Continuing the weekly arguments that 2016 was not all bad, I’ve created a series of posts designed to exonerate the year. This is the ninth installment in that series.
A year ago this week I started drawing the spiral heart squiggles that would eventually lead to The Renaissance Heart. I called it alchemy rather than doodling. One of the definitions of alchemy is a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination. I was a transformer in 2016.
A year ago this week I was wearing the heart monitor. I’d been to see the cardiologist. We still didn’t know what was wrong yet. Instead of announcing it on social media I wrote a blog post about it sandwiched in between 56 days of self-portraits. It was a good one. I smile when I reread it.
The most poignant part of that post was this snippet on letting Death come right on in the front door and make herself at home. I served her tea and crumpets. I made her feel welcome. Instead of being afraid I let her be a calming presence. I wrote:
I’m suddenly compelled to enjoy myself as much as possible. Depressed and scared are in the mix too but my overwhelming desire is to love and live and laugh and look for ways to milk every ounce of joy and pleasure out of the remainder of this lifetime. Even if I’m really not dying I feel confronted by Death. Death doesn’t scare me–we’re friends–but it has definitely changed my perspective. I am completely chilled out. I feel like being as kind and tender to myself as I can possibly be. I feel like being gentle with me. I want to allow myself all the pleasure available to me. I want to soak in the joy and beauty of being alive in this world.
I took a vacation day. I got my hair done. I’m doing all the things that make me feel good and happy to be alive. Every time my heart spasms I calmly and respectfully acknowledge my friend Death but I keep holding hands with Life. I keep finding myself more deeply enchanted with Life. I like her. She’s amazing. And so am I, which is why we get along so well, I suppose. I know it sounds extreme but so is the sensation in my chest. There just aren’t enough dismissive reassurances to counter what feels like a reckoning. A confrontation. A reminder of my mortality. And I guess I’m cool with that. There really is no alternative. I mean, stress is bad for the heart, you know. It’s better this way.
In 2016 I gave both Life and Death favorable receptions. I’ve said it a thousand times a thousand different ways. It is a gigantic waste of life to fear things we already know are going to happen. No one gets out of this life without getting sick, getting injured, suffering physically and emotionally, and dying. That means you. That means me. That means everyone we love. We already know it’s going to happen. For certain.
A year ago this week I decided there really is no excuse for eating lunch at my desk. Busy is not an excuse. Deadlines are not an excuse. Disliking the people in the lunchroom is not an excuse. Those are all symptoms of misalignment. Nourishment is a wellness practice. Realignment is a wellness practice. I cut the crap in 2016.
A year ago this week I concluded that the first method of treatment for my heart mystery was to have a willing heart. A heart willing to embrace a life that might not include previous mainstays. A heart willing to change — and not just willing to change into something else but to change out of what had previously been. I dared to re-imagine my life differently in 2016.
A year ago this week I began to revolutionize the way I treat my body with clothing. That statement alone feels revolutionary — the way I treat my body with clothing. I decided that getting dressed every day should be a gesture of self-care. Clothes are not optional, so at the very least they should serve me well. They should feel generous to my body. They should feel splendid. They should empower me by facilitating ease and high functionality. They should make me feel sensual and authentic. Yep. I took a stand for supporting my body that had nothing to do with fitness or beauty regimes. I declared fashion mutiny in 2016.
A year ago this week I resolved to acknowledge my body when it cries. The same way I would a friend. Or a child. Or an aging relative. I would stop. Listen. Soothe. And try to help. I’ll rush to do this in response to everyone else’s bodies. But ignore my own. I leveled up in 2016.
Yes, 2016 was tough and rough and stuffed with huff, bluff, and scuff. But it was not all bad. Some of us did some damn fine work in 2016. And oh my glob how we were going to need it in 2017.