In 2016 life delivered me to the place where I picked my first Word of the Year.
I meant it as an invitation to delve into the deeper things of this life, to see and learn and know and feel. But also to be seen. To be known. To foster learning and convey feeling. I meant it in bigger than big ways and teeny tiny, not even observable to the naked eye, ways.
I meant it all.
When I picked this word last January I was basically job-less. I was in the hiring process for what became my current gig, but I’d been mostly out of work on medical leave since August. I’d re-entered therapy, rode my own downward spiral into the psych ward, and was attending the day treatment program that followed that. I’d lost more friends in the last half of 2015 than I still care to count. I’d stepped out publicly and privately as struggling. I talked about writing a book.
Last January it wasn’t clear I’d be able to pull my life back together in that bare bones way the days flow one to the other with relative little remarkability. I discovered I could. I discovered many of my own limits. I discovered my own needs and desires. I discovered gratitude for the simple and stable and even stagnant. I discovered my own buttons in need of pushing, the joy of my pulse racing with surprise or desire or excitement or activity. I discovered longing and wishing and going after the things and the places and the people that do such a thing to you.
I discovered I do better with the structure a job brings. I also discovered I’m terrible at “low-stress” work. I need to be pushed in my life to find it worth living, worth showing up for, worth getting out of bed on the tougher days.
I discovered I need medication. Psych meds. Lots of them. And that makes me bipolar. I have unique limits living life with this disease. I also have unique talents and abilities. I discovered I wouldn’t trade one in to live without the other.
I discovered the world still turns if I’m a half-ass parent. Or even sometimes a ghost of a parent. I discovered we’ve got people to count on to show up for us and provide relief in many ways. Mostly, I discovered the resiliency of my own kids. In many ways, they went through hell themselves in 2015 and the year that followed that was a gifted opportunity to show their maintained ability to connect, to come back around, to reunite with me as their mom and us at their parents and family, and get all shiny and bright again. I discovered selves in my daughters that exist outside of me as their mom.
I discovered who my true friends are. They are the ones that stay. They are the ones that text and check in. They are the ones you pick up with as if you never left off. They are the ones that make time for you, express want for you, show love for you and yours. Even and especially in the less lovable moments. Even and especially when I’ve hung myself out to dry publicly and the best thing a friend can do is stand alongside and acknowledge that, shit, this is what we are doing right now. And we are brave as hell to be doing it.
I’ve been discovered in a number of ways also.
Professionally, the first year at a new job is kind of one long journey of discovery. Who are these people? Are they safe for me? Inspiring? Challenging? Who am I in this environment? Do I bring my full self in or leave pieces at the door? What can I offer here–and is there anyone to notice and cultivate that? I’ve allowed myself to be discovered at work: through my day-to-day job duties, but also through joining Toastmasters and being accepted into the Leadership Academy.
I’ve put my writing out there this year as a mode of discovery also. In 2016 I was published on Elephant Journal, Scary Mommy, and The Mighty. I also was discovered (literally?) but someone compiling a book with inspirational stories and asked to contribute.
Lastly, I’ve stretched myself by volunteering on two separate boards this year and I feel like I’m in a prolonged discovery of how I can best fill those roles and offer myself and my story/talents/abilities/insight up to these organizations I’ve chosen to be more closely involved with.
As the year was winding to a close I discovered a strong urge to try a period of sobriety. And I did. I discovered my moods stabilized and time seemed to fall into my lap and, in so many ways, the world and it’s innumerable possibilities seemed to open up to me. I discovered an insatiable longing to walk toward my deepest desires and speak my scariest truths and chase my greatest and most guttural inner longings. I discovered I maybe can’t do this without dismantling an institution or two within my life.
I got scared. I discovered a lot of ambivalence. I was reminded that I am a top-knotch coper. I found myself re-learning the lesson about life being anything but linear.
I continue to discover. I continue to be discovered. Even with the year over. Even with the world (in so many ways) turned on it’s head. Even with the pain of it all–and the pausing that requires. Even then.
And now, it’s time to move on. It’s time to pick a new word and buckle down on a fresh concept and let life move through me like I know it’s meant to. I’m currently throwing around meditate but I’m not sure it’s The One yet.