We made it and nothing more is needed
Hello doorway into the new year, hello passage. We made it, we are here, nothing more is needed.
To exist outside of culture, to recognize its distortions around time
My primary New Year wish is the same as my December wish, and these remain the same every year; I wish to exist outside of culture, outside of the way our culture is about time.
And by this I mean both the way our culture relates to time in general and this season in particular.
Distorted, disconnected, I want to say asynchronous but that already has a meaning. I’m talking about the mysterious pressure to achieve, accomplish, sum up and reinvent coinciding with the worst possible timing for that, it feels so incongruent and disharmonious, and yet it’s expected that we agree to it. Nope!
I reject all pressure to set goals for the new year or evaluate the year that was, hello it is cold and dark here, and I don’t particularly want to do anything, never mind that, or rather it is cold and dark here in the northern hemisphere, and especially in my tiny trailer at the edge of the Gila national forest.
Imagining a different world
How wonderfully healing it could be to live in a culture that celebrated hibernation mode and quiet passaging instead of this collective pressured rush to finish, accomplish, name, review, and plan.
Heaven forfend we didn’t achieve everything our past selves (who had no idea what was coming) hoped for…
What a preposterous, dangerous and out of sync way of doing things.
If I know anything about past versions of me, it is that just like my future selves, they love me with a vast love, and they do not want me to be experiencing anxiety, dread or regret over what did or didn’t happen, and what might or might not come to pass. They don’t put expectations on me.
They want me to put more vegan marshmallows in my cocoa, wrap up in a blanket, smile at the stars. They’re just so glad I’m here. And I am too when I remember to stop rushing and feel the steady companionship of their love.
What is this pressure to plant out of season.
It’s not that I don’t have goals, intentions and wishes, it’s just that it feels off to me that the bigger culture wants me to be in strategizing and review mode when it is the most cold, dark and uncertain.
It’s weird, right?
At the exact time when clearly the most indicated move is hibernation mode and nap time, external culture and capitalism and the various hierarchies of status-quo want us to be making resolutions (the more unattainable the better!) and to finish everything in time.
Hurry! Hurry up and be new and be better and finish all the everything! Do not pause to take in all that’s happened because we have a new list of shoulds! Oh wait, yes, pause and take it in because that’s a should now too! Don’t forget to review your year and post it on social!
We exist in a Culture of Striving, and this cultural agreement that you must pursue and produce and achieve to belong, endless striving with no end in sight, is so strong, pervasive, all-encompassing that I almost fall for the trap every single year, and have to actively remember not to. No thank you. Opting out.
Yes to seeds, candles, tiny sparks, and no to the pressure
Seeding? Sure. I can light a candle for some wish-seeds. I can glow some warmth for my tender yeses and tiny sweet things to come.
But really all I want in December and for the passage into the new year is to be the snuggliest coziest cat, hiding out in a warm bed, amidst a pile of hot water bottles all wearing knitted sweaters.
And no thank you to the frantic invitations to review a trauma-filled year.
We went through a lot. It was rough. As far as I’m concerned, we are the most heroic heroes, braver than the marines, for making it here, to this slow passage into 2022.
Getting here was enough, more than enough, good job, babe. Now we just get to exhale and light a candle.
We made it here (Hot Girl Hygge!)
The “but what did you accomplish this year” monsters are not invited, and I am uninterested in any form of cramming, scrambling, arguing, pushing myself or proving myself. It is not the season of Big Plans for me.
I am interested in blankets, hot drinks, candles. It’s Hot Girl Hygge season over here. We are being snuggly, and waiting it out.
I am trusting that seeds know how to be seeds
For me this is very clearly a season for cocooning, hibernating, wrapping up, taking exquisite care of myself, seeding, trusting that seeds know how to be seeds (!), and that nothing is needed from me other than practicing Safety First, treating myself like the most precious, beloved sweet thing, and waiting it out.
It’s not that the plans aren’t there, it’s that I will meet them when I am done cocooning. The big and small plans will come when they come, when the moment is right.
