I read a blog this morning about how a new year looks like a field with a fresh layer of snow on it: all fresh, tidy possibility. The author was talking about the urge to set out to create the perfect path across it—a single, dainty set of deer tracks etched crisply into the frost. And how life isn’t crisp and dainty, so that isn’t life. Life is mess. Life has substance. Life is weaving boot tracks and snow angels and churning up the mud below the surface.
The fun stuff makes a mess. The big stuff doesn’t happen in a straight line or an orderly pattern. Life is stamping and running and falling and kicking and tasting and making and destroying.
I’ve run, this year. I fell. I tasted and made and I destroyed.
Yesterday, my aunt said to me, “resolve to make mistakes. If you’re screwing up, you’re trying. You’re living.”
By that definition, I lived my ass off in 2012. I lived it like a bullet train (occasionally while on a bullet train).
In 2011, I lost my oldest friends in exchange for my newest. In 2012, I traded back again. My best friend is back in my life (amazing how far the words “I’m sorry, I was an asshole” go once you can both say them) and the person I lost her over isn’t. They’re not connected, although they are related, and to her eternal credit, Old Friend has never said “I told you so”. I think she understands now that I needed to make my own mistakes. Everyone I know could see the train barrelling at me, but trying to push me off the tracks just made me cling harder.
In my head, my dad is chuckling.
I’m a thousand people trapped in one thin skin, and sometimes, none of them have control and I feel like I’m lurching from one fuck-up to another—too much money, too much wine, too much too much toomuch—dazed and drunk and with no idea what day it is, let alone what I’m trying to do.
The urge to make dainty deer tracks is huge. It’s control, in the end—it usually is, with me. The urge to retreat; to make lists, to set plans, to regulate and regiment. To grab the tattered ends of my life and wind them up on a spindle of self-discipline and order, until all the pieces fit back in their boxes. No sharp corners. No frayed edges. No rogue feelings.
It’s funny: I feel so out of control, and yet I’m still so locked in it. I still can’t hug people comfortably. I don’t trust compliments. I edit myself until I’ve taken out everything but the proper nouns. I don’t want to be that person, and I feel like I’ve already worked so hard not to be. And yet.
I can’t stop thinking about the part in The Perks of Being a Wallflower where Paul Rudd says to Charlie, and then Charlie says to Sam, “we accept the love we think we deserve”. That, and the ferocious crush I‘d have had on Patrick if I was Sam.
Those points are both connected and related.
I fell and ran and destroyed, and all of it was inevitable. And all of it felt so unfair. I didn’t deserve it—but I thought I did. I played chicken with the only possible ending, and it was the happiest and the most miserable I’ve ever been—often on the same day. Often in the same hour. It’s all so painfully ironic, if you know the whole story.
Everything makes me cry lately. Refugee stories on a museum wall. Animated movies. Tweets about cemetery trips. People visiting. People leaving. I said to a friend, “I was trying to have a few feelings, and instead I appear to be having all of them.”
She said, “going from one extreme to the other? You?” And then she cackled like a hyena.
Once again, I don’t have a dial so much as a switch.
It’s a resolution, even if nothing was really resolved. I thought I deserved so little that my heart tried to settle for something awful—and in doing so, ruined something great. I feel bad about that, because it wasn’t his fault. But in wavering on whether I can write about it, I realise that not to do so—to ignore it or avoid it or gloss over it—is to keep pretending that what I felt wasn’t worth anything. Wasn’t valid, or was stupid, or should never have been. I dealt with it terribly, and I made a mistake—but it turns out that’s allowed. In circles other than my own head, it may even be encouraged. I tried, and I screwed up, and I lived.
And next time, maybe I won’t make it. But I hope I do—and, despite everything, I’m glad I did. It was kind of a beautiful mistake to make. Just misguided.
I like that word. Misguided. Like my heart is a missile, and I gave it the wrong coordinates.
Which I did. We accept the love we think we deserve—and I deserve so much more than I’ve let myself have.
As the new year ticked over, we were lighting flying wishes. Our wishes flamed, and the wind carried them away. I wished three things: a creative goal, a personal one, and one for the people I love.
We had one paper left over. I wrote “HAPPY!” on it in big block letters, and we rolled it up and lit it. As the wind carried it away, a cheer rose up from the city underneath us, and just like that, 2012 was gone.
Happy new year.