I found this idea on Pinterest for keeping a jar where you write down happy/funny things that happen throughout the year and put them in this jar. I believe it advised a big jar (with the assumption being you’ll have lots of good things happening I suppose). You open the jar up at the end of the year and read over all the little happy moments you otherwise might have forgotten. The woman who’d pinned it had written it was a “super cute idea !!!!” and that she was definitely going to try it.
I pitched the idea to Poobah and he liked it (although he didn’t call it super cute or exclaim). So I took the large clear plastic teddy bear shaped animal cracker jar and dumped the animal crackers out into a bag (they’ve been sitting uneaten in the jar for 3 months so why not keep them uneaten in a different container a little longer) and wrote 2015 on the bear’s tummy with a Sharpy.
As I did so, I thought, why only write down the happy times? Why not the bad times too? It was January first and I was heading to work soon. I wasn’t very cheery.
But it wasn’t just working on a holiday that made me think that. I’d been bogged down in PTSD and working crazy hours and stress and financial problems and family discord. Bogged down for a while.
I felt like there wouldn’t be much to put in the jar.
I said goodbye to my husband and kids and headed to the hospital. Holidays can be slow because people put off going to the hospital on a holiday if they can, but it’s been a particularly busy year for hospital medicine because of all the influenza. I expected I’d be fairly busy and hoped it wouldn’t be any worse than that. I hoped no patients crashed. I hoped for some time to think.
Earlier in the day, Poobah and the kids and I had gathered in the living room around our old school fake Christmas tree (the kind that really do look fake and aren’t “pre-lit” and don’t have green concentrated pine scent aroma sticks discretely hung on a strategically chosen back branch) to continue a tradition my sister Nicci and I had started when I was still in high school. Every New Years we make predictions for the upcoming year and then the following year we read over them and see who got the most right. We also talk about things that happened over the past year that were unexpected.
We’d each made three predictions but I wanted some time before I went and started the admissions to write down a few more and think about the year ahead.
I started writing and this is what came out:
I need to move forward. But these next 6 months are going to be exhausting. I’m not sure what to do. I wish it were a simpler tale. I wish I could figure it out.
Where did it begin? Before I was born? If it did, then what?
We all seek to be an individual with self-esteem
There are those who stand in the way
And so we assert to be ourselves in maladaptive ways
Because of the innate drive towards maturity
Malcolm has something special in him. Malcolm could change the world.
He said he wants to be an astronaut so he can change the world.
Mies has this amazingly unique combination of traits.
Maybe I am too.
And with those four little words, I got my groove back. I didn’t just get my groove back from before Jeremy Noyes traumatized me seven years ago or before my medical school rubbed salt in the spiritual wound and made it stick. I mean I got my groove back from Way back.
It’s a process, of course, but it is set in motion. It is inevitable. The rate limiting step of the reaction has been overcome and the chemical cascade is in full swing.
I’ve spent most of my precious little free time since then wading through shame and heartache, cleaning out every dark corner of the past 35 years. It’s amazing all the things I’ve been ashamed of over the years. It’s amazing how ashamed I still felt now, decades later, simply writing out the words different people have said to me. I’ve done that sort of thing before, sitting and trying to process bad memories. But the difference this time is that I finally believed that I didn’t deserve any of it. I finally believed I’m extraordinary and so deserving of love and safety and joy, it’s ridiculous.
The words lost their power over me. Those people lost their power over me.
There are things I’ve done in my life I’m ashamed of and I sat with those too. Some of them I reminded myself I had no control over (feeling ashamed I “let” myself be raped, for instance), some I decided are just inevitable mistakes of youth, and some I had to forgive myself for. I regret very little as a general rule, but the things I’ve done that have hurt people, really hurt them, I do regret, and I had to forgive myself and let go of the shame.
Another inevitable piece of it is that I am losing the extra weight I have clung to for many years. It’s time to let it go and so I am. I feel hungry but it doesn’t distress me because it’s what’s supposed to be.
I’ve recovered from political amnesia and am reading feminists and progressives and anarachists again. I’m engaging with people about things that matter. I’m throwing a hundred evolving ideas out to my husband on everything our future holds after we graduate this June.
It’s not that I’m becoming a whole new person. It’s that I’m returning to being myself. I’m doing what we are all made to do: becoming more myself and finding what it is I am supposed to be doing to make the world a better place.
I look at my two year old daughter and see she’s there. She’s got her groove on. She knows what she thinks and wants and feels and she lets you know it. She’s engaged with everything and everyone she comes in contact with. She’s alive. She’s in the flow.
I want to do everything I can to keep her there as much as possible. I want to help all my kids find their flow. And anyone else I can. Because that’s what life is. But I see now, it’s not selfish to enjoy having my own groove on. Quite the opposite. Flow begets flow.
And so, the other day, I took a little green slip of paper next to the empty animal cracker jar and I wrote the first memory of 2015: January 1st Ima got her groove back. (our kids call me Ima. I’ll tell you about it some time)
This is for my husband now: My name is Elizabeth Spaar and 2015 is the year I got my groove back