This has been a crazy year. There were good, bad, and bananas things. To say that I’ve learned a lot is an understatement. Because, honestly, if I’m not learning – I’m doing life wrong. Because life is about trying. It’s about making mistakes. It’s about putting yourself out there, in whatever fashion that might be. Making art, for instance. Trying a new hobby. Saying I love you. Traveling somewhere all by yourself. Meeting people.
To me, that’s the important thing about life: living it. Being present. Finding, stealing, and savoring moments. There are three things I couldn’t live without: love, laughter, and coffee. Let’s face it: no one wants to be around a non-caffeinated me. It’s not pretty. But, to me, those are such vital things. Without love, I’d cease to exist. I am nothing without my idiotic, somewhat spastic, completely willful heart. A sense of humor, too, is a must; there have been things, over the years, that I would not have gotten through, if it weren’t for a sense of humor. I’m not going to list them. You don’t need to hear my scars. Suffice to say, finding humor in the dark parts will help pull you through.
But I feel like I need to say thank you, here (feel free to skip this, if you’re easily bored or pressed for time). To my family and friends, who love and put up with me (even when I’m crazy…which is a lot). To anyone who has ever read something I’ve written – and even liked it! To everyone whose life I’ve been lucky as hell to be a part of, who has touched my life in unexpected, but beautiful ways. To the mad ones, who light up life like stars in the blue-black night sky. To my people, my lost witches, my Gilmore twin, my partners in crime, my Wonder Twin, my darling gypsy witch, and my best friend. To the agents who have blogged, tweeted, and generally been awesome. To my fellow writers and editors who live in this ocean made of words.
It has been a year, darlings. There are moments I wouldn’t trade for the world. Although it has been an especially crazy few days, I’m grateful. I keep thinking about this time, last year, where I was and what I was doing. What was I feeling? Like I’d lost everything and nothing would be the same again. I was reeling in a soul-deep, earthquake way. Since then, I’ve seen, been, done, and loved a lot. I’ve been true to myself. I’ve tried new things. I’ve been open, honest, daring, and probably a wee bit bonkers. I’m proud of everything I’ve learned over the past year.
I hope that 2014 is filled with so much joy, laughter, magic, art, adventure, wonder, love, and honesty. May you face all your shadows bravely. May you always remember you’re not alone. May you kiss someone with reckless abandon, someone who adores and cherishes you. May you make good changes. May you walk right out of your comfort zone and discover new things about yourself. May you laugh until your face hurts. I wish, for you, unexpected blessings, strength, and resolve.
In 2014, be good (and true) to yourself. Believe. Allow yourself to hope and dream, then act on those things. Wish and want, and then do everything within your power to attain those desired things.
For all of you who are in my heart, whether or not I’ve said it lately – I love you. Carry that with you in the new year. Tonight, I’ll be raising a glass to you and making wishes of my own.
*Title pilfered from the incomparable Neil Gaiman.
Generally speaking, I handle things better when I understand them. I don’t have to like a situation to handle it well. In fact, if I had a superpower, it would be that. If you tell me that worst thing imaginable (“There’s a murderous clown living in your closet, and he has eaten your puppy!” or “I’ve just finished the last of the coffee. And there is a statewide shortage!” or “I’m sorry, but you are suddenly lactose intolerant and can no longer consume cheese.”), I will not be HAPPY – but I cope with things better when there are facts.
It’s the void that gets me. The dark unknown, the universe of answers turned inside out. Not because the answers do not exist. It’s because they are hidden from view, unable to be accessed. Because some answers are tucked any somewhere – and with someone – else. And it can be very hard, very challenging to get a handle on a situation like that. Especially if there are crazy variable involved, and you’ve absolutely no way to suss them out.
This is what your brain does in moments like that. Or, at least, mine. It’s like that scene in a horror movie where a character is in a basement. Suddenly, the lights go off, and the protagonist cannot find the stairs. It doesn’t matter if there truly is no monster lurking in the darkness. Your brain goes full on oh my god, what they hell? Is that a Jabberwocky? I AM GOING TO DIE. And the character ends up tripping on a rake and impaling himself/herself for no good reason.
Emotionally speaking, that scene is a landmine of what-ifs. Your brain starts to devolve into its worst, fear-seeking self – until you’re fairly certain the reality of a situation is the most terrible version possible. That is nothing more than fear taking all your good sense, wrapping it in insecurity, and chucking it into the ocean, where it gets eaten by a mutant shark while the theme song to Jaws plays at an alarming decibel.
Personally, my problem in this kind of situation is usually twofold. The first problem is that if I’m worried about someone, and I have no idea what’s going on or any way to find out what’s going on, this does not make me worry any less. In fact, it makes it worse. It ratchets up the fear and concern to an unholy height, leaving my pulse throbbing even in my teeth. My brain tends to bounce around like an electrified pinball, occasionally catching fire and shorting out. Because when left to my own devices, I always blame myself. I find some fault in something I did and start with, “maybe…” And that maybe is a whisper that turns into a voice, knocking itself around the inside of my skull. It’s the what-ifs that kill us slowly, stupidly, and thoroughly. (This is a flaw in my personality. One I am forever working on.) You may not notice this, because most things can be hidden with a good smile. But it’s there. Because I am a worrier. I care, therefore I worry. If I give a damn, I give a damn. And no amount of space, time, or intergalactic rifts in either of those things can even remotely change that. Like I mentioned before, it’s easier to deal with a situation if the lights are on in the basement.
