2017 has been a year of much change. Much joy. Much heartache. There were some big ticket events: I graduated college. I started therapy. I went on anxiety medication. I started graduate school. I became a vegan. I participated in protests. I got a kitten. I lost best friends. There were also many small ticket events: I started writing again. I tried dark lipstick. I learned how to make ravioli. I laughed with my best friends. I cried with my mom. I read beautiful books. I listened to music that spoke to my soul.
I have recently been thinking about the difference between the spirit and the soul. My dad briefly made the distinction in a sermon a few weeks ago: the soul is who you are on the inside – your true identity. Your spirit is what gives life to your soul – what keeps you getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes, I feel like my spirit is tired. Lots of homework can make my spirit tired. Too much time alone can make my spirit tired. But it seems lately that I am more than tired. That I have a heavy weight on my chest and electric eels in my stomach. Like I have a blood pressure cuff around my head and lead in my eyelids. It seems lately, I have become more aware that my soul is wounded. 2017 has wounded my soul. Processing the trauma from the past three years has made me aware of the wounds it inflicted on my soul. Losing three friends in the span of three months wounded my soul. The social media phenomenon of #MeToo made those slowly healing soul wounds feel fresh and bloody. Over the past few Christmasy days, the wounds of my soul made my spirit tired.
The problem with my soul wounds feeling fresh over Christmas is that I love Christmas. I love being with my family and extended family. I love baking cookies and wrapping presents. I love playing board games and watching movies. It’s exhausting to not feel in control of my emotions at a time that has always been so celebratory. It’s disheartening to think back on the past year and see so much grief and loss. It’s saddening to remember traditions that used to bring so much joy, but now the memory of them feels like a knife in the gut. It’s especially disorienting to not know where to go from here.
Lots of people choose a word to bring into the new year with them and shape their actions. At the beginning of 2017, I chose to shape my actions with the words lean in. I feel like 2017 didn’t give me much of a choice in living into that phrase. I was forced to lean into things that I would have preferred to ignore all together. This week, I am happy to say goodbye to 2017. I don’t know what’s to come in 2018. I hope it will be a year of building new traditions. Investing in old friendships. Participating in causes that I will forever be passionate about. Learning how to better care for my spirit and my soul. I’m not sure what word encompasses all these hopes. It seems impossible to find a word that I could carry with me for the next twelve months. I think perhaps my attitude at the close of a hellish 2017 and the opening of a fresh new year could be summarized better by a phrase able to be quietly whispered in good times and hard times, for 2018 is sure to have both. A phrase that can convey hope, comfort, and strength. A phrase that breathes healing into my soul and energy into my spirit. A phrase written in Margaret Atwood’s gorgeous book “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and echoed in Kesha’s rally cry song “Bastards.”
Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.
Don’t let the bastards get you down.