So remember when I was all freaked out about having six days to myself? Yeah, well. I spent those days so contentedly, walking for miles, sleeping twelve hours at a stretch, sewing, taking ass class instead of teaching it, watching movies. I had to consciously go and court conversation but beyond that it was pretty dreamy.
I pick up the kids this morning. I have them for the next two weeks (with one all-too-brief two-day window of solitude) - paying the piper for my week off. Now that’s what I’m panicking about. I love them - I LOVE THEM - but being a single parent, I’m finding, is a life of extremes. I’m either the only adult in charge for every last need or I don’t see them at all. At my worst moments in either scenario, I’m exhausted or I’m lonely.
I’m also carrying sole responsibility for my finances, my house, every last decision that’s made about my life. Which is exciting at times (mine, all mine!!!) and terrifying at others (the roof is leaking, the toilet in the rental is backed-up, quarterly taxes, what?). The craziest, loneliest part of that is not having a partner to bounce stuff off of. Not to solve my problems, but just to hear them. I talk to my friends, sure, but is there one person to whom I can unload at the end of day (besides my kids - whose problems I’m hopefully helping to solve instead of the other way around)? There isn’t. And so these worries float around in my head untethered, popping up like whack-a-moles.
I read something on Facebook (where I consume most of my scientific news - don’t look at me like that) about how the human brain likes to worry. Worry gives the brain an activity. But it also creates yucky chemicals (cortisol, etc) that diminish your health - mental and otherwise. This link, this Facebook thing (what was it? who knows? who cares?) suggested that every time you start to worry you should instead think of things you’re grateful for. Because the chemicals your brain makes when it’s grateful are good for you. And gratitude gives your brain something to do besides worry (which, according to the Gods of Facebook, is it’s default mode).
So in these times of worry (all day, every day), when I catch myself slipping into anxiety, I count my blessings. Children, healthy. Me, healthy. Work, fun. Money, yes there’s some in the bank. House, somehow I have one. Airbnb apartment, paying for said house. Friends, oh my god, friends. Men, yes them, too (and on this topic I try to be grateful even for the torture - generally self-inflicted - in my romantic life - I am alive, I am alive).
On this last day of 2015, I am grateful. For all the change of the last few years, for all the growth that change has insisted on. I’m grateful that I’m living my life on my terms. It’s not easy, this path I’ve chosen. I’ve picked every fork in the road that’s led me here, but sometimes I feel very alone. I’m grateful I have the fortitude to sit in loneliness, to sit in the vacuum, without pulling anything and everything in to keep me company.
I am grateful for happy accidents. I’m grateful for new friends, for old, for every time in a day there is a genuine connection with another human being. I’m grateful for every time something makes me laugh. I’m even grateful when something makes me cry.
2016, I’d like to meet you without anxiety. I’d like to meet you with bravery, maybe even with lightness. My life has been awfully heavy of late, maybe 2016 is the year of sunshine. Or the year that I can see the sunshine, feel the sunshine, that’s been here this whole time. Or, I don’t know, maybe it’ll be another shit show. That’s ok, too. Give it to me, 2016, I can handle it.