Well something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day. – Joni Mitchell
Yesterday I was listening to the 2000 release of Joni Mitchell’s song, Both Sides Now. I love the way her voice has deepened and mellowed over the years. The song caught me at just the right moment. A lazy morning spent doodling thoughts for the new year–plans for my work, what inspires me, what begs to be shared. And of course, in that moment I was drawn into my past, dragged maybe.
That lyric led me to think about loss, while reminding myself that looking back isn’t an answer to much. Not really.
It’s all too easy to get caught in the trap of “If only I’d….” Or to start blaming others and reliving the past. I feel the sorrow that resonates when we do that. Maybe that’s part of what drew me to this song.
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all
Thinking about love and loss and how we from those losses. Three significant men in my life have died. And another, who I’m no longer seeing, has cancer. My father died when I was 17. My husband, then ex-husband, died in 2013, and 5 months later a man I had loved and lived with for three years died. And, yet life goes on. All were under the age of 61 when they died. Tragic. I’m not sure why that popped up as I listened to the song. But it did. And sadness rolled in for a few minutes.
I understand that bad things happen and we grieve–often for the rest of our lives–and yet we get up and dress and go about our lives. There is no other choice.
I have a rich life, I know that. but on lonely days, it doesn’t feel that way. Many of us feel lonely whether we’re sitting all alone or in a room full of family. and this is where choice comes in. The choice to acknowledge the feeling, welcome it briefly and then invite it to leave. I view these thoughts likes waves on the beach—they get things wet and a little messy then they go away. Before we have too much time to get our toes dug in it’s gone and another powerful wave of some other thing rolls in. Best just to sit down and watch–from a slight distance, undeterred by whatever emotion rolls in.
Sometimes those old memories roll in, sometimes we summons them. I allowed myself to sit with the memories today.
At this time of year it’s hard not to think about the year closing and the year approaching. Trading our old tarnished battered penny in for a brand new shiny one.
I made a list of what happened and what I accomplished in 2016. It helps, particularly when you’re thinking it was a bad year. Writing it all down is a chance to reflect briefly and feel good. Or acknowledge that things need to change in order for you to do what you desire in 2017.
I had some shitty days. I had a whole month of whiny sprained ankle and other crap that keep me in my most self-indulgent, pathetic self for too many days. No exercise, lots of ice cream and naps, doctors’ bills, and television watching. Oh the excuses! My work suffered as did everything else. Then I pulled up my big girl panties and gave up my martyrdom. Haven’t kicked the ice cream habit, but hey….
Today’s a new day, a new year. Some of you will be hung over. Some of you will be your bright and shiny selves, eager to get started with new calendars and resolve to make changes. I don’t do resolutions, per se. I choose a word that will, theoretically, guide me through the year.
Here’s what I wrote about last year’s word: “This new year is all about DESIRE for me. Following my heart’s desire… sexual desire…a desire to taste good food, see new places, meet new people, and experience new things. A desire to live the way I want to live–however messy or colorful that looks.”
Looking back I did just that. This year–I want to get even bolder in my life. So I’ve chosen AUDACITY as my word to guide me this year.
What is audacity? The definition I like says audacity is the willingness to take bold risks. I see it more as pushing back against those cultural messages I absorbed over the years that girls, young women, women, should be delicate and feminine. Not too smart; obedient, a good cook, housewife, wife and mother. Small. Quieter. Appropriate. I was taught to silence myself. I was taught, somewhat unsuccessfully, to defer to men. The natural of order of things for a woman raised in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
Turns out Audacity is an ideal word for this phase of my life journey.
I have no real idea how that’ll turn out. I suspect there will be more assertive talk and less me being compliant and quiet. More travel–being audacious enough to go abroad all alone with an inkling of a plan. I want to help other women incorporate audacity in their lives–asking for what they want, flaunting conventional wisdom, and disrupting myths about aging women.
I want to know that I’ve gained (and given) more than I lost when December 31, 2017 appears. That’s my wish for you too, as ineloquent as it sounds.
What will you take on as this year unfolds?
ps: One of my most popular articles in 2016 was Now that I’m “old” I can do whatever I want! I love it because I did an impromptu session in front of my webcam and got some good, relaxed images of me with no makeup, no fancy clothes or props–just the real me, aging in a way that feels pretty damned audacious.
Also published on Medium.