At the start of the year, I made a Spotify playlist called “2018 will be magic”. It was a desire, a decision, a hope. 2017 was a year of trauma, of mental health collapse, of emotional abuse, of the worst sort of suicidal ideation, of conflict, of loss, of feeling the pain was forever and hopelessness was the only truth, of grief, of decisions, of bones and muscles cut, of hope, of hope, of growth, of change, of love.
2018 would be magic, not matter what. Something had shifted within my eternal landscape, with Buddhism teaching me about the ways in which self-awareness and self-compassion compliment one another, with the realisation that generosity, empathy and kindness are not character traits I had to be ashamed of (how strange and sad and sick our society is that somewhere along the line, I eternalised the idea that these traits of mine made me weak) but that if we give our light openly, it only grows. Light only grows.
Emotional abuse combined with chronic pain and depression showed me what the worst sort of self-loathing feels like which nearly culminated in a cessation of my own existence. Learning the skill of self-love was not as a thing of scented candles and Instagram capitalism, but a thing of valuing and caring for oneself with the same compassion and understanding that you would show a dear friend or precious child. Learning the skill of self-compassion taught me to be better at sitting with the pain of others, while also becoming better at understanding my own boundaries and limits of what sort of behaviours I will accept in others. Brene Brown was right, the most empathetic people are the best at practising boundaries. Love the person, don’t love the behaviour.
And I’m learning to practice empathy for my need to hate, also. Learning to value and protect my right to anger. I still think of my ex at times and have these spikes of pain and rage that anyone could ever call me the love of their life and a piece of shit within the same day. I still feel confusion and hurt, sometimes, when a sense memory reminds me of how I felt so utterly alone and abandoned in New York. I still can’t look at photos and footage of the place without feeling nauseous and shaky. One day my heart will heal and let him go entirely, but I am kind to myself about the effects of trauma and if for now, hate is what my heart needs, I hold that emotion gently, carefully, cautiously, examining it, letting myself know what that feeling is and the grief and pain that lies underneath. I honour the child contained in my heart who cannot understand – even long after I feel I’ve processed it on every other level – how eyes that looked at me with love could suddenly burn with disgust and loathing.
2018 would be magic, no matter what. But actually, it’s been the most amazing year of my life so far. There is new love opening up parts of myself that had previously been unexplored and unarticulated, as well as old love deeping, ripening, strengthening. New friendships blooming, others growing as I learn to better open myself to people with personal truth, vulnerability, sublime stupidity and joy. The have been supremely fulfilling artistic collaborations, absurd, colourful, sexy parties and adventures, a reconnection with my love of nature, learning how much I love my friend’s children, exciting new projects on the horizon and clown school.
Holy fuck, clown school. Where I discovered things about my physicality that brought me joy and insight and a love for my body and movement when a lifetime of chronic health conditions had left me feeling disconnected from my body at best and like it was my enemy at worst. Where I learned to be more brave and vulnerable and open to the stuff of myself than I have ever been. Where I learned how to breathe into the energy of a moment, of an audience, of a feeling. Where I learned to take the energy of fear and ride it like a wave. Where I had moments of feeling myself to be utterly fucked up, utterly insane, a complete snivelling, disgusting, abject mess… and instead of hiding away, I stood up in front of my classmates and rode those energies. Not mental illness, not at clown school, just extreme states. Glorious, invigorating, terrifying, exhilarating and addictive extreme states. Clown school, where the teacher confirmed my belief that you can get so much more out of people if you practice empathy, remain open to their energies and critically engage in their art in a way that is generous and open, without treading on their heart and soul. Everyone got a turn to shine at clown school and it further deepened my belief that we shine so much brighter when we shine together.
2018 has confirmed my horror at the capitalistic and individualistic concepts that permeate our culture, attitudes, relationships and souls. It was an antidote to so much of that. It was a year of sharing, of collaborating, of helping and letting myself be helped. It’s been a year of learning all the ways in which I am privileged and how deep the systems of inequality and oppression are and affect so many living beings. It’s been a year of opening myself, properly, to my joys, pains, fears, darkness, hopes… and of opening myself, properly, to that of others. This process of openness, of not clinging to a fixed identity, of not shutting down to pain or the discomfort of conflict and of growth, it’s a constant one and it requires the right combination of discipline and gentleness. It’s the work of a lifetime, really.
2018 has contained the continual discovery of how my surgeries have transformed my life. The process is imperfect, my structures are still a struggle and the neuropathic pain has become it’s own disease. Nonetheless, my capabilities have been increasing and I have slowly, steadily, been spending more time in my studio. The feelings are mixed, sometimes it’s joy and freedom and an overwhelming sense of gratitude at my unbelievable luck. Other times it’s guilt, anxiety, fear that I’m too far behind my peers after so many lost years, frustration at the ways in which pain still holds me back, fear that I’ll fuck this up and wreck my body again, guilt that I still get depressed and anxious and whingy when my life is so much better than it was. But I breathe, I give myself compassion, I gently move myself back on track. It’s ok, I tell myself, it’s ok.
It’s ok. It’s better than ok. This year has not been without challenges, deep fears, so many tears and I know the way that life works, I know that it isn’t just an upward trajectory. I read the signs in the air, I smell the warnings in the wind and worry for the entire goddamn world. But I’m resolved to keep fighting for the values I have defined for myself, those of light, love, hope and art.
I’ve made myself a new playlist, it’s called “2019 will be beautiful” and it will. No matter what. No matter what waits in store. Even if I have to frame a steaming pile of shit and blood in plastic op-shop gold, 2019 will be beautiful.