There is a desperation that comes at the end of the year. All the things not yet accomplished, all the things to begin fresh with the new year. Lists of goals and resolutions and the abortive calculus of “better than” versus “working on” multiplied by “Things That Have Changed.” After Thanksgiving, it’s all a matter of ticking down. Five weeks until a fresh start, four weeks until the holidays are over and you can begin that diet, three weeks until all this chaos dies down and you know the days are getting longer, two weeks until something changes, one week until you are miraculously a better version of yourself, a cleaner version of yourself, a freer version of yourself.
I used to make plans. “I will pitch to ten new publications in January.” “I will actually cook a full meal for dinner six nights each week.” “I will not feed the kids at the Burger King drive-thru unless we are on a road trip.” I will take longer baths, I will pamper myself, I will moisturize.
This year I have done no such thing. I cannot lie, I feel little hope for any change. I feel little optimism for personal development and growth. This year the days have counted backward to less than one and I am simply trying to keep my head above water.
“How’s your agent doing with your memoir?”
I don’t know.
“What about the baby book series?”
I don’t know.
“What about the cancer care guide?”
I don’t know.
“What about your pirate books?”
They’re on hold until I know about the other books.
“How’s your job?”
Unfortunately over, I think.
“How’s Girl Scouts going?”
I’m trying my best.
“How’s the novel coming?”
I haven’t written a damn thing longer than a tweet since before Thanksgiving, when the days got painfully short and the nights got painfully cold and the news from the MRIs got confusing and the yartzeit hit and the anniversaries kept coming.
It has been three years since my grandmother died. I don’t know why I feel embarrassment over the depth of my grief for her, but the truth is I do. As though I am not permitted to mourn, and I am pretending at a familial closeness I often feel my extended family lacks.
It’s been six years since I started therapy for my postpartum depression.
It’s been seven years since my second pregnancy began with skin cancer and gallbladder disease that left me weak and ill and exhausted and despondent.
It’s been eleven years since my then-fiance, exhausted from chemo, told me in a half-sleep that he didn’t care if he went to heaven or hell, that he didn’t know if he even believed, but that he wanted to be wherever I was.
It’s been thirteen years since my stalker started sending me death threats.
It’s been fourteen years since he raped me.
Tonight will be twenty years, twenty years, since I went to a New Year’s Eve party because a friend was worried about going alone, and I was isolated and incapacitated and raped and dropped unceremoniously on my snowy front lawn.
Next week will be twenty years, twenty long fucking years, since I swallowed all the sleeping pills and antidepressants and aspirin and ignorantly another three bottles of amphetamines, the latter of which saved my life, stripping my neural pathways and damaging my heart.
Tonight it’s twenty-five years since I sat on a kitchen floor with my best friend and held her while she sobbed and begged me to accept Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior, because she didn’t want to go to a heaven without me in it.
I think of the child I was at nine years old, believing I was an “old soul” and world-weary and wise, comforting her. I think how different that child was from the fourteen-year-old who also believed she was so wise and walked into a party she knew was dangerous and walked out so broken I am still trying to piece her back together. They are so different, those children. And they are so different from me.
It has also been twenty-three years since my first personal brush with antisemitism. I had befriended a girl from my neighborhood. We went ice skating together, and somehow Schindler’s List had come up. She didn’t believe it was true. My sister and I explained that the Holocaust was real, that 6.5 million Jews were murdered, and another 6 million people. That Nazis were real. It’s been twenty-three years since her father showed up at our doorstep, livid, berating my mother for spreading the lie of the Holocaust and forbidding my sisters and me from playing with her ever again.
It’s been two months since the Tree of Life synagogue massacre. It feels like so much longer. Like every day has been another news article about the rising tide of antisemitism in America, and it pushes those deaths artificially backward into a past where they don’t belong.
It’s been three weeks since Channukah.
It’s been one week since Christmas.
It’s been two years since Americans elected an antisemitic, racist, misogynist to the presidency, and it feels like longer than years that every day brings another administrative attack on me as a descendant of immigrants, of civil rights fighters and anti-war activists and academics and writers and queers and Jews and so many rape survivors, of refugees, as an American.
I am tired.
In October, Mike’s MRI news was not great. Not bad, but not great. I’ve been quiet on it because it could mean nothing, probably means nothing, what’s the point of freaking people out when it probably means nothing?
His MRI schedule was adjusted, and we’re back to going every other month, and I’m tired. There’s a spot on his MRI. It could be radiation damage from a decade ago. It’s probably radiation damage. It’s probably nothing to worry about. It’s probably fine. He is doing fine.
