January 24, 2014 – State of the Union Address
The New Year always gives me good cause to stop and think over what I’ve done, where I’ve been, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve lived. So I do. It was a strange year. A hard year. A wonderful year. As Dickens said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
There was an unsettling strangeness in that I didn’t really have a solid plan at any time. Goal-setters talk of their five year plans, ten year plans, retirement plans. All I had was a tentative schedule of sorts with short-term possibilities.
A wiling away of time here, a portion of time there, a brief time somewhere else. I fell back onto my parents’ hospitality a little bit longer than I’d anticipated. But there was joy in that companionship. A settling into habit, shared meals, stories told. It was almost as if I were an only child. As if I’d never left home at all.
But as the days spilled over into months I kept thinking:
What will be next?
How will I live?
What will I eat?
These questions threatened my freedom. They worried at that worn-thin thread I call My Fear of Dependency. They called at me to justify my way of life, caused me to doubt what I was doing, and to wonder if maybe I should just get a job and be normal. Instead, I worked with my mom, cleaned house, modeled, and became a lab rat. Those odd jobs combined with the generosity and hospitality of both friends and family worked to keep me fed, clothed, and housed. And through it all, I saw some amazing places, spent time with awesome people, and did things I’ve only dreamed of doing. And no, I could not have done it alone. Didn’t someone say, “It’s all about who you know”?
It wasn’t an easy year. My body, not always one to cooperate with my ideas, decided to mutiny. And then proceeded to do so with a flaring force of will. I tried all my tricks: fasts, herbs, spices, greens, pep talks, coercion, self-pity, exercise, neglect, lots of sleep, too little sleep. But it was like being on the wrong side of a civil war. The losing side. At times I forgot how to sing.
But the wonder of life is that even with pain, even in the darkness, I can (eventually) remember the way a melody goes and what the words are.
And then, after being strange and hard, it was also a wonderful year.
“For someone without any money,” my brother told me once on the phone, “you sure travel a lot.”
This is true. I spent time in Dallas, Lockhart, Austin, visited friends in Cibolo, breathed thin air in the mountains of Colorado and saw the sun set behind Pike’s Peak, watched hummingbirds in Springfield, Oregon, bought produce at the Eugene market, swam in the clear water of Crater Lake, spent a few hours of time with a friend in Portland, and tread over lava beds while wearing flip flops. I walked under the sun in California. In Nashville I saw the Parthenon and trekked at the Narrows at the Harpeth. My sister and I drove to the Port of Houston to stay the night on the DALIAN before it left again to cross the Atlantic so that I could reconnect with my ship friends.
I put miles, cities, States, and memories behind me.
I swam more than one nautical mile in the Springfield Rec Center pool.
I ordered kids around at my old Judo dojo, helped with weigh-ins at a competition, and caught up with both my coaches.
I completed the first and second drafts of a novel.
I took part in and was rejected for a short story competition.
I wrote a non-fiction travelogue book proposal and queried a fistful of agents.
I spent enough time at the beginning of the year with my two year old niece that when she saw me at Christmas she screamed out my name and threw herself into my arms.
I turned my face sunward as much as possible, wherever I could.
The joys outweighed the pain, and beauty won over ugliness.
This new year is starting off just as uncertainly as last year did. But if I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned this; that the transitory nature of my current life is both disarming and joyful.
I wouldn’t trade it. I wouldn’t sell it.
What I will do is live it.