Why I’m grateful for this shitty year

So I had already written a draft of this post, a week ago, when I thought I’d had about all this year could throw at me. Of course, I was wrong. Fast forward a couple days and I was feeling a bit poorly, and things went swiftly downhill – I cried Christmas morning when I felt too ill to even open presents and then yesterday I finally felt human and then coughed so hard I threw my back into spasm giving me two more days of bed rest and ice and that ever present question when you’re ill: is this going to be forever? We cancelled our trip to Scotland today. My mum has bravely hung in there with me, taking 12km walks as her only respite from me and my new flat, for days. What a trooper.

That blog post remains below, but I’m happy to have had these last couple days in bed – I think I maybe even achieved a little personal growth. First, I read Kate Gross’ words about her last Christmas before her death (which happened on this very Christmas morning): that Christmas is about the bad times (bickering with your hubbie over present wrapping duties, the fucking souffle that falls etc) as much as it is about the good times, and how she would cherish ALL those things during her last Christmas alive.

Of course, I realise: I am alive, with reasonable assurances of having another Christmas with those I love. I am not a horrible burden on my mother for being ill and rubbish company this past week, that is fucking Christmas. And that is life, and we should cherish these inevitable deflated times.

Then, I read Rachel Dratch’s memoir where she recounts experiencing mind-numbing 3-day invalid-inducing back spasms mid-rehearsal for Saturday Night Live. They rehearsed around her, while she waited for pain killers, but she eventually got better. In darkest night, when you are alone and in pain, reading words that help you remember ‘I will get better too!’ suddenly make things tolerable again. And whether you want to or not, sometimes you need to stay in bed for 3 days and cancel your plans and life and the world is not going to end.  Take your big movie-star plans, and save ’em for another day.

See? growth.

I had an awful year, but I’ve had worse – 2011 was the horrible, tragic year when I lost my father. However, surviving that year was a triumph, a relief, a respite. I was a phoenix rising from the ashes. 2012 was still autopilot where I picked up the pieces, bit by bit. 2013 was unexpectedly glamorous – trips to Ethiopia and Dubai and Switzerland for work, a placement in the Middle East, a dashing Arab boyfriend with a Mercedes, food markets in Jerusalem, work in refugee camps and desert trekking and yoga and weddings and dance parties.

And 2014- well, how could it not be a major bummer? I came back to my old life, back to the grind. But I can’t help but feel I allowed many things to be taken from me this year simply by pursuing the purchase of a flat. The misfortunes were petty and some of them my own making. My eagerness to reclaim and rebuild my life is palpable now, but I lie here, frozen with back spasms, weakened with flu, being forced to be patient. And FINE I GET THE MESSAGE.

So my intentions in 2015 are simple: to build on the good stuff, reclaim everything I think I sacrificed, to write a bit more, to play music a bit more, to keep getting in better shape. To chill the fuck out. Sorted.

And here is what I originally wrote:

The WORST (and best) of 2014:

I’ll start bluntly, just cause I know this post is going to gain views purely based on pathos and schadenfreude – I hated 2014. I think I gave up on the year around August – when I left the flat I’d lived in for just under 3 years to put my things in storage and float around housesitting, catsitting, subletting and finding reasons to leave the country for work until my flat purchase finalised. The year, I thought, could not be redeemed.

Here are a list of the worst things that happened:

1) The process of buying a house: from looking at flats online in January, to viewings through february and march and april, to 7 additional months of conveyancing, of requests for 5k bribes, the snooty estate agents reducing my family’s life savings to nothing, to viewing cesspool-flats of overcrowded abject poverty (and sometimes actual crime scenes) on sale for more than I can afford, to the young men who doused me with a bottle of soda on me from a car speeding past on a road in stratford at a viewing, to the time the process took from the rest of my life, to the 3 months of homeless wandering about London, the stress, the cost. Even now, it is one of the hardest things I ever accomplished, I cannot believe it all came through and I’m still, STILL not sure it was worth it.

2) Terrible, terrible dates and disappointing men. It says something when the best date you went on in 2014 was with a 25 year old in an open marriage. He remains the only person I dated who expressed any capacity for empathy during the entire year. I spent the first six months wasting time with a long distance ex, then came the man who wanted me to buy my own ticket to the opera (as his date – though sitting seperately across the theatre), the sad guy who’d had gastric bypass surgery who got way into me too fast, whatsapping inspirational memes 3-5x a day, the honest-to-god sociopath who called me a bitch ‘playfully’ 3 times on our first (and only) date.

3) I got mean girl’d – in a special twist of crazy someone I didn’t know forwarded me emails ‘friends’ had written about me saying not very nice things. It was a favour, in the end.

4) I stared down the abyss of a deeper, more profound sadness. In April, in a soulless work weekend in Paris, adrift with loneliness, I ate a foie gras salad thing for dinner that was *a bit* too rich, and drank *a bit* too much wine and the waiter’s ‘flirtation’ turned *a bit* too much into HORRIBLE HARASSMENT and the bar where I had a drink I found myself cornered in conversation with a 50-something divorcee, who laughed at my accent and monopolised the conversation. I felt at the bottom of the world. I missed my dad, I didn’t know where I belonged. I vomited when I returned to my hotel and I wrote THE BIG SAD EMAIL to all my friends saying please, help.

5) My cat died. I held her close.

6) I couldn’t complete the sprint triathlon I spent 6 months training for after getting briefly hospitalised for salmonella poisoning a 10 days before the race.

And here are some of the good things that happened in 2014:

1) I got a new job, with great coworkers, a lovely boss and lots of amazing travel, all over the world.

2) I played a lot of amazing music with my amazing band. The best girls I’ve ever known.

3) I met Lola, my London rent-a-dog, who has grown to love me more than I thought anyone could ever love me. She has made me laugh her with her antics, and let me cry as much as I needed to when times were really hard and she felt like my only friend.

4) Back in April, when I needed my friends, I actually reached out and said something and  they picked me up and held my hand, just for awhile until I could walk again. It was terrifying to ask, and wonderful to see the response.

5) I got my lobster tattoo.

6) I got in way better shape. I trained for a sprint triathlon, started to run again, and rediscovered the joy of exercise beyond yoga, post-crossfit. it was great.

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4 Responses to Why I’m grateful for this shitty year

  1. Toffeeapple says:

    I always think of you at this time of year, simply because you once put up a marvellous Masoor Dhal recipe which I cooked as my New Years Day lunch. I can’t find that recipe now, do you still have it?

    I hope, sincerely, that this year will be a lot better than the last one for you. Please look after yourself. I am sending a virtual hug or two, just in case you need them. ((B))

  2. Kavey says:

    Oh dear, you’ve had a really horrid time of it. Seems perfectly reasonable to stick your tongue out at 2014 and look forward rather than back. Hoping that 2015 is a better year, and looking fwd to interacting more on the “social meeja”.

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