“I’ll tell you this and I haven’t told many people,” I said to a good friend hours before the close of 2018. “I don’t know if I have any resolutions, but my word to live by for 2019 is bloom.”
“That’s beautiful,” they said. Then silence.
What followed was a beautiful space to live deeply this year.
I did not yet know all the ways that the months would pile on top of one another, or how many bruises I’d have collected by the end of it. There were so many things that unexpectedly took my breath away. Some good and some heartbreaking. I am, perhaps, most grateful for all the ways I kept going despite there being no rain. Despite there being no end to the rain in sight.
A birthday dinner showed me how to count all the ways friends can become soulmates. A plant or two barely surviving the year can show me how to tend to soft and beautiful things and how to talk to things that might not talk back. Cup after cup of coffee shared between old friends and new can show me how to believe in connection again. Zero poems written this year can show me all the ways that my words will still matter once all the days in the year have run their course. I, too, am still running my course, still writing these chapters and editing when I can, still believing that words will matter today and every tomorrow after.
So many things were close together; joy and grief showing up at the same time and in the same space. Perhaps this is what it means to be alive and feel it all. I spent the most perfect weekend in New York City with a soulmate, and the day after getting back, my father passed away. I’ve carried the shame of his passing with me every single day. It doesn’t get easier. There’s still so many unanswered questions, so many things I wish I would have said over the years of silence that preceded his death, and so much love that I didn’t get to give to him. I’ll carry that with me for a long while and write many letters to him that he will never read. Scribbling on postcards all the things I wish I’d said, all the things I wish he could see in me, even if he’ll never see them.
On that same trip, I got a tattoo of something that meant much to me. A man opening his chest to reveal flowers pouring out. It was the pinnacle of the year when it comes to joy. I am reminded every day that despite everything that was meant to keep me down, I kept growing, kept blooming in the ways that the flowers might be. There’s a poem in there somewhere that I haven’t yet written. Perhaps 2020 will bring me closer to words that make sense. There are languages I haven’t learned yet that will tell this story one day. Until then, I will marvel. And mourn.
I saw Dear Evan Hansen three times and each time, I left feeling the wind knocked out of me. I saw Ben Platt perform and Sara Bareilles sing to the whole world. I traveled to see people and they traveled to see me. I talked about hard things and, at times, avoided them. I experienced many heartbreaks when I sat with students and watched them grieve a hundred losses, knowing full well that there’s nothing I can do to make it better except hold space. I stopped meditating and began again. I stopped working out and began again. I changed my diet to be plant-based and haven’t looked back much. I stopped explaining myself to myself. Stopped justifying every move I make to the rest of the world and just let my head rest. I let “no” be the end of it and “yes” be the beginning of so many things. I got to work on opportunities that I didn’t think I was ready for and have been supported by some of the very best people. I received cards of encouragement and withness when I least expected them. I thought much about love, old and new, for people and places and things. Spent some time thinking about how much my life might change in the coming year.
Not everything is romance, nor is it void of love. There’s so much that the world offers when the darkness creeps in. I spent plenty of days sitting with myself until I could navigate it meaningfully. Spent some time regretting and dreaming out loud. It might be cool to be a father. Might be cool to
Not everything will be a poem. But everything could be, I suppose, and that’s a pretty revolutionary realization. How words might form. How something could mean so much. How breath plays a role in everything.
I stopped accepting everything that everyone else labeled me and decided, more often than not, that I have something to bring to the table. I have words that matter. I have people that matter. People who won’t fit me into a box because of my talents or passions. People who will let me just be.
I had the opportunity to be an educator and guide students through difficult, challenging, eye-opening conversations. I was a witness to change and learned so many names, so many stories. Perhaps that’s the best part of it all: stories. How beautiful that we all carry so many with us? How tragic that we only share a few, that we only open up when we feel strong enough, and that many of us never feel strong enough?
I hope that 2020 helps us all feel strong enough. To carry to weight of grief and joy at the same time. To come undone. To finally cry, despite all the years that the tears never came. To write the hard thing and give it to the person we used to love. To write the easy thing and give it to the people we love today. To write all of our dreams down and surprise ourselves. To love despite everything that tells us not to.
As for me? I’ll keep asking the same questions in reverse order. I’ll keep blooming, even if I don’t pick any resolutions. Will keep grieving everything I’ve lost with the same intensity, the same passion as I’m used to. Will keep finding joy on every day that I can. Will keep questioning God or Gods, will keep wondering out loud, will keep standing up for what I believe in and will let myself change my mind when the time calls for it. Will still drink my coffee black and will start projects that have no ending. Will keep finding songs that make me think about that one time when my heart was broken. Will keep thinking about my childhood home and every place I used to hide. Will keep finding reasons not to hide, and will, time and again, step into the sun one more time.
P.S. Here are some songs that got me through 2019. Enjoy, my friends. And, as always, love and light to you and yours.