Obviously if the turning of the odometer is a helpful motivating factor for you in reviewing and plan-making, then absolutely use that, use what you have, I support you in this, I’m not against planning at all, I’m against the cultural expectation that our actions should be dictated by the calendar.
And as for our friends in the southern hemisphere (hi, friends!), I am sure you would like to be enjoying summer and staying cool, and perhaps also be free from the pressure to SUM UP and REINVENT, pursuits that require quite a bit of energy and oomph, actually. Take a nap if you like, enjoy something cool and refreshing.
Would you like a story?
I will tell you a story from this year, and this story can be a form of review but also it is not a review.
Maybe it is like a story told at a wake. Is that dark? Well, so was this year, haha.
A wake / Awake
Yes, I will tell one story, and that will be my stand-in for everything — a placeholder for describing 2021, and invoking the powers I wish to bring with me and embody more fully in 2022, while quietly celebrating still being alive.
The scorpion was the largest I’ve seen, and too close, maybe three feet from my mattress on the floor.
Everything is blurred in this memory except for the scorpion, but I know I was standing beside the south wall of the nearly empty hacienda, pressing against it with one hand to steady myself, watching the scorpion watching me. A sleepy late-night standoff.
It was the second night after the first concussion.
My head was full of wool or maybe cotton batting, I was wobbly, confused, everything felt wrong, off-beat, out of sync.
I knew I was awake but it felt like a dream where time and movement are somehow thick and slowed, molasses-paced, you can’t move at a normal speed, each step effortful, to run would be impossible.
I remember that it was past midnight, because I knew the most capable person I know would be up when I called, but why was I awake, who knows. It’s a mystery but by this point I was already getting used to a new reality of It’s Mysteries All The Way Down. I made the call.
“It’s longer than my thumb,” I said. “Like a thumb and a half. It is a beige-pink. It is very close to my bed. Everything is blurry. Tell me what to do.”
“You are a highly trained assassin,” A said. “You’ve got this.”
“Welcome to the desert, bitch,” said the scorpion. “Kill or be killed.”
True and hardened
“I’ve only ever killed the tiny ones,” I said. “The last one was maybe a quarter the size of my thumbnail. I know those are supposed to be the meanest, and they’re certainly fast, but it was a quick and easy kill. This one is huge and wants to get me first.”
“He is but a humble foot soldier,” said A, who talks like this all the time and not just in my surreal concussion-addled slowed-brain state. “You have taken out their greatest generals. You are a true and hardened warrior.”
“I’m coming for you”, said the scorpion. “Get ready. Get ready now. We fight to the death.”
In my years in the desert, I have learned to find qualities and superpowers to admire in whatever is trying to kill me in the moment, that is to say: everything, sometimes passively and sometimes actively, the desert is inhospitable; dangerous and boundary-oriented.
And so I practice Admiration.
Yes, I want these powers of Devastation for myself. I too wish to be Dangerous and Boundary-Oriented. Are these resolutions? Goals? Maybe. I name the qualities I desire and toss them into the pot.
I identify, perhaps over-much, with the rattlesnakes, sensitive disabled introverts who want to be left the fuck alone. The most relatable.
They don’t want to get into it with you. And when they rattle, that’s their way of letting you know they’re having a panic attack. Sorry, they might have to murder you because that’s how freaked out they are, I respect that.
No, it’s more than respect, I envy it
I too wish to strike fear in the hearts of those who disrespect my space and threaten my safety.
In fact, I would like every man who has ever stepped too close without permission to feel a bone-tingling deep-spine-chill of pure terror, right before I venom them all into oblivion. Byeeeeee.
Spiny is a skill
I admire my cactus friends for their spiny commitment to boundaries, I admire the javelina for their persistence and fearlessness, and how they are better than I am at remembering trash day. I admire the graceful, terrifying mountain lions.
You know what, I will even admit to a grudging respect for the coatimundi, the scariest animal I’ve ever encountered, I will never forget the look one gave me outside of Sasabe last year, the way it stared into the truck, then into my soul, and promised vengeance.
