This was the worst year of my life.
It’s been said by many people, about 2020, now 2021. And for valid reasons. Many lost their jobs, some their loved ones. Others were stuck at home with their kids pulling their hair out from frustration. Frontline workers were stressed to their max. People heard of youth dying by suicide. I haven’t even mentioned the political chaos and the collective wariness that brought along, nor the growing awareness of the racism that is still very present, and the fear it brings.
This was the worst year of my life.
And yes, there are the personal “worsts”: the canceled weddings, the closing of businesses, the disconnection, the anger witnessed and received in clinics and grocery stores, the missing of family, the cutting off from friends due to differences, the breaking points in relationships.
It’s been a year since my engagement ended. The life I so carefully crafted, and with it, the dreams I held for the relationship, came to a sudden halt.
For months, not a day or night passed during which I didn’t cry, bawl, desperate tears. I wanted my life back, and I couldn’t see a path forward. Friends and family listened, let me cry, brought food, unpacked for me, or distracted me. I’ll be forever grateful for them. Some people in my life disappeared quietly, which, from experience, I knew would happen, but it wasn’t any less hurtful. Of course, the pandemic didn’t help. I couldn’t write anymore, and I put my thesis on hold.
I wanted my life back, and I couldn’t see a path forward.
I came to understand that I was grieving a loss. The loss of a person I loved, and the love I received. But I also grieved the life we had built and the future we had. The missing was a physical pain I felt in my chest and the veins in my arms. At times the hurt was so intense I started to understand why someone would want to actively stop the pain. I’ve started praying again, even though I didn’t believe, wishing I could.
So, it’s been a year. I live in survival mode or panic mode. I realize my deepest fears have become reality, and I’m still here. I’ve had to look inwards and ask myself the hard questions: What were my mistakes? What changes do I need to make?
It’s been a year, and I’m not crying anymore. Even though I feel rudderless, I have this somewhat unrealistic hope that good things are coming. I’ve been job hunting, which has been a trial in itself. I tell myself again and again: Something will stick.
my deepest fears have become reality, and I’m still here
On bad days, I reason I deserve all this. I think, why would good come my way, when others have it worse? - the arrogance! But for us humans, we keep on going, don’t we? It must be the survival instinct in us; to stand up, dust ourselves off, and keep on trudging along.
Zozobra is coming up in Santa Fe. During this festive ritual, the local community in Santa Fe writes down their worries and disappointments on a piece of paper which are added to a 50ft marionette known as Old Man Gloom built out of wood, wire, and cotton. In early September Old Man Gloom will be set on fire taking all the bad thoughts with him before the fall season starts.
we keep on going, don’t we?
Last year I watched the burning on TV while I heard the shouts from outside “burn!” I echoed the sentiment as the fireworks went off, not knowing where I would be in a year. My mom would have a stroke but recover. My niece would give birth to a little girl. My daughter’s friend would die by suicide. A friend would lose her husband. COVID would still rule our lives.
It’s been a year. “Burn!” I say.
She sat on a low adobe wall; a slim elderly woman wearing a flowing skirt and a sun hat. Her long silver locks fell into her face as she pulled weeds from a garden patch behind her and slid them into a linen bag. She looked up as I strolled by in my shorts, tank top and a camera slung over my shoulder. She had one of those faces that instantly lit up as I said hello. “You have a good day now,” she smiled a wide smile. But then, as if reconsidering, she said “how about I wish you luck today - good luck!” I smiled back and wished her the same.
Maybe this is a sign that I’m on the right path
It was not the first time this week that a fleeting thought entered my mind: ‘Maybe this is a sign that I’m on the right path.’ A thought I’d like to dismiss quickly. I am an atheist and do not believe in signs or the spiritual. I believe in solid science. I believe in randomness, but also in cause and effect.
Nevertheless, as I continued walking the cracked sidewalks of Santa Fe, I felt less self-conscious with my camera. I felt a little brazen even; walking up private driveways to take a shot of a turquoise door or a flower in bloom.
Change is not always chosen. A lover takes their life, a partner dies of cancer, we are laid off. We are forced into difficult instant decision making.
Then there are the changes that develop over years, we awaken to them. A seed grows slowly, we don’t even know it has been planted at all. As it grows, we start feeling the shape of it, it’s edges, it’s urges, it’s questions. We look for the answers, but not necessarily in the right places. But the need for change does not let up, it keeps nudging us, annoyingly so. “I am doing all I can,” we say, “What else is there?”
the need for change does not let up, it keeps nudging us, annoyingly so
One day you might be running your daily mile or driving to the grocery store and a thought just pops in your head. “Why don’t I just…” You immediately want to dismiss the thought. “That’s crazy; I can’t do that!” But the thought is there. You keep going back to it. You twist the thought around. You go online and read more about what you can do with it. Finally, you talk it over with your friends and partner. “I’m thinking about making a change, what do you think...”
You could make a mistake. You are about to take a risk. There is no way of knowing. No-one ever knows what happens next, whatever path you are on. So, you take a shower and a walk. “How about I wish you luck today – good luck!” - the beaming silver-locked lady says. I don’t believe in signs, but I do believe in the wisdom that comes from the generous elderly.
Pietje - say Peach-a!