the end of 36

I only have a couple of days left in 36, and I have to say that I've reflected on all that made it my best year. At least, the best that I could make of it. It most certainly wasn't my best year... 

It was a tough year, and yet there was so much good about it. I got to love and be loved, I got to grow and expand. Yet, there were a number of heavy restraints. They pushed me really hard. In many ways, they (literally) broke me. From replacing my stolen things, to being sick every other month, hurting from my living space, to running a business, keeping up with the demands, the questions, the balance, the juggling act; the not knowing where I was in my surroundings, trying to accept the changes, trying to appreciate the moment, trying to love every little piece of what kept me going, to accepting that I'd have to pack up and move again, to falling flat on my ass (broken rib). The universe told me, straight out, to just stop running. 

It was where I had to learn how to ask for help. It was so difficult for me accept it, and yet, it was fine time I got some practice. I've spent years trying to do it all on my own, in my own way, as if asking was too much for anyone to keep up with. I thought I had to give so much back in return, when the truth is that people just want to love you. Closeness was so difficult to accept, when I felt I couldn't give back my best. Those who love you don't ask for payback. Care is honest. Love is truth. I had absolutely no idea how to accept it, when I felt embarrassed for being less of myself. I had to accept that when things break down, it's okay to go with it. Let it happen. Let it be. It's part a part of life. Love is there to heal.

It was a year that I learned my personal strengths, hidden within my weaknesses. No matter the struggle, I pushed my focus to the better side of things. There's damage in optimism when you choose not to see the truth behind what's hurting you. I was pushed around on unsteady ground, surrounded by noise, chaos, and tension. I didn't know that my living space hurt me that badly, until I left it. I was scrambling for a place to land, while clinging to something so unsteady. Let the falls be part of the process. It has increased my optimism to believe that these moments are meant to teach valuable lessons. I learned a big lesson about the importance of home. It needs to be safe, supportive, secure, and steady. If it's not... the disconnect is very tough to live with. No amount of optimism will save you. Damn, I tried so hard.

I was given the gift of a loving heart. It held me tight. It told me everything would be fine. It took me in when I needed shelter. It gave me wings to fly. It always encouraged me upward. It showed me the truth of simple, lasting, love. It gave me more than I could ever put into words. Companionship, strength, understanding, truth, structure, trust, honesty, beauty, simplicity, connection, family, play, exploration, creativity, expansion, growth, care, balance, openness, vulnerability, hope, acceptance.... A never ending list of discoveries. This is the part of my 36 that I choose to take with me. It's what kept me smiling through all of the incredible challenges. I learned that it's okay to just let love in. Even if it's a scary thing to accept. 

Photo by Scott Townend

I learned to accept this love from all directions. I visited my roots. I surrounded myself with family, to bring myself back to where it all started. I'd spent a long time running from it without reason. There were things I didn't want to revisit, and yet those things had been put to rest. Nothing can hurt me anymore. I took a deep breath, and I chose to go forth. I chose to accept the changes that have delivered an incredible list of experience. I am loved, and there's beauty in knowing that no matter where I am, and no matter the shape I take, I have a loving place to rest. I am so grateful for knowing where I come from. It's where I acknowledge my core, and view my truth. I come from a good place, with a little bit of grit around the edges. It's the imperfections that bring about a beautiful surface. I learned to accept that even from myself.

I got to experience the absolute importance of what I do. To see how my art, which is my heart and soul, can affect the hearts of others... No words can describe it for what it is. I honestly can't express the gratitude I have toward these experiences, because they run deep. They're things that only I can know for myself and why they touch me the way that they do. They are the memories that I'll carry with me forever, without any doubt. I'm still learning to let go of how absolutely overwhelming it is to know that what I do has so much meaning. I can't.. I really can't express it. I just know I have a whole lot to be proud of, and that's going to take some time for me to process. The value in what I do has absolutely nothing to do with dollar amounts. Memories like this ... yes, they're priceless. I got a whole lot of gifts of gratitude in 36. It goes both ways.

I learned that I have a very emotional job. For an emotional person, this can be a really tricky balance. My heart is expansive, and yet it has its limits. With what I do, I have to balance out all that I give, and practice giving it back to myself in return when it is needed. My job deals with a lot of loss and heartache, and so life and death are a constant reminder that this is what we're here to do. I've drawn probably hundreds of pets and loved ones who are no longer with us. This can actually cause me to stop, breakdown, and cry directly into the faces of those who are in front of me. I don't like to be reminded that all is temporary.. and yet, it's where I learn to appreciate every waking moment that I am given. There is a lesson behind all hurt, and I'm grateful to be able to relieve others of their own personal heartache through the joy of making art. I wish to continue to do this through my living days, but a break is necessary for some breathing room. I'm just glad to realize that there is so much love in this world. Far more than I ever anticipated to discover. 

In the mix of it all, I was still scrambling. I was hanging on tight to where I wanted to land, and yet that landing space was pushing me out. My home was telling me to leave, as I was trying to stay. I'd come home from a place that also pushed me out (the island). One, I left without hesitation, to come back to where I couldn't let go. The difficult lesson in it all was that I was returning as a different person, and all that was familiar, was no longer. The disconnect made me really confused, and I even clung to the thought that maybe I needed to be back on that island again.. even if the push was toward all that I wanted. I didn't know what that was. I really didn't even know how to look for it.. until I had to. I was pushed out again, and I grew even more resentful of the instability. Like floating and falling into distress, with absolutely no place to land.  It's tough when you don't know where you belong, or even who you are anymore. I felt so lost and, at times, completely alone. It was an entirely new shell of isolation that I didn't want any part of. Like floating away from earth itself.

Of course, I eventually landed. Sometimes, it happens when you least expect it, and sometimes things have to reach a certain level of uncontrollable chaos before it finally comes to a halt. It's like stepping, blinded, into the colourful world of Oz, after a black and white cyclone has taken you for a spin. I finally landed. My mind is at a resting place, my legs no longer wobble beneath me, my fingers no longer scramble to cling to a surface that is pushing me away. It's calling me in. It's like I arrived, at last, to place where I am not only home; but where I am whole. I see so much of what was calling for me, right here, waiting. I now have room to grow, a place to breathe, space to expand and reach further into the wild unknown with a firmer grip on where I belong. It's like the best of both of my worlds just presented themselves in front of me. The welcoming expanse of nature (like the island), and a place I know to call home. It's different than what it was before, but it's more of who I am today. It's the end of a blurry 36, and the beginning of a clearer, welcoming, 37. It's like the universe spoke up again and said what it told me from the start, just stop running. It's time to relax. Be free. 

Go be 37.