2016 was hard. I started the year disillusioned, heartbroken, mourning. I had a pending draft blogged called “24 Joyous Moments of being 24” – a blog in which I celebrated 2015. But 6 days before the end of 2015, my beloved Turbo was hit by a car right in front of me and passed away. Nothing could cheer me up. I received a promotion at work at the same time, but none of it mattered. If anything, the change only broke my heart more.
I tried to write the blog even after the most horrid of emotions passed, but I couldn’t. Maybe one day I’ll just post it as is, unfinished. Either way, the changes in my life continued me on an emotionally draining path. I moved to a new apartment with a new roommate, which felt like another goodbye to my dog and also had its own set of tensions. I did therapy. I did so much self-discovery that it hurts me now as I write. I wonder about life and secrecy. I got back into politics only to have the hope and goodness sucked out of me at the end of it all. Maybe politics does that, but I wish it wouldn’t.
2014 was Learning. 2015 was Joy (Almost). 2016 was… was what? Is “hard” the only word I have?
In many ways, 2016 was amazing. I went to my first National Conference for the National Stuttering Association. I moved into an incredible apartment that is close to friends, food, and church. I enjoy the work I do at my job, no longer feeling the burn-out on the type of work that I was beginning to feel. I went to Spokane for the regional retreat with the National Stuttering Association, and I laughed so hard I cried and conquered fears. I had a great series of therapy sessions. I led women’s groups. I spoke at church: twice. I served Communion. I charted out some the things I want to do in this life, and found myself being brave as I admitted those things. I paid off my credit cards. I think I attended my chapter groups every single month in this whole year, along with every social event. I read more books this year. I discovered so many affirming faith-based resources. Friendships were made (and some were ended). There is more that I will have to wait to blog about, because it’s too real and too involved still to write about publicly. But with all this good, what is going on? Why is life still so hard?
Life, in many ways, set me free. I’ve made mistakes this year. I’ve said “Sorry” a lot. I’ve had to relearn boundaries for how much I assert myself over others. I’ve gossiped and had it blown up in my face. I’ve lost my way in other areas.
In many ways, I’ve felt trapped. Despite the freedom prickling my skin on all sides, despite the internal freedoms that I’ve found by moving on or self-discovery, I still feel trapped. I’ve been braver, but it’s not quite it. Like a bird let out of it’s cage but into a box. I’ve unlocked something, but things don’t feel free.
Today, I discovered old journals. For all that it’s worth, my life has so much more freedom than it ever has before. I often reflect on the ways I used Christianity to judge others, but I was also reminded of the ways I used Christianity to judge and shame myself, and how I ignored self-knowledge to believe in a god that wanted to shame my decisions and my personhood. I don’t believe that anymore. But the instability of not knowing what to believe in God, in Yahweh, in the Christian Creator is jarring.
My relationship with God used to be so straightforward. I pray. He replies. Sometimes I would write out the replies of this God Himself. As I reread it now, I wonder what it all is. Was it God, Themself, speaking to me? Was it a Divine Being that populated words in my head as I wrote out replies to myself? Was it the words of a pastor, or of my childhood? Was it a higher self-knowledge in myself, one that I would believe is implanted by a Creator, speaking through the depths, past my shallowness, and into my soul being?
In 2015, an atheist therapist told me that I needed church. She told me that some people are built with that necessity built inside of them, and that I seemed to be one of those people. Yet with each old stumbling block from what used to be my faith, I find mostly pain. I believed in a God who thought of us all as sinners, no good without Him. It is painful, I no longer believe that to be a truthful narrative, but I do not know what to do next. I believed in a God who separated Himself entirely from politics, a Jesus who was only about a future kingdom. I no longer believe that to be a truthful narrative, and I am relearning the story of Jesus, and the wonders of God’s Being.
And then I set this alongside my daily experiences of work, work, work, work. I wake up every day at the same time, drag myself into the shower, stop at the starbucks on the end of the block, go to work, work, lunch, walk, work, go home/get dinner with a friend/go grocery shopping. Then the weekends involve laundry, grocery shopping, and friends. Yet they never feel long enough. Where is the Divine in my life? It runs inside of the Ordinary. I experience this when I am with friends, or when I am reading, but I do not experience it for much of my life. There is a separation that I cannot bridge, a soulless emptiness that I cannot fill.
Awareness for a need to change exists. I’m processing ways to do this. I can write more. I can social media less. A new year allows for this period of both reflection and forward-moving. It makes us pause and think about what really fills us and what really empties us. Does spending money on home goods really fill my soul? (For some people, it does!) Does my time spent on social media really fill my soul? (Don’t hate on this, because I DO find sometimes the necessity of social media, particularly twitter and tumblr.) I wonder how anything can change in the stage of life I am in right now.
Freedom. 2017, this feels unlikely. A sexual predator will be our president. As a once-victim of sexual assault, what can feel less freeing? Not much. People around me decided to forgive a sexual predator on behalf of his victims, and then give him the most powerful office in the world. White people forgave his racism on behalf of people of color. So many other thoughts on this, but it could fill a book. And who will listen to it? Only those who agree. So many people cannot, will not, hear us. This is what it feels like to have your voice taken away when you have finally learned to speak. I understand that people do not agree on politics, but can we not listen to each other? Can we not listen to those who are terrified, feel helpless, feel as though their voices have been ignored?
Regardless, 2017. Perhaps we can find a freedom amid the oppression. I’m not sure. I do not know what to expect next, but I know that I am not alone. Shoulder to shoulder, my friends and I will make sense of the world around us and do what we can to protect each other.
2017, set me free.