I celebrated last New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles by drinking a whoops-a-daisy dose of champagne, weirding out a stranger, and waking up with a hangover that lasted three days. It was not at all how I had intended to show 2018 what I was all about. And yet, there I was, the morning of the first day of the new year, brain made out of knives and cotton, struggling to open mascara crusted eyes to the harsh sunlight of what I was in fact in that moment, all about.
I was 37, living in my friend’s basement, eating ice cream for dinner, watching my credit card debt rise. I was single. I didn’t want to be. With a ferocity one might have described as desperate. But it didn’t feel desperate. It felt holy. Wholly reasonable. Entirely natural. I stayed open, eyes peeled, searching, seeking someone. I slept with someone I didn’t want to just because I needed to be touched. After it was over, I understood there are lots of ways to touch and it is good to be specific about what touch you are actually seeking.
I went to Vermont thinking I might fall in love with my friend. I fell in love with my friend’s friend. He seemed to fall for me too. I flew to Seattle to find out. A willingness to cross the continental United States for potential touching. We touched. He decided he didn’t want to touch in the way I wanted to. I was crushed. I felt hope leaving me. That warm light in my belly going out. The air made out of molasses, my body made out of lead. It was hard to keep going.
I returned to Vermont. I took a lot of walks in field and forest. I held elaborate conversations with the sky. I prayed to the silence. I said a lot of heartfelt thank you’s. And then I asked for help.
I asked to be met, in love. I mean, I really asked. Got on my knees, head upward in a rainstorm. Not knowing what was rain or tears, wet-faced and wholeheartedly naming my hope. And then, I met him. He was everything I had asked for, and not at all like I had expected him to be. I watched my doubts but didn’t follow them. I held my insecurities but didn’t take on their shape. I stayed true to size. I stayed open. I let him continue to surprise me. I let life surprise me. I did my best to be patient with the process. He invited me to Peru. I found myself in the Andes in November. I laughed for the glory of it all. Life’s kindness that at times I had flirted with giving up on. Life’s generosity. Love’s ability to let us feel it.
And here I am, 38, the year almost over. Currently at my parent’s house. My stuff in storage. Credit card debt hovering. I am no longer single. But that doesn’t mean I am cured of life’s frustrations or pains. It doesn’t mean that I don’t still have to work to find peace. But now I’m getting to do that work with someone else. Now I get to eat ice cream for dinner next to someone. And it is nice. So nice. I find myself smiling often. A new soreness in my face. The sound of my laughter filling the room in the morning. I feel so incredibly lucky. I do. But my insecurities still show up to challenge me to keep stretching beyond my doubts. Fear has not left me just because I am no longer falling asleep alone at night. The work is ours, regardless of what we have or don’t have.
The more I live it, the more I’m starting to feel that life isn’t about achieving. It’s not about getting or having or even keeping. It’s about maintaining a willingness. To bend. To continue. To accept. To hope. To trust. To get up when we don’t feel like it. To go ahead and stay in bed when we simply can’t get up. To let it all be okay. To keep trusting. To keep going. To stubbornly insist on seeing the good that lies in things. To let the difficulties turn into valuable lessons. To realize that hope in and of itself is the elixir, that it’s what keeps us believing. And it is that wishful motion that makes a life more than the actual obtaining. Having is wonderful, but the value of a thing is often felt the most in our longing for it. Perhaps the distance you feel from the thing you seek is what allows you to know exactly how much you love what you are reaching for.
So keep reaching. Just don’t get lost staring at empty palms. Look past your wanting enough to see that you aren’t naming what you lack, but what you love. Love what you love. Be vigilant in your patience for the things that haven’t shown up yet. And get to know the things you have a little bit more. Make lists of your richness. Tally the smiles you receive from strangers. The phone calls from brilliant friends. The rain on thirsty flowers. Be grateful you get to want at all. To be here learning, through longing and getting and hoping and losing, exactly what it is you love.