2017 is nipping at my heels. The end of my 35th year is following closely in its wake. This year I’ve had fewer monster cold sores than in past years; I’ve had less cystic acne-the kind that erupts like nascent devil horns under the skin of your forehead; I’ve got more wrinkles; I can count at least 5 grey hairs on my head; I have a rogue white hair that sprouts out of my left eyebrow; I’ve gained ten pounds from binge eating spoonfuls of Nutella in the middle of the night; my hair has grown all the way down to my waist; I no longer have a flat stomach-the flesh around my stomach is thick and dimply; I don’t fit into most of my pants. In short, time has really begun to exert its effect on my body and in 2017 and I have really begun to notice, and I have begun to notice other people noticing. This past Christmas my grandfather opened the door, and looking at me somewhat askance said: “You look different. You look old. She looks young (gesturing at my sister). You look old. Your youth is over”. I saw an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in four years. When I asked her if she thought I was fat, she responded with a question: “Do you think you’re fat?”
On the other hand, and in direct opposition to the wear and tear of my outer shell, in 2017 I have felt generally good inside. For the very first time in my life, I have a job I love. For the very first time in my life, I have a job I don’t hate. This is huge for me. Finding my place in the world of career and employment has a times felt like an impossible task. In 2017, I finally feel a sense of purpose and integrity about my vocation. I know work isn’t everything and I know many people never get to experience this, but I’m glad for this blessing in my life.
In 2017 I saw Hillary Clinton speak; I had my astrological chart read and finally found out my rising sign (Libra); I started writing again after a dry spell of 5 years; I started ordering my groceries online; I realized and acknowledged I have problematic spending habits, cut up my credit cards, and then relapsed; I went back to therapy, I stopped going to therapy; I weaned myself off Coke using Diet Coke and then fearing the effects of Aspartame (thanks Donald Trump) more than sugar, weaned myself off Diet Coke using Coke; I have watched far less TV than in past years; I have decided I don’t want children, which some people might find sad but for me has been a big relief; I reconnected with an old best friend I missed, I made a new friend I know will be with me for life; I finally made an earthquake preparedness kit; I came off anti-depressants, crashed, got back on immediately; I learned how to make Fatoush salad, I smoked pot for the first time in 20 years; I walked a cat for six straight blocks.
Critically, I have started to set better limits in my relationships. Not because they are reasonable limits, or because others set the same limits, or because I don’t want to incur the wrath of friends and family, or because I can set these limits and keep from feeling guilty, but because I know these limits are what I need in order to sustain good mental health and long term well-being. I’ve been saying no more often and leaving parties when I’m ready with increased frequency. I’ve even been avoiding people and places if necessary. Despite all the wonderful things my parents gave me, I didn’t emerge from childhood feeling I was entitled to my own feelings. In other words, I have always felt that the emotional needs of others trump my own. It takes a really long time to undo this wiring, nor do I want to undo it too far in the opposite direction.
Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki Roshi says “Each person is perfect the way that they are, and each person can use a little improvement”. This does a good job of summing up the way I feel about 2017. In some ways directly related to my well-being I’ve certainly improved-I am now happily employed with better boundaried relationships-and yet in other ways I could use some improvement-less Nutella, more yoga, less online shopping. I’m okay with that.