grief, hope, and life
I never really feel spiritually invited into the New Year when it turns from one year to the next. For some reason, life transformation and reflection that revolves around the New Year feels artificial and forced. I feel this obligation to fix my broken ways, stop junking online so much, finally get in bed at a decent hour, and to create a “plan” for how I’m going to become perfect in the New Year.
These are all good things, and I really do need to get in bed at a decent hour, but I never feel into it on December 31st. By into it, I mean that internal yearning where it feels right. Where I feel a pull to do it.
It is the turning of my own years that gets me. Not so much the turning of the earth. But how I am aging on that earth. And what I am doing with my years. Where I feel that spiritual pulling, combined with a deep connection to my life, is around my birthday. That is when I think about the past year the most. I think about my age, where I am at in life, and all that has transpired over the past year and years. All that’s been lost and all that has been gained.
This may sound weird, but I am usually very in touch with my grief around my birthday. I actually like that I do this. I like being in touch with my pain because it makes me feel alive. There is something about it that feels refreshing to me, like a full glass of water after a 5 mile run. I feel everything so much more brightly, and as each birthday passes, there’s always new perspective on all the grief that has been up until that point.
This birthday, this turning thirty four, marks the end of a very long season of grief. This is an end that I seriously believed would never ever come. It is terrifying to write that, as if I have no clue of all the grief that may be coming for me yet. Because that is how grief happens, right? Part of what makes grief so grievous is that it takes us by surprise. It’s not a part of the plan. It’s not what we wanted. It’s not what we expected. And so there’s grief solely for the grief showing up in our lives at the very moment we wanted it the least. And when we think the grief can’t possibly get any worse, it gets worse.
There were so many times over the past few years, where I thought the darkness had ended, only to find it getting worse. Where I thought I was coming out of it, only to watch myself moving deeper into it. So that cautiousness is there, wondering if I am wrong about this season of deep grief ending. Because I was wrong, a lot. Every time I thought it was getting better, something else happened, that left me more deeply hurt than before.
I have known some of the deepest heartache of my life these past few years, with the past year being the worst of it. The pain had been held closely, like an unwanted secret I wish I never knew, like a friend I hated that would never leave.
Which is why this past year was the worst of it. I went lower than I thought I could go. The darkness was darker than I ever thought I’d see. With this grief being so long term, I started believing that this is what my new life was going to be. Which was depressing, because it is not what I wanted. At all.
But while this past year was one of the darkest years of my life, it was also one of the best years of my life. Because thirty three is when that darkness lifted. When the pain stopped swallowing me whole. When that dark friend stopped bothering me every single day. Thirty-three is when things got really clear for me. What was working in my life and what wasn’t working. Thirty-three is when I came out of several years worth of grief. Thirty-three is when life finally showed up, after years of waiting. Life that felt like it was never going to come.
It was my mom, who called me on New Years Day, and told me, “Archer, this year is going to be different. This year you are gonna see a turnaround.” I rarely talk to my mom on the phone, but it was her, of all people, who spoke the words of what was coming for me. That the darkness was done. It was over. Things were going to change.
She was right.