NOTE: the content below contains mention of violence and loss. Please take care while reading.
2023 was particularly daunting in all the ways: emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual. It came really close to taking me down. In fact, it devasted me. I've tried to boil everything down as bullet-style information for brevity's sake. Please trust that the brief paragraphs below do not do justice to what unfolded.
I lost a relative in a violent murder last year. The sudden loss of someone by way of cruelty is horrific, and affects you in ways that a loss from old age or long-term illness doesn't. It is a snatching away that leaves you feeling numb, then despondent.
I have managed the care of a loved one with dementia for over 18 months, driving back and forth across three states to manage their care. Watching as little pieces of them go missing is a heart-rending experience. It is a constant letting go.
I lost one of my favorite people in the world to cancer last year. More heartbreakingly, their last three years on earth were spent bedbound and isolated, and that in and of itself is so terrible. My heart still aches for their loss of autonomy and ability to explore the world. They were the happiest when in community, and that was taken away for a very long time. It is a grief that still haunts me.
I injured my knee and walked with a limp for over three months. Physical therapy was impossible to schedule due to work constraints, and therefore took much longer than it should have. Walking around the store in figure eights is literally my job, so this injury was demoralizing. My enneagram three heart was pummeled by my body's inadequacies.
All of this emotional and physical strain ruined my immune system. I contracted pneumonia, bronchitis, and some sort of viral infection. I caught every single cold. I took more sick days than I have in my entire life combined. A promotion at work (ultimately a hooray) led to an increased workload and a commute of over three hours on most days. I just could not. I limped to work - both figuratively and literally- for more of this past year than not.
I felt as though I had no time, no energy, no capacity whatsoever to handle the onslaught of daily responsibility I was accountable for. If I wasn't at work, I was working on doctor's appointments, paying bills, arranging care, selling someone else's house. I felt the need to move at warp speed. Every minute of every day had to be completely utilized, or else I started to feel behind. I was always in a rush and felt like I was swimming in cortisol up to my eyeballs. I was exhausted but could not rest. In a world where everything was free falling, my default was to try and fix and manage and control.
If you've been hanging around here long enough, you know that busy-ness and stressful-ness and nose-to-the-grindstone-ness have been major through lines in my plot. But in years past there were sprinkles of art, and music, and time with family that brought joy and helped balance out the tedium that often is life. This year those bright happies couldn't offset the bleakness. Every day off, every lunch break, every commute home was filled with work. I always think that if I can just work hard enough, everything will work out. That's my toxic trait, I guess. When in doubt, just lose your freaking nose to the grindstone. And then give your whole face, because you're too committed to be a quitter and things will turn around and clearly you just aren't working hard enough or this would be sorted already.
Many, many days were spent wishing the train would just break down. As the earth hurled it's way towards October, I knew what my word of the year had to be.
Enough: as much or as many as required. Used to indicate that one is unwilling to tolerate any more of something undesirable.
I didn't have enough: time, energy, emotional capital, or stamina that was required of me last year. I was insufficient. I had had enough: the loss, the grief, the stress. I was unwilling to tolerate it any longer. Something had to give.
This word has carried me through the last four months. I've used it to unpack the year, sort my feelings, and carve things out of my life that were no longer serving me. I parsed through what I wanted to be a part of/contribute to/be accountable for that I just didn't have enough ____ to accomplish, and then started focusing on ways to fill those tanks again. I surveyed the circumstances, dynamics, and situations that I was just no longer willing to tolerate. I pulled out the trusty metaphorical matchbook and burned all of that to the ground. The instant this word was laid on my heart, I knew that in order to feel well again - happy and whole and free - that I had to shake up, sift out and sort through all parts of my life until a third meaning of this word became evident: as much as one needs. I wanted to get to the other side of the word, where insufficiency becomes ample and undesirable becomes preferable.
I am still not there by any means. And I've skimmed over the worst, saddest, darkest moments because you don't have to go there with me literally in order to understand how it broke me - you can infer. But I've made strides to envision what "enough" looks like down the line. I have a vision board. I've partnered with my healthcare providers on a holistic approach to improve my health and well-being. I've created boundaries with my family and with my job. I'm writing again for the first time in almost three years. I'm spending the next eight months prioritizing my well-being in order to feel like me again. And that's just going to have to be enough.