All the greatest and most important problems in life are fundamentally insoluble... They can never be solved, but only outgrown.
When people ask me how 2016 was, I say, “Actually, it was pretty great.”
A lot of crazy, terrifying, and horrible stuff happened in the world at large this year, as with every year. But if people are asking about me— my life, my family, my place in the present— then yes, I can say that 2016 was good.
It didn’t seem like it was going to be. It started off with a sucking depression that made everything seem meaningless. Everything. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t appreciate where I was, and I didn’t know how to snap myself out of it. Whenever I had a good day, I felt silly for making such a big deal out of “nothing.” When I had a bad day, I sincerely couldn’t remember ever being happy in the near past.
I flip-flopped between these two stories (depression is an illusion, happiness is an illusion), and cognitively understood that neither of them could be true. I started taking a walk every day and journalling objective facts that I saw, judging neither good nor bad:
“I sat by the river, facing the bridge. The wind softly rattled dry leaves in the cluster of vines nearby. I heard a twig snap and saw a squirrel climbing down a tree, his supple tail vibrating until he found a branch and curled up into a ball. The traffic zoomed across the river, casting flashes of silver into the water.”
These glimpses reminded me that some parts of my reality were objective; some were not dictated by emotions.
My best friend finally convinced me to see a counselor, which was torture for about the first five sessions, but easier after that. My counselor advised me about many things, but above all, he encouraged me to let go. Letting go was hard, and it took many forms: letting go of assumptions, expectations, deeply-held convictions, false attitudes, and underlying stories of how my life should be in contrast to how it was. It was time to stop trying to solve— it was time to grow.
The change from solving to growing, like most change, was so gradual that I didn’t notice it along the way. I occasionally caught glimpses: finding a new story to tell, accepting I was normal. But as I look back over 2016, I can see the overall picture more clearly.
My situation, in many ways, is the same as it was last year at this time— same house, same job, same neighborhood, same habits. But instead of feeling empty, my life is full. I see the beauty of the present as it is. I still have all the tendencies that are hardwired into me, but I can spot them more easily: “Lisa, you’re trying to fix things. Stop trying to fix them.” “You’re only frustrated because reality is messing with your fantasy world. Let go of the fantasy world.” “Stop it with the should be’s. Focus on what is.” Although the transformation was long and often painful, it’s exciting to see the growth.
So, 2016 was a good year for me. I pray that 2017 would be full of life, potential, and growth for all of us. Happy New Year!