But I have never admired the Arizona bark scorpions until the second night of my concussion, when I had to dispatch this particular very large one, who was fully committed to both the fight and the trash-talking, and this might even be what I admire most:
A scorpion doesn’t run away from you. It runs towards you.
I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered that level of intense, fully-committed bravery that a scorpion exhibits when it is readying itself for battle.
Most creatures run, especially when they are small enough for you to step on. The scorpion doesn’t see the point of that. “Oh, you want some of this? You wanna fight? TO THE DEATH? It’s on. Let’s fucking go!”
I can admire that, and desire to embody those qualities myself. Maybe I didn’t feel admiration in that exact moment, but I do now.
Ready or not, here I come. Battle. Let’s do this.
What if we just run towards this scary situation? What happens then? Guess we’ll find out.
Not a boot
“Listen carefully,” A said through the phone in his calmest voice.
“Don’t use a boot. You don’t want anything with crevices it can slip into because it can and will fit itself to any opening, however small. You need something hard and completely flat, like a dictionary. The first smash is everything, but don’t stop there.”
“The scorpion is a highly intelligent adversary, it will prepare itself for the blow and flatten itself to meet it. Keep smashing, don’t stop. A dozen smashes, harder than you think is necessary, then keep something heavy on it and keep watch.”
“I don’t think I can do this,” I said. “I can barely stand, my vision is blurry. I can’t think fast or move fast, I am not the right assassin for the job.”
“You got this, killer,” said A. “If they sent you for me, then you’re the best.”
“I might be the best in other circumstances,” I said, “but I’m injured.”
“Call me when it’s done,” said A.
“Ugh, enough with the talking,” said the scorpion. “Let’s go, bitch. BATTLE.”
I used a sheet pan, I think. Use what you have. Not my finest kill, but I finished the job.
Channelling my best scorpion powers:
I am made of courage, I move towards what scares me. Battle. I have done harder things than this, and I will do them again. I am resilient, fearless, tenacious, ready for the impossible, and, like the scorpion, I choose to perceive in this moment that I am indestructible, whether it is true or not.
“Get some rest, killer,” said A into the phone. “Tomorrow is a new day.”
Never say never
A week later, I had a conversation with a very kind, sweet yoga teacher who had just moved to the Sonoran desert from Sacramento.
Hope you’re ready to kill some scorpions, I said. Oh, she said, I would never harm a living being.
The dead scorpion under the baking sheet laughed and laughed. Welcome to the desert, bitch. Kill or be killed.
Time / Timing / Times
Traumatic brain injury is a form of immersion, and also a way of existing outside of time.
And so I have been thinking about time, my relationship to time, what a more conscious, loving and intentional relationship to time might look like.
How do I wish to mark time, make time, interact with time, give myself time, tend to time, and be in a more harmonious relationship with the calendar? Less pushing, more flowing.
There is trauma time, grief time, cocooning time, recovery time, rewriting time.
There are anniversaries of losses, and sometimes those become invitations to celebrate liberations. And yes, there are times when we can’t do much but curl up in a ball and cry.
Recognizing the days that are those days (and preparing to meet them?)
There are the days in the calendar we dread, for good reason, and I want to be better prepared for those too.
There are the surprisingly hard times that hide in the calendar, those days I wish I could remember fuck me up every single time, but each year it is a surprise, again. Oh, did I schedule an important appointment for the day I got my heart smashed all those years ago? Can’t make it, crying too hard!
Who knows, maybe next year around concussion time I will feel woozy and out of sorts again, as my body-mind remembers the two weeks of bed, the hunger, the fear, the dizziness and the unanticipated battles.
There are times when our only job is to comfort ourselves, to undo these pressures of time, to say, okay, we will get there when we get there. All we can do is take good care of ourselves.
invoking the superpower of We Do Grounding Things
As the Desert Assassin, one of my Incoming selves likes to remind me:
Hydrate, babe. In scary times and in all times, we live by We Do Grounding Things, trusting that this counts, that each thing we do to tend to ourselves, no matter how small, has a fractal effect and supports our other goals and wishes.
