2021 – What I Learned

I started doing these annual blog posts in 2017, as a way to encourage myself to look back and see how much I experienced in the previous year. A way to revel in the adventures and the lessons that a life presents to me, however ‘small’.

This year I’ve been procrastinating this process. Somehow sitting here, in the coziness of my kitchen, hot coffee and warm rain in my window, I am uneasy. I’m going to forgive myself ahead of time for not seeing the adventures and the lessons as clearly this year as I have in previous years. Is this the pandemic brain they keep talking about? Where time just seems to pass in fits and starts and everything feels simultaneously mundane and unreal? Maybe. Certainly I can’t be the only one who’s gained weight, consumed more whiskey and showered less this year… right?

And I breathe deep and start up ‘Morimur’ and listen to the the opening phrases, releasing a tension I’ve been holding most of the year and it let it wash over me … normally I’d give you a quippy monthly breakdown, but not this time. I’m just going to freeform this and try to remember things as best I can.

2021 dawned at the height of my work on the COVID response team. I struggle to summarize this. That project was the most professionally rewarding, physically demanding and emotionally draining work I’ve ever done.

And I learned I don’t want to care about my work quite so much. I stopped exercising, I stopped cooking … I did keep painting and drawing, which is a wonder … but so much of the rest of my life just stopped. I learned my capacity is not limitless. I cannot do everything, nor do I want to.

That project ended at the beginning of March and I returned to my old job. Relief and ease washing over me as work returned to the steady and reliable balm of security it has been for so very very long. I returned to online dating as COVID numbers were declining and I spotted a small window of possibility to meet the world again. And I did, and there was hiking and sweet kisses in the woods and a beekeeper who wasn’t feeling the chemistry he was looking for, a psychologist who made me ask questions of myself I’d never asked … and there was this other guy, with a mohawk and intense blue/green/grey eyes, this one was something different. This one had power.

And I learned that I would need to actively seek and build the life I wanted after the COVID project, and I learned that I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to build.

At the start of April my beloved friend and boss retired. I’m tearing up now thinking about it. We were a family, our small team. Julie was and is a most wonderful friend and I was absolutely spoiled working for her this last decade. Thoughtful, strong, smart and tough she walked with me for so long. Our team was disbanded and reorganized into other areas. And work was no longer steady, reliable, balmy or secure.

And I learned that the loss of a family comes in many forms. To be clear, I know SHE’S NOT DEAD! She’s still my friend, we still meet for lunch, and it’s still very much and completely different.

Over the summer my eldest moved back home between leases. I spent two months alternately irritated by her dirty socks on the floor and completely charmed by the considerate, articulate and wild young woman she has become. We talked for hours on end, about our shared histories and politics and emotions and movies… and we played much Fallout 4.

And I learned that we’d been right all along. We’d hit the roughest of patches when she was a teenager. We’d weathered them together, perhaps not always with the grace and generosity we’d have liked … but we did it and we did it with a kind of certainty that the storm would pass. And it did.

Meanwhile, my youngest finished up a year of online schooling. She is changed by this pandemic schooling experience. Perhaps less driven by social expectations and more driven by her own power. I watch her finding her way with this sweet tenacity I admire so much. In the fall she returned to in person schooling with a new kind of center, a new kind of understanding that she can choose her communities, choose her paths, choose herself.

And I learned I’d been a little worried about that for her. Worried that, being surrounded by very strong women, she might have made herself smaller than she wanted. I am no longer worried. There is no smallness there. Despite her being about 1.5 feet tall, she carries a hugeness that is palpable.

Late summer I made some changes to how I’m interacting with and promoting my artwork. It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘if you don’t make money off it … it can’t be worth much’ mentality of our world. I had gotten caught up in it, again. Per tradition, my response was swift and complete. I took down my print listings in the shop (aside from those I still have in stock), removed the pay wall on Patreon and turned my focus to making art and ensuring it’s accessible to most anyone who wants it.

And I learned that this eases a tension for me. There’s so much energy put into selling art, and I’d rather put my energies into the swirling creation and discussion of it.

These last few months have been marked by less journaling, more relaxing and recalibrating. 2021 feels like the year time forgot. A year of a kind of stillness punctuated by falling in love (yes, with the mohawk guy, OH I do enjoy his dark twisty goodness) and job changes but mostly a kind of stillness and a kind of lost. I’m accustomed to having clear direction in my life. Goal setting is a big deal for me and I’m so frighteningly good at it. Organizing a life, determining an agenda, getting shit done … that’s me baby! And the last quarter of 2021 has been about cheese plates, the quiet of the woods, good conversation and the finding of a center I lost at the start of the year.

And I’ve learned that I’m changed, not just the size of my ass (which is more expansive) but also that I need rest. I need to sometimes release all expectations I’ve set for myself, to let myself slide and accept the seasons as they come. I’ve learned that there’s a balance to be struck in all things – and that this foggy year of change and love is a necessary reset. And I’ve learned to trust myself. Trust that I will change again with the coming year. That I am different than I was when I sat to write this.

Wishing you all an expansive, curious and safe 2022. Please be gentle with yourself this year. We are all in flux, we are all changing .. and often it is terrifying and powerful .. and sometimes it’s comfortable and powerful .. it’s always powerful.

All my love to you! Happy New Year, my people.

XOXOXO – H

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