frayed piece of fabric, just a little tag was all that’s needed to unravel. I have cried washing dishes. One moment, I’m listening to music having a moderately good time and the next I am sobbing because the repeated motion of washing and rinsing utensils seems endlessly impossible. There are times, I couldn’t stand the awareness that staying alive simply required that I ceaselessly breathe in and out. There are days I lay down, my breath caught in my chest, daring myself to discover an alternative to staying alive that didn’t prescribe doing random shit endlessly.
In holding my breath I have learnt that I can hold my ground. I used to think of myself as a panicked, flailing kind of person. I’ve learnt that I’m a lot calmer than I realise. I think of myself, holding my breath, staring at the ceiling, trying to see how far I can count until my chest burns, or my vision blurs. I just lie there, not gasping, perfectly at peace. Partly because of this, I know that if need be, whatever else life throws at me, more often than not, all I’ll ever have to do is hold my breath, and lie perfectly still until it passes.
But I also felt really lonely this year. Which is a first. I don’t feel lonely—perks of being an introvert I guess. Two, maybe three, times this year though, I lay curled in bed, my knees on my chest, an echoing emptiness in my soul. It’s an emotion I don’t know what to do with. It’s a strange presence, it’s outline dark and piercing. It’s a thunderous dispersing of everything familiar. It only leaves behind a scattered screech. Maybe this is the part of the pandemic that got to me—a painful need to see and hold my people.
I want a lot of things for the coming year. But nothing more than human connection. Touch. To feel a friend’s hand in mine. The giddiness of having something in common with a stranger. The vast possibility of a new friendship. To look someone in the eye and see my reflection.
See you in the new year.
Let me know how your year has been. What you hope for the coming year.
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