what I’ve learned this year…

I don’t know about you but I’m not quite feeling ’22… Not yet anyway. For the first time in my four-plus decades of life, I am cautiously wary of transitioning into a new year. That may not be one hundred percent accurate… I was also fairly hesitant during the last few moments of 1999 as well, but I digress…

When I reflect back on the idea of what I’ve learned this year, it’s hard. The year feels like a thick, gooey, peanut butter fudge all mixed together with the year before somehow. Sort of like–what is 2021 anyway? At any rate, I’ll attempt to narrow down a list of life lessons from the twelve-month journey of this complicated year. If you happen to be a part of my tight-knit little circle and know I’m dipping into the wisdom gained from the craptastic year that proceeded this one, feel free to let me know. (Although to be fair, I’m one of those people who learns the same thing again and again, because somehow I tend to forget.)

What I learned this year:

  • There is not an aspect of life that isn’t improved by being connected to a community of people.
  • While I love our cat Darcy, whom we rescued the day she was born (in 2020) I am simply not a cat person. I’m not… I may love the random cat videos, and pet the cats of dear friends, but personally I just can’t surrender to being a cat lover in general. So many “cat habits” grate my nerves. Again though, I adore Darcy so much and do have a deep affection for the feral cats we feed and shelter…
  • I’m a slow reader. Chw insists I used to read much faster, and maybe it’s true. Perhaps years of chronic illness and medication induced brain fog have robbed me of that ability. For a long time I felt guilty for being a slower reader than many others I know. It felt embarassing. I am no longer taking on ownership of that guilt or embarassment. I am a slow reader. I’m a savorer. Every so often I encounter a book that I can’t put down, and I read all night. While I love those rare treats, I’m also chronically fatiqued and it simply isn’t practical or condusive to my health. I am ok savoring a book.
  • As I’ve continued my religious deconstruction journey (heading into the seventh year… Does it ever get easier? No. Is it worth it? YES!) I’ve began to realized that I am most whole and at home within the boundaries of connection. I find God there. Whether I am connecting with my Creator through creativity, barefoot in the depth of a forest, toes deep in beach sand, eyes raised to the mountain, or gazing up at a starry sky–it is that connection that drives me. Likewise, in the connections I share with people, God dwells. Sometimes this shows up through beautiful conversations, intense laughter, shared tears, and mutual experiences. Other times this looks like stepping up to love someone else where they are at, however they need. It is in these realizations that I’ve learned I never felt even close to this sort of connection within the confines of the church. With my many moves and church experiences, there is only ONE place which came the closest and this place was where I called “home” as this deconstruction began. Of all the Church “friends” I’ve known, I also know that body of people would be the only ones supporting me where I’m at today. I spent years searching for the things that I got from that space, and always left lacking. Religion would tell you that “church shopping” is a sin, and that the lacking was less about the church and more about my wicked heart…
  • BUT I’ve learned that is a lie. I believe that I am a created being, created by a loving creator. Of course I connect to Them within the beautiful spaces They created. Of course I feel Them in my core as I connect with, and love other people. It is a cruel deception to argue that in favor of oppression, manipulation, and judgement.
  • Likewise, I’ve learned to ask questions. I’ve learned to research and probe. To wonder why I was taught something was “bad”, and what that translated word or phrase actually says. Enlightening.
  • I have grown in my love of tactile things. Of paper and texture–things held in my fingertips.
  • For years I believed I could not do artistic things, and it was true. I could not, because I did not try. I did not try because I had foundational years of people telling me I was no good so why embarass myself? No more. Today I do the creative things. I’m sketching, painting, stitching…
  • I lost my mother and aunt this year, along with nine other people close to me (or very close to people I love deeply) and it was hard. Harder than hard. I learned how to grieve alongside others as I navigated my own sea. I learned, once again, that there isn’t a portion of life that isn’t made richer by community. Grief is only isolating because we are conditioned to grieve alone.
  • Having been suicidal for a time (years ago), and knowing three people who died by suicide (also years ago) I learned a lot about suicide this year. What it really looks like to be close to it. Part of what I needed to let go of, and reeducate myself on was stuff instilled during those foundational religious years. Again: lies.