The second part of this problem is I am absolutely shit about being able to do nothing. I don’t necessarily need to move a mountain or render some grand miracle. But I like to help. I like to do, even if it’s just to lend an ear, or a hug, or buy you a drink. I like to help. It’s not even a compulsion. It’s pretty much the foundation of who I am. If I love you, I want to help you. End of the fucking story.
But then, there are the times where the basement is dark. Everything is uncertain. And there are two choices, either of which could be possible. In that moment, the wisest thing is to calmly walk to the stairs, moving slowly – not flailing about like a hyperventilating water buffalo. But truthfully, who is really graceful in moments of raw worry or fear? That is something you have to convince yourself to do, reasoning with your lesser self. It is probably the best choice. The second is to sit down in the darkness. Remind yourself that there’s really nothing to fear. Wait it on. The lights will turn back on. You’ll see what there is to see. You just have to wait. Waiting without knowing is the hardest thing I’ve yet to fully master. Without a finish line, an end zone, a set place of ending – something to achieve – it is terrifying thing. What-if it never ends? What if I never understand? What-if [insert thing here]?
What-if. It’s a bitch.
But in the face of what-if, the best thing is to have faith. To believe. To sit back, consider the heart of the situation, and remember that there are a few things in life that are always true: laughter cannot fix a situation, but it can right the most crooked moment. Fear is only good if you use it as a guidepost to bravery. Love is the strongest force on this earth.
I don’t think much in life is black and white. I don’t think most things are easily figured out. I believe in the power of the heart, of the way life gets complicated when we least expect it to. But I think that at the end of the day, we know exactly what it is we’ll fight for. Sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, there is truly a monster in that basement. The lights go out. Your phone suddenly dies. The door slams shut. And you have, again, two choices: you let the damn thing eat you, because you’re paralyzed by fear OR you fight. Because you’d rather go down swinging than curl up in a ball and give in. That is the most important thing: even when it’s absolutely horrifying, you fight. You don’t just accept that the monster is going to eat you.
When that happens, the entire world changes if you know that someone is on your side. Someone believes in you. Someone is willing to risk everything for you. In that spirit, here is the truest thing I know – even my worst days, even when I’m scared, know this: I’m here. I love you.
on the outside, this is madness.
we are lunatics
screaming at the walls, fingers
fumbling for the lock
on the whiskey bottle,
lips parting like a reflex
as your hands
leave burn marks on my heart.
on paper, this is madness.
we are an equation
without solution, infinity
bottomed out, a word
a touch without conclusion –
a love like air
and ink, feelings
that flood everything else
until we are as perfect
as the rain.
in theory, we are fallible.
our hearts are guilty
as a hangman’s noose,
that our boots are bloody,
and still, I want to kiss you
too hard and forget to breathe,
because sometimes we
takes the place of I,
and if love is sin –
I couldn’t care less.
light the fire.
shape the iron.
trust the fall.
Sometimes, things happen and the reality of those things hit you like an emotional mac truck. Often times, that truck is also on fire, load with explosives, as well as the Gentlemen from Buffy.
It can be one thing, or a perfect storm of unexpected crap. The number of things doesn’t really matter. The impact, with its crater-inducing tendency, is what matters. There’s no fault here and no blame. Just facts as they are, as they have been laid out. Unexpected, or expected, realities. Hard things. Things that are broken or breaking. Things that are put aside or buried. Moments that shift the whole world from one thing to another.
You know what happens next? You hold on. You reach out. You jump and see who catches you. Too much of life is loss, too much to blindly accept it or let it crotch-kick you into oblivion. So, in light of that, let me tell you what I know.
- There are people in life who can make you laugh even when you don’t think it’s possible. With these people just being around them changes the game. Changes you. If you find one, make sure he/she knows it.
- Love is never, ever a mistake. (Walking away from it? Almost always the wrong thing.) I have never once regretted my feelings in this regard. Ever.
- Our fears cannot make our decisions. That’s cowardice. And you, darlings, are much braver than that. So I am. You owe that to yourself and your own heart. Follow your heart. That little monster knows what it’s doing, even if you don’t. Even if life has suddenly turned into an emotional circus, complete with clowns of evil intent. (Because there’s such a thing as a friendly clown? I DON’T THINK SO.)
- Actions matter most. What a person SAYS is nice. But as much as I love words, I love actions better. If what you say and what you do are different? Well, that’s cause for curiosity. You cannot speak something into reality. Unless it’s the Candyman. In which case, NOOOOOOOO.
- There is no substitute for passion. There is no substitute for love. There is no substitute for friendship. Next question?
- Say the important things out loud, always. Even if you’re terrified. Even if it changes everything – and it probably will. It should. But the scary reality is that we don’t have infinite chances and moments. Time passes. Seize a moment. Say it [whatever it is] out loud. It is the truest thing you can do to honor how you feel.
- There are days that just suck beyond the telling of the tale. Wine and chocolate in mass quantities will help. Should you wake up with a wine headache, take Aleve and have a greasy breakfast. Until then, Fezzik, sleep well and dream of large women.
- Never judge the present by the past, or your decisions by someone else’s mistakes. Choose carefully and wisely, by never by another’s doubt. Or, for that matter, you own doubt. Doubt is slickly dressed assassin wielding a rubber chicken: it’s only scary if you let it be scary.
- Always go after what you want as if the world is coming to an end. If given the choice between ice and fire, always favor fire. Ice is too contained. Fire is a wild thing.
- Stand up for what — and who — you believe in. No matter what. The people who love you, truly, will you love always, after the dust settles.
- And, to quote from Bukowski, “nobody can save you but yourself and you’re worth saving. it’s a war not easily won but if anything is worth winning then this is it.”