Had my 2016 been poisoned? I could see it that way.
Listen to me read the below here:
I was ready to enter 2016. I’d been joking on Twitter, with a razor edge to my digital voice, about how 2015 really just needed to be put to bed. Or perhaps put to sleep, when I was feeling particularly grouchy about the year in which I did sell my debut novel, but in which I was also diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease, and spent pretty much the entire year learning how to live as a person who could suddenly do much less than she used to. I was ready to toss away the year in which I’d frequently found myself too weak to move my limbs, or even to breathe without difficulty. I’d begun an experimental treatment, known as low-dose immunotherapy, in November. It seemed to be working; at least, it gifted me more good days than bad, and more great days than I’d had in years. 2016, it followed, would be The Year of Remission, in which I’d be able to do all of the book touring my publisher would like me to, and in which I’d be able to leave the nightmare of Lyme disease behind and run, headlong, into my Real Life.
So that was the plan. What happened was this: on a flight home on January 1st, I began to experience too-familiar chills. By the next morning, I was experiencing full-blown fevers and accompanying panic attacks; at night, I awoke 10-15 times, and usually from nightmares. I was sick from this flare for days, and then the flare faded, leaving me deep enough in 2016 for folks to be snickering about anyone who continued to wish them a happy new year, as though the new year could only be acknowledged on Day One, and no further.
Had my 2016 been poisoned? I could see it that way. I jotted VERY SICK on the corresponding days in my new 2016 paper planner, where I’d ordinarily chronicle my days in detail; on those fever days, VERY SICK was all that stood. I could consider this an inauspicious beginning; a bad omen; a sign of a year that would, like the handful before it, consist of more unhappiness and suffering than joy.
But this bout of illness was a reminder, I believe, not of how stupid it is to be hopeful, but how moving through our lives, and through suffering, is a part of our hopefulness, and is a part of the most resilient aspects of ourselves. That I will keep looking forward to my better days and ride out the hard ones is a testament to the stubbornness and tenacity that has kept me going through difficult times so far. I haven’t given up–not yet–because I’m damn stubborn. Chin lifted. I am willing to present as a goddamn mule.
And so: being sick didn’t “ruin” my 2016. My 2016 is still wide open and ahead of me. I’m still going. I’m still doing great, according to my requirements of what it means to live a good life.
This is as good a time as any to tell you my word of the year; this ritual, in which I’ve taken part for the last five years, is meant to place focus on a year in a way that resolutions can’t. My word, after some deliberation, is ALIVE. Which is what I am. I am, I am, I am, the old brag of my heart. I long to squeeze every drop out of every moment that I am still breathing. I want to feel vibrant, extraordinary, and bursting with possibility. I desire the feeling and expression of gratitude, and the wisdom about suffering that mindfulness brings.
With every breath, I remind myself that I am alive. I have been every day this year.