I can hardly comprehend how another year has come and gone. 2017 was a whirlwind of activities and obligations muddled with intense grief, stagnancy, doubt, and getting my hopes up about things that ultimately did not work out. It’s not easy to admit, especially as I’ve tried to shield myself against it with well-meaning intentions and mindfulness in the past, but 2017 was one of the least joyous years of my life. When I reflect on all that’s happened to us, a quote I heard recently comes to mind:
“Grief has a way of becoming about everything in one’s daily existence…Everything bathed in the sadness of loss.” –David Giffels in Furnishing Eternity
It’s been increasingly difficult to open up to others about these things, in person or online. The more I share, the more I’ve been hurt, so I do what is familiar and easy in the short term–I retreat and close myself off to the possibility of connection, understanding, or empathy from others. While I could (and certainly have a tendency to) fixate on how the days, weeks, and months continue to weigh on me, I can’t ignore there is another side, a place of calm amidst the turbulent waters.
In terms of experiences, 2017 was a significant year for me. Though I was forced to let go of things that were meaningful to me, I also accomplished things I never dreamed I’d be able to do. I didn’t make as much art as I would have liked, but I found a renewed confidence in my creative ability, said yes to more opportunities, sold more of my pieces, and once again feel that desire to be productive and proactive. I’m making art I’m excited about again.
Though I battle self-doubt and lack of confidence on a daily basis, I put myself out there by accepting offers to model for women-owned brands I admire deeply, STATE (my post about it is here) and Elizabeth Suzann (more on this later in the year!). It’s not easy to be proud of myself–to even feel I’m allowed to be proud, or that what I’ve done is categorically an accomplishment at all. As a woman, a person of color, even just a human being, it often feels more natural to question or reject myself than to be confident or celebrate who I am and what I can do. That disturbs me on a profound level. In 2018 I hold no mercy toward the fear and self-criticism that limits my idea of what I can or should do.
I wasn’t able to remain as physically active as I prefer, as a degenerative disc in my spine coupled with foot complications demanded I give up running and seriously alter my productivity levels at home and at the store. But last year I reached out for help about my chronic back pain and have had some relief thanks to a chiropractor, physical therapy, and yoga (something I was too terrified to try for years). Some days are better than others, and I miss running more than I’m able to express, but I’m learning ways to not only manage pain but heal my body in the healthiest and most long-term way possible (I just got this book and I’m intimidated but excited to dive in). Looking back, it’s surprising how long it took to admit I couldn’t take any more pain. I was stubborn and felt weak. Settling into that vulnerability took a long time, even with my husband, but I’m proud of myself for pushing past the anxiety. While there may seem like more questions than answers about my health at times, I’m grateful for even the small bit of comfort and confidence I’ve found in beginning my rehabilitation. Collectively, all of these experiences from the past year, whether emotionally uplifting or devastating, have allowed me to recognize my own personal and creative needs with better clarity.
For months I have been ruminating on an episode of On Point that my husband and I listened to about anxiety (the episode was specifically addressing teens but I recognized myself immediately)–the idea that people with anxiety, which is different from occasionally being anxious, have a tendency to want to control and possess advance knowledge of how a situation will unfold. The unknown is terrifying, so anxious people feel it lessens anxiety to be prepared and know what to expect. But in reality this awareness and control of outcomes lessens the individual’s ability to adapt and react to stressful situations in a healthy way. It teaches the mind to follow prompts or rely on a script without connection to the real world, without real knowledge or development. I never thought of my own anxiety in this sense–that every time I try to manipulate or minimize “surprise” stressors, every time I try to control outcomes to the extreme so I know what to expect in advance, I’m actually doing myself a disservice. I’m preventing my mind and body from learning ways to adapt to unexpected events and think critically or problem solve on my own. The episode was unnerving and moving as it transported me back to the difficulties I had growing up. The overwhelming feelings I felt back then, and still do, came rushing to the surface, and I wept. Listening, I was fascinated, as though I was seeing and understanding myself fully for the first time (the first time I remember that feeling of intense anxiety was age 5, and it’s been with me ever since). My intent for 2018 is to combat the temptation to give in, to know or predict, control or prepare for every detail and possible outcome. Not knowing, despite the fear it evokes, helps me learn and grow, and I hope to experience more of that this year.
It goes without saying that this year I’d also like to focus on reading more (starting with this book, a sweet Christmas gift from my best friend), continue to rehabilitate my body and try running again, make more art, make healthy choices, and grow deeper in my relationships–serving others and myself well. Here’s to a new year–not a fresh start but an opportunity for growth and balance.
For those of you that read the blog, is there anything you’d like to see more or less of this year? More frequent posts? Less fashion? Interpersonal posts? Everyday life? Inspiration? Designer features? My personal art or outfits? I’d love to know!