My personal ritual of passage into the new year is about applauding my resilience.
I survived and made it here, in incredibly difficult circumstances, and that’s not only enough but a big deal, even if my internal self-criticism monsters say otherwise
The Gregorian calendar year kicked off with tragedy and horror here in the United States as we experienced a coup attempt in action and watched an attack on the Capitol in real time, watched it not being stopped the way one might have imagined an attack being stopped (cough, white supremacy, cough), every moment awful and traumatizing.
Ahhhh and that wasn’t a lone incident, not to mention that some of us were already barely hanging on as it was, between the loneliness, the fear, and the seemingly endless wait for a vaccine.
The vaccine too proved to be yet another form of heartbreak, another public health failure. It turns out you actually need a healthcare system that doesn’t regularly harm people in order for your fellow citizens to make good choices, and that’s not the world we live in.
There’s more I want to say on that but I won’t, this is just one example of how this year brought new variants not only of the virus but of disappointment, tiny and large betrayals, betrayals all the way down.
And yet, I am still here, a parade of sparklepoints for everything I did that helped the tiniest bit to keep me going, a candle lit for whatever else contributed to that, for luck, magic, every lone spark of hope.
This year I moved towards a scorpion, ready for battle, which is basically the opposite of the story of the stuffed grape leaves, and that’s something too, a rewriting. Let’s make space for rewritings and Do-Overs Forever!
Let’s generate a safe passage into the new
We can reject the pressure to review the year, to celebrate wins, to set goals or do any of that. We don’t have to.
And also at the same time (Safety First!), there is an element of being with [what was] that is a form of tending. I told you the scorpion story because I want to remember: while this year held terrifying moments, I am here to tell the tale.
Also I think sometimes naming what we went through can be a form of generating safe passage into the new. That sounds like a paradox. It doesn’t have to be:
I am not hiding from what happened, nor am I forcing myself to come to terms with any of it. Instead, I’m practicing acknowledgment and legitimacy, as part of the passage, as a way of lighting up the new path.
And so here we go, into the new.
Into the new, which is both the same and different
Lighting a candle for I am ready to be here now.
Lighting a candle for two concussions and the timing of it
A candle for the night I did battle with the scorpion.
How about a candle for the entire month of February, or maybe this is twenty eight candles because February was very rough, or maybe fourteen candles because that’s how many times I had to move from one not-a-safe-house to another, February was genuinely the worst.
Lighting a candle for all the ✨ A N X I E T Y ✨!!!!
A candle for painful surprises and the pain of the surprise
Lighting a candle for those hidden or unexpected potholes in the calendar, like how you think you’re doing okay but you forgot that this is the day when Terrible Thing happened, or maybe you remembered but thought you could handle it and you really can’t, and it’s almost hilarious that you thought you could, still one of the great mysteries.
A candle for the day A left for the fires and didn’t say goodbye, and the six weeks of no focus, waiting for a sign of life, and then the next one.
Lighting a candle for not knowing.
And a candle for knowing things I don’t wish to know.
Lighting a candle for the endless disappointments of existing within a culture that is unloving, punishing, where we won’t agree to take care of each other, and a government that won’t do the minimum to keep us alive.
(A candle for the particular bewildering crushing despair of people pretending it’s business as usual.)
Fires and floods, both in the world and my personal life
See also: the endless mysteries of timing and progressive last straws.
Did I tell you there was a fire in my trailer, it was extremely scary and traumatizing, and I am okay but also not okay, and my trailer is okay but also not okay.
Did I tell you about how the pipes froze and burst, and the last-straw-ness of that?
Lighting a candle for being so cold there was nothing I could do but cry.
Lighting a candle for hopes dashed, and for hope, in general.
Lighting a candle for not giving up
Lighting a candle for all the times I said okay I give up, but then did not give up, good job, babe.
Lighting a candle for the times when there only no one to help me, and the times when people were in the position to help but were the opposite of helpful. Like during first concussion when I was out of food but couldn’t remember where the grocery store was, and an ex, who knew about the concussion and was in town, sent a shirtless selfie.
