2019 – What I Learned

Oh this day has snuck up on me! It seems like last year I was far more prepared for this reflection and this year I’m winging it.

This was a year of bravery for me. In March I went on my first date since my separation and divorce in 2016 and I felt the exhilaration of attraction and arousal and external validation that I am indeed desirable and fascinating. Subsequently, I felt the pain of rejection and dismissal and I learned, again, that those things are survivable.

In April I embarked on a journey via poetry ( https://heathergwinn.poetry.blog/ ) to explore my father’s death and my life with him prior to. I sat with memory and the swirling pain of rejection and dismissal and I learned, again, that those things are survivable.

In May I sprained my ankle terribly (no really, black and blue and yellow and purple for WEEKS) and I sat (literally), booted and hurting and learned that it was only pain and I endured and recovered and survived.

In June I left to visit my father’s grave in West Virginia, a pilgrimage filled with exploding tires and bourbon and abandonment and pain. An epic adventure that left me emptied and newly aware of the depths of an internal struggle I was not at all prepared for. I left knowing it would be wonderfully painful and returned realizing how much I had underestimated the stirring of such bitter disappointment and the changes it would bring for me.

In July I broke. All the lessons of the previous months and years violently shoved to the side even as the heel clicking of some new approaching Heather began to manifest. I forgot that pain passes. I forgot that rejection and disappointment and fear were feelings I could hold and live with. And still, it did not kill me.

In August I learned that my brain works in strange and swirling ways and that beer tastes like people in my head. I learned that I paint pictures of flavors and I learned that this is a skill I can leverage for my own joy … and I began to blog regularly ( https://whoamidrinking.food.blog/ ).

And then months of swirling self destruction, keeping my head above water by leaning on my friends and my art and my writing … months of a fog where I could not see a way forward. Months where my feet and my heart and my community helped inch me toward some clarity even as my mind flailed. Months where I forgot my body except for the pleasure and the pain it could endure … forgetting the home it was to me. Some days I still forget … I continue to learn.

In November I set out to write a memoir of my travels to see my father, to incorporate my poetry and my self destruction into a tale that might provide some closure and some balm. Completing the first draft I learned that I am not ready to go back to those places and I learned to forgive myself for these limitations and to turn to what is good and strong about me and focus on healing and peace.

In December I learned that my eldest is finished with high school. I learned that she has a strength and a tenacity to face her difficulties even if faltering and even if with grief and resistance and fear. I learned that I do not need to understand her fears or her motivations to love her radically and to support her fully.

Right now, sitting here I am learning that I have had a wildly fucked up and expansive year – that I walked into so many challenges and difficulties and have pushed myself so hard to face some of the ugliest moments of my life. I have learned that I would like now to rest and to follow a path that fills me instead of empties … perhaps the depletion of myself in 2019 was the making of space for everything new in 2020.

Oh, and I learned that I can paint … really paint. More on that soon I think.

Love to you all on this New Year’s Day. May your 2020 be filled with challenge and curiosity and gentleness.


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