What a strange, difficult year to reflect on. I know many good and joyful things happened, but the things that stand out in memory are painful to remember. On both the macro and the micro, the global and the local, the far-away and the very close, there was so much upheaval, pain, and sadness.
Many others have written about the devastation around the world and have done so far more eloquently than I can. Images from Syria ripped at my heartstrings, and I’m ashamed to admit that I often turned away from news coverage because–beyond making donations to worthy charities–there seemed to be so little I could do.
At the same time, I reeled from the news that I most likely will never be able to give birth to a child. While that’s not something I’d planned to pursue soon, being stripped of that possibility feels cruel and incomprehensible. I’m unsure of whether that grief will ever leave me. Perhaps I’ll always be forced to wonder “what if?”
While I processed my personal sadness, an election unfolded that seemed to divide the country more and more by the day. I’ve written before about my feelings on our president-elect, so I won’t dwell on that outcome here. Suffice it to say that I went to bed on November 8th feeling devastated, betrayed, and fearful.
And then–because 2016 was nowhere near finished with any of us–the very next day, after an election that shook the foundations of what I believe, another bomb exploded in my personal life. I was forced to confront mountain of secrets and lies, dangerous realities that threatened my belief in the existence of love and fidelity. The pain was extraordinary, and my self-esteem was ripped to shreds in front of my eyes.
It was a very dark moment in an already bleak year.
But then, as always happens in my darkest moments, something indestructibly strong rose up within me and took over control in my fugue-like state. I heard my mouth say words that resonated deeper than my tender, shattered heart. I stood my ground and insisted on a new way of being: one built on a foundation of openness, truth, and vulnerability. These were not requests; they were edicts for my survival.
And, miraculously, every request I made was met, for the first time, with a “yes.”
In the weeks since, I have learned deeply that love is a choice. A deliberate, meaningful, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other decision to share space on a rocky path with another person. My daily speech now is peppered with words like “recovery,” “shame,” and “process.” I check in with my feelings hour to hour, moment to moment, and try not to succumb when anger and hurt threaten to consume me.
I’ve never feared darkness or depth, and even in the hardest moments, I’m eternally optimistic that brighter days lay ever ahead. But 2016 has pushed the limits of my ability to fathom hope. And I find myself on a frantic search for meaning in an impossibly dark season of life.
My beloved friend and fellow yoga teacher Nancy Rhodes joined me for tea on my couch in my new home a few weeks ago. She exudes a calm wisdom and often says things that flip my perspective on a situation totally upside down. We talked about the pain and darkness of the last year. Full of grace and compassion, she said, “I know a lot of people think this year sucked, but I think it was all necessary. It was time for the darkness to come out. If it doesn’t come out, we can’t look at it, and we can’t deal with it. This is a time for us to be the light.”
What a revelation, simple yet profound. To see the pain and struggle as a clearing. All the racism, all the misogyny, all the fear, all the lies. Let’s get it out in the open so it can be dealt with.
Let’s fully and deeply combat darkness with light.
And so, as I reflect back on 2016, I strive to look for the bright spots. I close my eyes and picture the 20 beautiful yogis I graduated from teacher training this year; I see their smiles and hear their laughter as loud and clear as church bells. I remember the waves of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile pushing back against me as I strode deeper into the water on my 33rd birthday, my Piscean heart set on a birthday baptism, despite the water being about 10 degrees too cold. I feel the rush of pride at selling my beloved old house to a loving, happy couple who will care for it well, as well as the joy and excitement of buying a new place that’s all mine, just mine, a perfect little nest for a new phase of life.
And I remember that, for the first time in our nation’s history, over half the population voted for a woman for president. Although progress might be slow, we are inching ever forward.
And when I open my eyes again, those dark places don’t feel so scary. I remember that I and the people around me can and will and do light the way forward. And although hope may feel hidden, it is never, ever gone.
And I remember that the same is true for love.
I can’t promise myself or anyone else that 2017 will bring any fewer challenges. I can’t attach to the belief that less darkness will arise. Perhaps we will sit in the same place a year from now and lament yet another year that damn near killed us.
But I do not fear that possibility. Not at all. We have seen darkness, and we’re still standing. We’re still moving forward, little by little, step by step. And lighting our way is our own clarity, hope, and strength.
In the coming year and all the years to come, we will forever be given opportunities to be the light.