As 2021 comes to a close, I’ve been seeing a lot of year-end round-ups on my social media feeds. You know the type: “here are all the great things that I did this year.”
I don’t know if it’s the return to pandemic lockdown or the frigid Prairie cold, but I’m grumpy.
These sort of posts make me grumpy. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s because I’m tired. I’m tired of this urge to count out our acquisitions of success – books read, stuff done, things published – as if they’re gold coins piled in the palm.
Don’t get me wrong: it isn’t that I begrudge anyone their success. I’m the first person to cheer for that writer who finally – finally! – broke through their anxiety about submitting work and got a poem or a story published, or anyone who managed to read something other than their relentless Twitter feed this year. And this isn’t sour grapes, either. I’ve had my share of successes in 2021, which I’m proud of, but they probably aren’t the things that I’ll remember when I’m 80…
Because I also did other things, things beyond my career. For one, I went back into therapy and made some real progress healing old wounds that I thought would remain mostly unbearable (EMDR makes miracles, I tell ya!).
I grew my own pumpkins and potatoes (and tomatoes and catnip and kale and melons and more).
I dyed some yarn an amazing deep fuchsia using lichen harvested during a canoe trip in 2020.
I watched a monarch chrysalis form on our garage door and eventually emit a butterfly.
And, on a July afternoon paddle north of Hollow Water First Nation, on Treaty 5 territory, on the 40th anniversary of the car accident that forever altered my family’s path, J. and I saw seven bears.
These are the moments that birth poems. They are not accumulations. They are not events that make money. They come and go with the seasons. And, more importantly, they are the background to the effort – for some of us, searingly hard, some days – to survive.
Now – especially now – during these long, hard years of collective trauma, we need to make room for this sort of simplicity, for these lists that account for the bare minimum of, simply, keeping going.
Because my list some days might have been – and was – considerably less remarkable:
I had a shower. Or:
I walked the dog. Or:
I tidied the kitchen. Or:
I watched a few hours of Netflix and called it research. Or:
I wrote for 15 minutes.
As we see our way forward into 2022, let’s make room for being under-achievers, shall we?
Of course, we all need to do what we have to in order to survive – both physically (ie. eating) and spiritually (ie. writing), but none of us needs the pressure to be a good capitalist and account for our worth on this planet.
You are worthy. You are enough. No matter what you get done or don’t, you – in the words of the late, great Mary Oliver, securely have “a place in the family of things.”
What was this year like for you? What moment of exploration, creativity, or, simply, survival, helped you get through?
Happy New Year! I wish you health, love, and light in 2022.