Goodbye, 2014.

anguish

These last few months I’ve tried to stay quiet. Scroll through my social media feeds and you will see reposts from Tumblr, some chit-chat about books I’d like, or my growing obsession with all things British, but you won’t see many personal statements save the occasional Holiday greeting or writing status update. If social media is a sampling of a person’s life, then mine should tell you one thing: I am processing.

Processing. It’s a word I use a lot to describe my need to riddle out difficult situations without being bothered for an opinion on the subject. Sometimes, I do it while writing, others by griping, and occasionally, by watching Downton Abbey or Harry Potter and taking quizzes online to find out what fictional city I belong in (Hogsmeade) or what literary character I am most like (Sherlock?). It’s necessary, healing, and made better with a very large cup of tea or whiskey, or whiskey in tea. I’m not partial.

This year has been hard, and not just for me. I would challenge you to find a single person in your life that would categorize 2014 as anything but rocky.

We live in a dark and broken world, one populated by people determined to wreck dreams, destroy lives, take lives, confine lives. It is a world where a young man is gunned down and then accused, not accused and then tried. A world where girls are stolen from schools or given away by their families, raped, brainwashed, lost. A world where schools are not safe places because bullying runs rampant, boxes are still built for kids to stay firmly inside, and bullets might fly, taking lives barely lived. It is a world where wars escalate, and death tolls rise.

But it is also a world where voices can unify across race and religion, for change, for justice, just to be heard for a moment, together. Where hashtags get the word out to #bringbackourgirls, to remind us #weneeddiversebooks, and for better or worse, start discussions about feminism, sexism, racism, and sometimes are the only way to follow stories being ignored by major media outlets. It’s a world where a teenage boy from Texas can independently produce a music video about gender stereotypes and watch it climb past 1 million views.

It’s a world where my son lives, plays, learns, and grows. Where he can pray to meet the Pink Power Ranger, and watch his prayers be answered. It’s a world where he knows, no matter what, his mom and dad love him, his mom and dad listen to him. Regardless of how bleak or bright this world may be at times, it is his world. It is my world.

This year was a batter-ram. It was a punch in the gut, a smack in the face, an ugly whisper in my ear. Sometimes it was like sliding down a rainbow to fairyland, full of fun and unbelievable blessing. It was the year I flew on an airplane for the first time by myself, and then got on three more planes, alone and changed. Where I got upgraded to first class when I shouldn’t have. Where I wrote another book, revised it into a thing I’m proud to call mine. It was the year I set out to write a screenplay and I succeeded.

But it was also the year my grandmother died. And her death forced my family to change.

It was the year I questioned everything.

It was the year where certain futures became impossible, where certain relationships became the past, where what seemed steady became shaky.

It was the year that I had to turn inside myself and find my own answers, and be okay with those answers, and trust my faith to carry me past all the questions, all the setbacks, all the loss — it is still carrying me.

And maybe that’s the ultimate answer. Being carried. Allowing yourself to breakdown. Taking the hand given to help you back up. Without that, we would be forced to declare darkness the winner. Yes, the world is filled with darkness, but I refuse to live in a world where it wins. I refuse to be altered by it. Instead, I choose to do whatever I can to alter it. I choose to let myself fall down, but not to stay down.

The kind of magic that exists in fantasy novels, the kind I write about and grew up pretending to wield — it doesn’t exist in this world. Real magic is an act of will, a step forward instead of back. Real magic is living, breathing, forgiving, loving without condition.

It is processing, large teacup in hand or not, and then it is moving forward. Forward is not about forgetting the past, or ignoring the problem. It is deciding not to accept more of the same.

2014 is nearly over. 2015 begins anew.

go

And a Happy New Year!

This will likely end my holiday inspired, soul searching round of posting. The end of the year, the holiday season, family gatherings yield a lot of food for thought in that department. My holidays have been a bit of a mixed bag. The glow of Christmas lights and the ringing of caroling voices was eclipsed by the grumble of old wounds being opened and losses being counted.

We have returned to NYC, a little worn and weary, also thankful and glad. As I said, it’s a mixed bag. So, in the spirit of beginning the year with a positive attitude, I am going to tell you why you should not make a New Years Resolution this year, but go a step further.

Resolve has a plethora of definitions in the dictionary. It’s got three main headers, with sub-definitions branching off. Here is the gist, though:

Resolve: settle or find a solution to (a problem, dispute, or contentious matter); (a symptom or condition) to disperse, subside, or heal; decide firmly on a course of action.

It’s a pretty serious word. It stands to reason then, when resolving to do anything (which of course is where we get the term New Years Resolution), you best not be playing around with it. Statistic Brain says about 45% of Americans make New Years Resolutions each December 31st. Of those 45%, only 8% stick with the resolution for any amount of time. That’s fairly lame. There are also statistics for those who infrequently make resolutions, meaning not every year. I fall into that category.

It’s not a matter of being unable to think of something to improve. I will be the first to say that I can improve in almost every area of my life. If you can’t use a little tweak all around, you’re probably seriously deluding yourself. Most of us are lacking. Even supermodels are wanting somewhere. Even billionaires suck somehow. This is how balance is maintained in the universe. It’s also the only way we haven’t digressed into the talent crippling society featured in the Kurt Vonnegut Jr. short Harrison Bergeron.

To get back to what I was saying…I just don’t like to set myself up for failure. This actually is an area I could improve on. I won’t even play a board game if I think I’m going to lose. (I know, I am still considering therapy.) But making New Years Resolutions is just a bad idea. Even if you like to fail, even if your inadequacy gives you the warm-fuzzies. NYR’s aren’t touching the reason you’ve gained weight this year, or you can’t stop buying Hobbit merchandice from Gandolf1965 on Ebay.

And this is why you shouldn’t do it. Look at your cottage cheese thighs and your compulsion to drink in the afternoon, and say, “No, this year I will not be duped by you.” I just ate an entire package of roasted seaweed and drank a glass of wine. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Do not give in to the first brainless (and likely true) thing you stumble on. Do not be distracted by the easiest or most obvious issue. If you are overweight, yes, you should probably lose those extra pounds this year. If heart disease runs in your family, probably centering your diet around heart healthy foods would be a good plan. If you have mounds of credit card debt, maybe cutting back on the online shopping is a step in the right direction. (And no one needs that many Bilbo figurines. Not even Peter Jackson.)

Those are all things you should be doing anyway, new year or not. What I’m talking about is resolving. Finding a solution for a problem. Healing a suffering. Deciding on a course to take and taking it. To resolve is to buckle down and do some dirty work, and when the work is done, you come out on the other side different.

Instead of resolving to lose weight (and then not), or to exercise everyday (which will last until the weekend), or to “enjoy life to the fullest” (which is bullshit and subjective), resolve instead.  Before you make resolutions for improvement, resolve to find why you must improve. Examine the truth of who you are, where you are in life, and and how satisfied you are with that assessment. Then resolve to do something about it. I suggest doing the soul searching without any help from booze, and without stepping on the scale first. Self-loathing and a migraine will not help. Otherwise, this may become you:

I am only trying to help. I say this all with love. Enjoy the rest of 2012! Endure 2013 with resolve.