I can’t believe that 365 days have gone by since 45 was impossibly and believably elected to office.
I remember my initial optimism on election night. And then the disbelief. And then the slow onset of reality. The moment where I knelt on my living room floor and cried because I had hoped for the best and expected the worst. And the worst had happened.
I look back at the things I wrote then, a constant grappling for some sense of stability, control. Some sense of being able to predict the future. If I could only imagine what was on the horizon — even if it was the worst possible scenario — I would be able to make it. But I couldn’t even do that. I had no idea what was ahead. All I saw was darkness. On good days, I could see apocalypse. Ruin. Something like Mad Max but real.
A year later, I can’t believe it’s only been a year. It’s been a year and 45 is, somehow, still 45. We haven’t destroyed ourselves yet, but it feels like it’s getting closer every day. I can’t believe what I have to force myself not to be numb to. I can’t believe there could be a mass shooting where 58 people were killed and over 500 injured, and that it wouldn’t even be mentioned in the news the next week. I can’t believe that there could be so many high profile reports of sexual assault in one week that I would feel a sense of ambient dread and need to stay off social media for two days. I can’t believe we live in a world where powerful people are justifying pedophilia and statutory rape.
I say I can’t believe it, but I can. I always have. These things have always been underneath the surface of our society and culture. It’s just that now, it’s been revealed. The bandage covering the festering wound has been ripped off.
A year ago, the way I tried to right my rocking boat was to think about self-care. All I could think about was how to fix my despair or at least live with it. How could I care for myself in a world that didn’t feel safe for me to exist in?
I haven’t done a great job of caring for myself in the past year. I fell far behind on my 52 essays challenge. I wanted to get my shit together and revive my 33 Days of Horror challenge. I wanted to have an entire manuscript ready to send out by the end of the year. I wanted to be well-adjusted. I wanted to be a balanced human, in spite of everything. I wanted to have found some kind of hard-earned hope through the shit winds of this era.
Instead, I haven’t even broken into the double-digits of #52Essays. I haven’t revived my horror challenge yet (though I wrote a mini-review of Crimson Peak that I’ll post soon). I don’t have a manuscript ready to send out.
Instead, what I have is a year’s worth of deep and necessary self work. I’ve learned that self- care is not just about survival. It’s not just about filling my cup back up just enough to get myself through the day. It’s not just bubble baths and binge-watching Gilmore Girls and sleeping in (though those things are part of it). Self-care is keeping my cup consistently at least half-full. It’s setting boundaries and knowing my limits. It’s saying “no,” whether it’s saying “no” to another commitment or saying “no” to being treated with disrespect. It’s staying grounded in my body. It’s paying attention to my emotions and making friends with them, rather than ignoring them, denying them, burying them deep.
I’ve figured out at least that much. I haven’t figured out how to do it exactly, but I do know that much.
What I also have is a wedding on the horizon. It feels right, that that is the thing I’ve followed through on this year. When I wrote my first essay of #52Essays, I came to the conclusion that I was ready to do this thing. I was ready to finally, actually get married.
And here I am. Here we are. Planning a wedding. Putting down deposits. Trying on dresses. Ordering cakes. And it’s truly exciting.
For the most part, the fruits of my year have been intangible. I don’t have much to show for it. But that’s kind of the point.
I wanted my year to end with manuscripts and completed projects. I wanted to prove that I could be productive and functional, even while it felt like the world was coming apart at the seams. What I’ve ended the year with is the realization that productivity and functionality should not come at the expense of my self-worth, my physical health, my mental health.
So I’ve ended up with something else entirely. Something unexpected. Something I didn't know I needed. And it’s cleared the way for those manuscripts and those projects. It’s clearing the way for something I haven’t even imagined yet.
And there it is, finally. Hope.