He is doing fine, Mike is doing fine, he is just fine.
The number of people in my family facing cancer this year rose by 500%, all in the final quarter of the year. Everyone’s doing okay. Everybody is doing great. They’re fine. They’re going to be fine.
My work and income have dwindled to near nothing as I focus as much as I can on the things I can control. Making binders for my loved ones to track their prognoses, Girl Scout activities, Thanksgiving Dinner and lighting yartheit candles and wrapping presents and getting the kittens neutered.
I can read the last two books in my “Read Harder” challenge for 2018. I can finish that.
I can catch up on laundry.
I can make Christmas stockings.
I can watch all of The Office again, and eat marshmallows, and pet the cats, and sleep.
I have slept so much.
I can go to therapy and try to listen while my psychiatrist tells me that the world is not doomed, that I do not need an exit strategy for my family from a fascist regime. I can listen while she tells me to take a shower, to eat a vegetable, to sing in the shower once in a while.
I can take an occasional hot bath. I can even put lavender and dragon’s blood and eucalyptus salts in the water, and light a candle and watch She-Ra. I can hydrate.
I can medicate for the migraines that come faster and harder and more often.
I can go to the chiropractor once in a while. I can floss my teeth.
I can do good things, help people, build my community, even if I am numb with exhaustion and the weird echoes of despair that come with these anniversaries.
Each time I think about setting goals for 2019, each time I even think the number, “2019,” my stomach curls up in anxious knots. I’m not ready. I’m not ready to count my successes and failures in the parade of catastrophes and triumphs that was 2018. I’m not ready to face what will no doubt be a miserable and contentious and sexist 2019 primary season with the sword of Damocles overhead titled 2020 Election and I am not ready to consider what I must do for myself, by myself, to get myself through it.
Please make no mistake, I don’t want to die, but as these days have wound down (and I cannot look at that word right now without seeing its homonym, for I am covered and full of open wounds) I have wished again and again and again that I could not be, that I could disappear from these events and my place in them, that I could be erased from the fact of the passage of time and the rapid accumulation of unwanted anniversaries.
I have a desk and inbox and phone full of messages of love and support and friendship I have not answered, but which I read again and again. I am wounded indeed, more by how loved and blessed I am than by my struggles. More by being seen than feeling invisible, when I am so tired, and so desperate to be unaffected.
Keep sending the messages though, please, I will answer them. I will.
Today is the last day of 2018. There are things I will do in the next year, but I don’t think they fall into the category of resolutions or even goals.
I will advocate for my health, for my kids’ health, for my husband’s health, and for healthcare for all.
I will write.
I will paint something. At least something.
I will sew something.
I will do my best to eat healthy food.
I will exercise and take hot baths.
I will go to the movies alone once in a while.
I will get out in nature once in a while.
I will try not to overspend.
I will light Sabbath candles and fast on Yom Kippur and pick apples for Rosh Hashannah and bake so many Hamentaschen.
I will keep going to therapy. I will go to the dentist. I will tell my children I love them every day. I will tell my husband I love him every day. I will be grateful.
I will be grateful.
I will try so hard to be grateful.
None of these are resolutions, they are facts. They are the facts of my life I doubt I could change if I tried. I will always feel that I am failing at them, though. I don’t think I will ever feel that I do these things enough, and that is also a part of who I am. I cannot envision a life in which I am not riddled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome and worry.
But I will try. I will try to see myself as good enough. For what, I don’t know. But I will try.
I know I am different than I was a year ago. I have proven to myself there are things I can do, there are inherent values in me I hadn’t counted, there are capabilities inside of me I had not yet unlocked, and there are parts of me I did not know were breakable which have been broken.
This year my sense of time has lost its meaning. The fatigue of worry and confusion and anger and despair and also of hope and belief and joy have accumulated like unaccountably multiplying dirty bath towels, and just as I could not tell you how many loads of laundry I have done this year I can tell you little else.
I do not know if it was a good year or bad. It feels bad, but in the crush of these last six weeks that means little. It was a year that was.
It is a year that still is, for another half a day.
And tomorrow will be a new year, which means nothing, and also means everything. It means I still am.
Six years after not being became a terrifying prospect, I still am. Twenty years after not being was a plan I acted on, that I nearly succeeded in achieving, I still am.
There are still facts of my existence. I still rely upon these. I still take them for granted, and I am grateful.
I will be grateful.
I am always grateful.
I am always. I am. I am.
Read more about emotional fatigue here: What It’s Like to be a Rape Survivor in America Right Now
Read my most recent post here: A Plea for ‘Happy Holidays’ during a Rise in American Antisemitism
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