Lighting a candle for the times I didn’t ask, and for the times I did, and for friends who showed up. Thank you.
But I can also light candles in celebration, let’s light up the room in celebration for:
- Surviving, being here and Shehecheyanu (thank you for keeping us, sustaining us and getting us here to this moment when we can pause, breathe and say thank you)
- Labneh making, morning bobcat stretching, Monday Meetings and ritual ritual ritual ritual
- Nearly one hundred and seventy thousand sun salutations, two thousand new words each in French & Arabic
- Meals made, dishes washed, naps taken, repetition as therapy
- Took care of myself to the best of my ability (mostly staying off social media, mostly in bed before 9pm)
- I stayed close to nature, attuned to myself and used what works (We Do Grounding Things, Progress Is Fractal)
- I was so brave, over and over again, very brave, braver than the marines, truly the Bravest Little Toaster
- Saying what needed to be said, re-establishing boundaries, maintaining hope
- Beautiful memories like the day A and I went to Mt Lemmon, or the day A returned from the fires
- Reacting less, loving more, trusting myself more
- Bravely returning to the place where everything went wrong to rebuild, leaving again when it was time.
I am still here, not summing up and not resolving, just here with my candle and my hope-spark and my words. Trusting in right timing. Braving my way onward.
A friend sent me a poem and it was an eleven line poem that only needed to be one line (for me), and here it is:
Brave your way on.
So yes, that one line was the poem I needed, but also I’m writing thousands of words here, and maybe only three or four are the ones for you, though if they are the right ones then I am glad, ignore the rest.
Anyway, I’ve been saying this a lot lately. Brave as a verb. Let us brave our way to the post office.
And so we brave on, into a new year.
Here’s the tl;dr
I know summing up isn’t my thing but let us sum up:
My wish and focal point for the coming year is about Existing Outside Of Time, developing an entirely new relationship with time, and not allowing the external culture to frame or form my interaction with time, undoing all external pressure to plan and review, I can be present with those pursuits when they call to me.
And I wish to acknowledge that reflection on [the year that was] is, or can be, deeply unappealing for many of us when we went through so much upheaval, and I wish to acknowledge that passaging into a new year is or can be very fraught, especially when last January was particularly terrifying and overwhelming.
We really went through it this year. Well, I don’t know about you. I did.
And so finding our own safe and comfortable way through this passage is important. External culture would have us believe that comfort is a bad word, but let’s comfort ourselves, let’s layer on comforting experiences of both meanings of comfort.
For me, right now, I am lighting candles of passage, I am tending to small sweet wish-seeds, and mostly I am tending to myself.
A pre-announcement of sorts!
I am not ready to announce anything yet because December is hibernating-cocooning and slow-passaging time for me, but I will be offering a not-a-course collective experience this year that is a play space where we play with time.
We will be inventing our own personal holidays and Feast Days, and making safe space for known hard times as well as strategizing backup recovery plans to deal with surprise hard times. Reconfiguring, rededicating and reclaiming the calendar so it works well for us instead of being a source of expectations and shoulds.
More on that to come, and if you are on the Very Occasional Announcements list, there will be an email.
In the meantime, if you are brainstorming words and qualities to call in for the new year (or if you need a gift for someone!), I am still giving my beautiful Book of Qualities in ebook form to anyone who gives any sum of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. I appreciate you for appreciating!
Come play with me in the comments, I LOVE COMPANY!
You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you, notice what you’re noticing, skip a stone, or brainstorm ways to rewrite the passage into a new year.
You can always use a made-up name in the comments whether in service of safety or playfulness, this will drop your comment into moderation, which I do not check every day, so we will apply patience to that process and every process. What if nothing is wrong?
We are all going through what we are going through. We make this a sanctuary by not care-taking or problem—solving for other people, we can offer each other warmth and witnessing, and the trust that this is enough. Thank you for being here, it means so much to me to be able to process in companionship. ❤️