Astute readers may have noticed that I stopped blogging in the middle of my Berlin adventures. This is because, well, I was having those adventures, and decided to have them rather than write about them. I fully intended to write about them when I got back, but other things happened – it’s amazing how chasing/watching a toddler all day can basically wipe out all other thoughts and conversation. So I will get to Berlin, but for now, I wanted to do a little reflection on 2015. Because I gave up last year on proclaiming all the new things I would achieve in the New Year. That’s just setting oneself up for failure. So, let’s reflect.
2015, was, for me, a remarkable year. I got a new camera. I remembered how much I love hiking. I got to see so many of my wonderful friends all over the world. I did some more aunting of my incredible niece, Claire. I spent time with my family. And Boston – I feel like I actually live here now! So many great times in my awesome home.
Yet at the same time, the larger world seems to be crumbling under the weight of some pretty terrible stuff.
I had some “dance-like-no-one-is-watching” good times, and some moments when I broke down and bawled like a 3 year old, with no one but myself to make the tears stop. Indeed, pretty much every big theme in my life has both a super-wonderful side, and another side that means I have to work a little harder to see the light. Here they are, those themes, in no particular order.
About 5 years ago, I caught the travel bug, big time, and since then…wow. I have gone on some wonderful adventures. This year, I got to see some cool new places: Cape Cod, the Grand Canyon, Virginia Beach, Reykjavik, and Berlin. I also got to revisit some old places: The White Mountains, Arkansas, Madison, Norfolk.
So what’s the tension here? Well, it’s a little selfish, and it has to do with money. See, traveling costs money. And when I travel to the same places, like Madison for board meetings, and to the family haunts to visit family, well, that’s money I can’t spend on my next grand adventure to wherever.
My baser instinct wants to resent the travel to the same old places. But here’s the thing – my more enlightened side acknowledges that I want both. I need both, in order to fill my soul with both the new and the familiar. So, this tension won’t go away, and I don’t think I want it to. And boy, believe me when I say I know I am lucky to be able to roam as I do.
This past year, I did all kinds of cool things with my body. I walked hundreds of miles through cities throughout the world, ran 5ks, hiked mountains, played volleyball, swam a little, and even occasionally did some stretching. I went to a German Spa, and those who get what that entailed will know that wasn’t an easy thing to accomplish within this body. My body and I rocked the year, in my opinion.
And yet, I also added pounds to it, which just makes me so upset. Most of the tears (not all) of this year, sprang from this particular tension. It doesn’t seem fair that I can do so much with this bag of bones and muscle and fat, and still be just another statistic, another cog in the overweight train.
This tension is summed up pretty well in one thought – when I am alone, with no one to judge but me, and I look in the mirror on the back of the door in my apartment, I like how I look. I like my body, and where it has taken me, and what it represents. Apply any other measure to it, external or whatnot, and I hate it and all it represents. I want this tension to go away, but I don’t think it will.
Like most years, I spent quite a bit of time pondering what it means to live alone in today’s world. I had a date or two, but they went nowhere. I had some experiences that gave me a taste of NOT navigating the world solo, and I was a little shocked at how much those impacted me. Our world is really built for those who have partners. It really, really is. I had to work pretty damn hard to get back to my mantra of “I’m not a failure because I’m single.”
As I write this, I’m reminded of one of the biggest parts of Outward Bound, that experience I had way back in 1992. Back then (I don’t know if they still do it), every Outward Bound trip involved a “solo” – 3 or 4 days where each Outward Bounder was entirely alone in the wilderness. At the time, it seemed crazy and scary and radical.
Today, when I think of how much time I spend solo, I have to laugh at my 16-year-old self. Don’t get me wrong, it is a big deal to learn how to survive alone. It’s just not as radical as I thought it was back in 1992.
If only you knew how many “political” blog posts I wrote this year, and then didn’t publish. There’s no tension in this theme – it’s all awful. I hate the election cycle, the vapid and divisive media coverage, the willingness of otherwise smart people of all political persuasions to buy in to biased crap that feeds their own belief systems, and the total mockery that politics makes of the REAL problems that my fellow Americans face. Notice that I don’t include myself in the company of those with real problems. I am white, comfortable, and safe, and sure, I’d like to pay less in taxes and see more funding for the arts, but I don’t need politicians to worry much about me. We are becoming – or have already become – a nation of have and have nots, and it’s only going to get worse. This makes me just, well, sad.
I was just in Germany, y’all. A place where “building walls” actually happened, where making a country “great again” led to the extermination of millions of humans. I’m having a hard time seeing the light at the end of this particular political tunnel.
But I still want to believe in this idea, this place, this dream that is America. And I know there are good things happening all around that are too trite to talk about. I’m not talking about government-funded propaganda at NFL games, or corporations using social issues to sell Cheerios. I’m talking about the real work of governing and helping that good people do. It’s out there. We have to find it.
I mean, really. How can things be bad when Sadie and her nose are roaming around bringing smiles to all?
So, what will happen next? I want to tell you that 2016 will blow your mind. That, when I write this post next year, I’ll be skinny, well-traveled, enjoying a robust dating life, and the politics will have solved themselves through some combination of unicorns and rainbows. But we all know that’s just foolish talk. Things don’t change because the calendar flips over. They change because we change them, and sometimes, they don’t change at all. So all we can really do is keep doing the work, keep making the small choices that make a difference.
And posting more dog pictures.
Much love to you all, my dear readers. I wish you joy, peace, and maybe a little change, if you want it, in the New Year.