(photo by SashaW)
The New Year will always mean something extra to me. It was the last time I heard my brother’s voice. Eight years ago today my older brother committed suicide. The grief that came with that tragedy has affected everyone in my family differently. It is also a beast that changes over time. While I was thrown into a turmoil I didn’t know existed that first year after his death, the last few years my grief has been calm and quiet. I’ve been thinking of his death, of him, less. That is why I was almost surprised when going to bed last night (about 1 am, January 5) that thoughts of him came flooding in.
December was a gray month for me. The New Year, a dark one. Going home to see family and to the place I am moving to in 5 weeks made me uncomfortable, anxious. I was uncertain of myself, of the move, of my feelings. I didn’t write here because I had nothing to say that wouldn’t be hypocritical. I fell back into my (undiagnosed) depression.
I spent New Years Day staring at walls, wandering around my flat, willing time to move, for something to change. I was literally unmotivated to do anything, breathing was all I could do. I checked my email, seeking distraction, in it was a link to an interview series about positivity and self-acceptance that I signed up for a month earlier. The link would expire in just a few hours. Since I loathe to waste anything and was only motivated to do nothing, I listened, halfheartedly. Miraculously, it cheered me up. (This is the interview series).
J had been encouraging me to set goals for the New Year, to help me focus on things outside of myself, but as I battled the darkness no task-oriented goal felt right. I have spent the last three years setting lists of goals, even creating spreadsheets to track my progress over weeks and months. Read 52 books, see 6 new exhibits, go to 5 lectures on things I don’t know about, etc. I abandoned last year’s just months in, my goals didn’t seem to fit me anymore.
Suddenly (strange how so many things can happen in just a week), I realized what I needed to do in 2014: Get right with myself. The one thing that can help me. The most important thing I should be focusing on is my emotional and mental health. If I’m ever going to find a way to rise above my lowest feelings and try prevent dark days I’m going to have to be okay with myself. Love myself. Accept myself. So in 2014 every action I take, every thought I have, my goal is to ask myself, ‘Will this help me get right with myself?’. If it doesn’t, I know I shouldn’t do it. In a way I’m making several ‘traditional’ goals–around health, activity, social life–but really my focus is on improving my ability to value my own life.
This is what I was doing at 1 am last night. I was thinking ‘I love myself’ over and over before going to sleep (a practice that makes me feel ridiculous, but was recommended here, so far I think its actually helping). Then I remembered that eight years ago at perhaps this time my brother made the decision to end his life. That contrast. That I was in the act of re-committing to myself, to my life, at the same time and day that he chose differently, it was a revelation. It was the first time I felt like I was out living my brother (though I always knew I would become ‘older’ than him).
This realization, this coincidence, is bittersweet. I am far enough away from his death to keep from regretting not being able to share with him what is helping me now, but it is still sad to see evidence that I will become more than he was able to as my life moves on. His choice changed everything for me and for my family, but it has also given me a bar I can never cross, a choice I can never make. Eliminating that choice, for me, has at least been something meaningful in his death. In part, because of his choice, I have made my own–I choose myself.
This is the year where I learn that I am enough. Where I remember to accept who I am, with all the flaws. Where I learn to love myself and truly believe that my life has meaning. This year my only goal is to get right with myself, leaving behind any other expectations. I’m working at it slowly, hesitantly (December’s dip into depression is still close in my mind). I’m working at it day by day, sometimes minute by minute. I’m starting to realize that life is like this, a practice that you have to work at every day and never ends. The childish victim in me hates that, but hating it won’t change that fact. Instead, I will tell myself I love myself minute by minute, I will choose healthy eating and exercise day by day, I will not let career expectations pull me where I am not sure I want to go, I will ask myself ‘Will this help me get right with me?”.