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perihelion/aphelion

December 31, 2017

Every year is harder than the last, but I’m learning to count my blessings.

We lost my grandma Betty in January. Though it wasn’t unexpected, it’s always unexpected. In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis recounts the death of his wife and chronicles his grief. He writes, “No one ever told me grief felt so like fear.” The grief that I have felt these last few years has veered often into fear, a sense that I am quickly becoming “the adult in the room” and there are less and less people to look to to help me navigate life.

This feeling of being the “adult” in the room first began to hit me when I TA’d in Amherst. I would have the acute sensation that if something were to go wrong in the classroom, I would be the one in charge, and the one others would look to for help. That is humbling and frightening. Now that I work with people who are in need and, sometimes, even in danger, I feel that sensation even more.

This year, I am learning to count my blessings. These have been mine this year:

I finished a Master’s degree in May. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I almost had a nervous breakdown in April. But I did it. And then I went and won a competitive fellowship to the Smithsonian where I continued to thrive.

And then, I was lucky enough to be able to take the investment of time, money, and effort that both UMASS and the Smithsonian made in me and bring it home. I was able to quickly find a full-time job working with and for community.

I kicked this year’s ass. I am still grieving. I am still feeling fear. I am constantly angry and sad, and I should probably find myself another therapist since I haven’t seen one on a regular basis since June. But I’m doing my best. Sometimes my best could be better, but it’s my best. That’s what matters. Sometimes I am afraid to feel hope. I felt hope when I got into grad school, and then I lost my dad. I felt hope right before my last semester, and then I lost my grandmother. These things are coincidences and not a consequence of feeling hope. Maybe it’s best not to call it hope, per se, but to say I am planting flowers. I am planning to plant flowers. I am grateful that so many things I watered and nurtured and cared for bloomed for me in 2017, even as the world became an increasingly fearful place.

I finish the year with a partner I deeply love and am committed to, who supports me through my ups and downs. I hope that he has felt as loved and supported as me. I hope 2018 continues to be a year in which I am able to give another human being all of me.

I finish the year with my mother, who is my only parent left and who seems increasingly fragile and precious to me as time passes by.

I have a home, a family, a burgeoning career, friends, and health. I thank the universe for these blessings and I try to leave behind some of that anger, that sadness.

I hope you can count your blessings and that you are safe and warm and loved and fed. And if this year was hard, too hard, and you’re not sure how you can make it to or through the next year, I hope you hold on just a little longer. Spring is coming and with it, flowers.

 

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