the years that make us/the years that break us

I’ve always been enchanted by the start of a new year. I’m not a resolutions person, but I cherish the deep work of reflecting on the year behind us and basking in the possibility of what’s to come.

In trying to summarize 2019, I’ve worked to focus on the lessons in the grief, or to polish up the edges — but that’s not how this year has gone.

Some years, there’s really no boiling it down to joy or heartache, failure or victory. Some years, it’s just digging deep and summoning the strength. Some years you just get by.

I’ve written and rewritten this post several times over the past few weeks, and it turns out the year was too big for this post.

This hasn’t been a year for summaries or making a long story short. I can tell you about the lotus in the mud, but not without telling you about the mud.

So, we’ll start here, because you have to start somewhere.

This year, personally:

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and came to terms with that… kind of. (To the extent that one can, when ‘powerlifter’ was such a big part of my identity.)

I turned 35 on the Oregon coast.

In the first of what would turn out to be many plot twists this year, I was asked (and agreed) to foster-adopt a baby born to a relative’s relative. I packed up and left Washington for mid-Michigan. Waited. Struggled. (I grew up in Michigan, and being there is energetically very hard for my spirit.)

My heart shattered when plans changed and the placement never happened. (I’ve been very careful about how I talk about this, because a lot of the story is not my story to tell.) The grief I experienced made me feel the loneliest I have ever felt. I can’t begin to articulate what it was like to have spent those months looking at pictures, growing to love her so deeply, and then learn that I’d never meet her. Or how strange it felt to have fully shifted my identity to being someone’s mom, and suddenly no longer be preparing to be a mom anymore.

I took solace at my sister’s place in Maine, and from there, decided to stay in Maine. I couldn’t bear to return to my life out west as though nothing had ever happened. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.

R.T. listed our house in Tacoma. We lived apart for several months, during which I stayed at my sister’s homestead in the Kennebec Valley with our dogs. I managed to run my business despite unreliable rural internet and no cell service, which was no small feat. (I had to drive the 12 miles to town to upload files more than once!)

We went under contract on both our former and new houses on the same day. The house we bought here is in a tiny queer town with a population of about 2200 people. My sister calls it The Manifested House. It’s giant and weird and blue. We bought it from two artists who built it in the 80s and raised their children here. We love it so much, and it will be the perfect place to grow our family.

We did DIY home renovations with the help of my sister & dad, and hired our first contractor to replace windows in all six bedrooms. We got six chickens and a foster bunny.

We took trips to Detroit and Austin and Montreal. I took a late summer trip to the Seattle area. (That was a hard visit. There are about a thousand words on my heart about having left a place I love so dearly… I will write them. I miss my life and my friends there fiercely.)

In another plot twist – just as we began preparing to restart the adoption process, we learned I was pregnant.

My pregnancy has been easy except when it wasn’t — I was never sick, but I bled the entire first trimester and then, midway through my second trimester, there were complications, and I was put on modified bed rest just before Thanksgiving. We were back and forth to providers and specialists and it was incredibly draining. (One of the trade-offs of living in rural Maine is that most of my doctor’s appointments take a solid half day with travel time.)

Happily, I was released from the high risk specialist just before Christmas. As I write this, I’ve just passed the 26 week mark, and I’m about to start my third trimester. The home stretch. Baby Quinn is developing perfectly and, at least for now, everything looks great. We’re counting up weeks and inching ever closer to meeting this new little love.

This year, professionally:

In July, I celebrated the tenth anniversary of starting my business. That’s really the only business-related milestone I have to share. There was so much else to navigate, and while I’m so, so fortunate that my business was able to sustain me/I was able to sustain my business, it was not a year for business growth. I’m okay with that, and grateful for the fact that sometimes my business is just a job, and I can show up and do good work and then get back to the life at hand.

My artwork was accepted into an art gallery for the first time, fulfilling a goal I set early this year, before the year took the course it did. It felt like an incredible feat. I’m very proud of this accomplishment, and look forward to devoting myself more fully to my art in the year to come.

There were a thousand reasons this year was hard. I don’t really do easy — I’m a bit addicted to chaos — but this year felt relentless. We just never had the chance to catch our breath before the next thing happened.

2019 required a lot of endurance. Our mental health suffered. Our income suffered. Our marriage did not suffer, and is instead perhaps the strongest it has ever been.

There’s been a lot of beauty in this year, too, and so much to be grateful for. My sister Bunny is definitely at the top of that list. I might have survived this year without her, but I can’t imagine it. She was my soft place to land time and time again. We live here in this quiet, rural part of Maine because of her, and it was absolutely the right decision.

If I had to live this year again, I would make a lot of decisions differently, and the outcome would be entirely different. There’s a lot I regret.

And yet. I believe that I’m exactly where I need to be. I probably would have ended up here regardless, through some other series of tumultuous events. I am happy to be here. I am healing. I am still learning.

So. On to 2020.

I’ll be back with more to share with you soon. We can talk about the adoption that wasn’t meant to be and the baby that was. I’ll tell you the story of the manifested house.

I want to be more intentional in noticing everyday magic, and sharing these little stories from small town life in Maine.
And not long from now, we’ll meet my little love together.

Thanks for being here.

Happy new year. I hope the decade to come is the best one yet.

“Now I know what’s important: being charmed by my own life. Taking what is and making that the best that could happen. Trusting in my path. Trusting that keeping the magic alive in my life, keeping promises to myself, keeping my focus on the real and grounded things I want—that will lead me somewhere beautiful, somewhere I didn’t know I was going.”
– Jamie Varon