  • I’ve learned a group of women of various culteral backgrounds and ethnicities can share an intimate connection. Some of these women can love Jesus, some can be Athiests, and a few can be a little witchy, and that none of these differences change a thing. In fact, this love and community is stronger for not letting them divide us. This isn’t what we are taught, but even so it’s what I’ve learned.
  • I’ve let go of my fear of the word witch. In fact, I’ve learned that the very things women did which had them labelled as such during the puritanical era involved things conservative families embrace now. Meditation, herbs, holistic medicine, essential oils, plant based sustinance, affirmations, self nurturing… these are all things that women were once killed for. Looking to the stars and paying attention to the changes in the moon caused women to be labelled devil worshippers. It’s interesting really, because men navigating the seas and seasons by stars was acceptable, even when the ships they sailed brought over people of Color to be abused and enslaved. (This is something the church should have always been against, isn’t it?) Modern medicine states the pull of the moon can effect us in many health and mental health ways. After all, we know the moon has an incredible affect on our waters, and aren’t we mostly made up of water? If my growing education in natural ways, the effects of the moon, the practice of hollistic things, and my belief in self-care and affirmations makes me a witch, I’ll claim it.
  • Fun fact (that I learned) Christian Witches are a thing! Who knew?!?!
  • The word witch has such a negative conatation, and it’s innaccurate. Each one of those things is divinely feminine in nature… Could it be that was the problem all along?
  • I’ve learned I prefer tea to coffee, and that I prefer that tea with sugar cubes. Infused sugar cubes are even better.
  • I’m learning (because I’m not quite there yet) to love myself as I am. Having once put my body through intense hell in an effort to take weight off, I have come to believe that was a mistake. Ironically the consequences of that decision have left my health a mess. Even more fun is that due to those issues, and endocrinal issues already present, much of that lost weight has come back. It’s frustrating. I’m tired. I’m sad, but I’m learning to love and accept myself as I am.
  • I learned that while I am a beautiful writer, I am not a well educated one. My foundational education, while heavily focussed in Biblical teaching and obedience training, did not do much for teaching me the skills I should have learned like math and grammar. Combine that with the afore mentioned brain fog and well, I’ve seen a lot of frustrationt this year. (As has my editor.) She has been so patient with me and we have really grown from the experience. After the new year I’ll be getting to know my Publisher’s editor and start that process all over again. Truthfully? I’m terrified. In fact, if I think about it too much I feel sick. BUT, I have to keep reminding myself that we all want the same thing: for this book to be out in the world and in the hands of people.
  • This year my word was AND. I learned to accept results of my hard work or goals, and then reach for more. Additionally, when my nostalgia made me sad about things which have been over for a long time (especially when I may wish they weren’t) AND reminded me that I can grieve and ache for a different outcome while also remembering boundaries and the reasons why it’s best as it is.
  • I learned that I could rewrite the majority of my book in seven days, if asked by the publisher I had my heart set on. I had no idea I was capable of that. (Brain fog be damned!)
  • This year I learned that I can be a sleeper. I’ve struggled with sleep for the majority of my life, and had grown to exhaustedly believe sleep just wasn’t meant for me. I was wrong. I researched, educated myself, and by trial and error have learned how to sleep well.
  • I learned that while I LOVE TikTok, I do not love making them. (nor do I have to.)
  • I learned that I have zero patience for the the Let’s Go Brandoners, the passionately anti-vaxxers, or the people who go about life like normal while being covid positive because “no one has really died from it.” Yes they have. We know several of them. Listen, I support your right to deny the vaccine. It’s your body, your choice (100% of the time) but this illness is real. People are dying, and others have had their lives impacted in devestating ways from it. If you don’t want to get the vaccine, social distance. Wear a mask in public. Keep yourself safe. Limit interactions so you don’t get sick, or carry it to someone else. I am triple vaxxed and I social distance. I wear a mask in public. I care about your safety as much as my own. (The LGBers though? GO AWAY! You’re loud, obnoxious, self-centered, and ridiculous. That this nonsense is happening in churches and is rampant through church communities only affirms my decision to walk away.) You don’t have to love our president, but don’t be a dick.

I’m sure I’ve learned more. Already this is longer than I expected… A hard year? Yes. A sad year? Resoundingly. But also a year of solid growth and accomplishment. (or should I say AND a year of solid growth…)