I only realized that the end of 2019 is also the end of a decade, maybe last week.
Having made my living thus far mostly dealing with numbers, this embarrassed me to have put it together so belatedly. It might be partially excusable; there's plenty of confusion on whether a decade starts in the 00 or 01 year. There isn't definitive guidance on this, sadly, but in my world it seems that 2020 is not a year that has a "1#" in it, thus it begins the 2020's, and so 2020 will begin a new decade by my view. ( When do decades begin or end? )
The end could not come soon enough to suit me, frankly. The years of 2015-2019 were unexpectedly among the most grueling of my life, and I have been deliriously glad to see each one of those years end. But perhaps none more so than 2019. My dearest desire for tonight's New Year's Eve was to sit by a bonfire and watch it burn for hours, watch it burn itself out. What a perfect metaphor for how these years have gone! Plus it would have been a nice foil to all the images of drowning and sinking that came my way this year. Watching the year fade to ashes might be the best treatment I could think of for this latest miserable year -- which was a year of many harsh firsts ... too many of which were more "endings" not "beginnings:"
- It was the first time I worked anywhere for five years -- and what a psyche-crushing struggle it has been. (I learned I cannot abide sizzle constantly celebrated over substance, the willful refusal to talk about how to truly solve deep-seated cultural problems. Sincerity matters to me, and working in a place where sincerity is both openly shamed yet then encouraged via "bringing an authentic self to work" ... that is deranging if one has a brain and uses it even occasionally. I happen to do both.)
- It was the first time I connected an environment that I dearly love with a mental state that I cannot survive. (The near-perpetual rainy season of the Pacific Northwest is apparently poisonous to some of us, and sadly I'm one of those.)
- It was the first time in almost two decades that I went back to therapy, the first time I accepted that I was not going to be able to keep white-knuckling my life, that I needed direct, specific mental help.
- It was the first time in more than twenty five years that I had more than one legitimate, concrete plan to end my life. Suicide is a ruinous thing and even the pondering of it is not for the faint of heart.
- - It was the first time I admitted that I'm a lot more sensitive than I have let on, and pretending I was not did not change the reality. There is no "fake it 'til you make it" on feeling things less deeply and needing time to think and act in nuanced ways.
I've spent too many years just existing, playing along by others' rules and demands, hoping that suffering of various types and levels would end or at least just pay off eventually ... and it has been no way to live. I did try repeatedly to change things, but no matter how much I struggled to alter anything, even small details, to get on a different track, nothing panned out. So here at the end of 2019, I finally accept that this means that it is long past time for truly massive changes, more massive than other huge changes I have made previously in my life. Trying to keep limping along in the same-old-same-old managed to eat too many years of the last decade, and I will not continue to make this mistake. The rest of my life cannot look much like what's already come to pass. And I can see sun coming into my life again -- but it is elsewhere, not where I currently exist, so another move comes this way.
I did manage to discover long-neglected values in this darkest period of my life. I had to seriously reshuffle life priorities to get this clarity on what matters to me, to discover what my day-to-day life needs to look like. But now I know that hedging on these things -- needing time and energy to explore my own interests, to cultivate friendships more deeply, to not move at mach-1-2-or-mach-anything -- is deal-breaking. I don't want to live any life where business is my priority, where making money is my chief motivation for doing work, where more days are gray and chill than sunny and bright.
There's an internet image that reflects my 2020 mindset. I do not know whose hand it is, or who modified it from the original Brooke Hampton quote ... but I am directing every effort in this new year to re-finding a life where I can say I'm in love with being alive again.