Such a year. 2016. I had expectations for it, awesome expectations. And that was my mistake: expectations.
I think it would be an unusual thing to anticipate “this is the year my love will have strokes, be diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, and then have brain surgery.” Those are the things you don’t think, the things you don’t even realize you can think.
The loss and medical drama were behind us. We had our fill, paid our dues, did our part the three years before.
On the morning of September 15th, my love texted me, “Can you come to the four please need your help” out of nowhere. He was working at our office, our condo downtown that we call “the Fore.” It’s on Fore Street. We are clever like that.
It was a stressful day for him that day, like once or twice in a lifetime stressful, so I was grateful he reached out. But the directness of the question and the lack of detail in the text itself left me knowing this was more urgent than subsequent texts let on.
That day, I realize now, was the gateway into a new life. Not one we asked for or envisioned, but a life in which we are that much more intimate with our mortality. The next month was the flip side of the mirror, a road trip in a blizzard with no directions, the magician watching all the china shatter while he holds the tablecloth safe and sound.
I learned what it means to be truly mindful. You can’t do anything but take what comes minute by minute. You don’t hope. You don’t lament. You just accept and act. In some ways that urgency is a comfort. There is no room for anything but instinct. What’s next? What your gut tells you to do. That’s it.
We stumbled through the unreal under the care of those who do this every day. It is their life, but not. They metabolize some of the viciousness of this path, shed a light on some of the roughest terrain, but still we must walk it.
One bit of that terrain was discovering the far edges of these newly uninhabitable parts of my love’s brain. These parts do things many of us take for granted. And watching the light fade from those places, even while trusting the light is already growing brighter in other places to compensate, is loss incarnate.
Once this loss touches you, it lights another light, an inextinguishable light within you that sometimes smolders sometimes explodes. But it is up to you to allow it to light the way as you reinvent.
This kind of reinvention is tinged with reluctance. How could it not be? When all feels good and whole and fulfilling, we would never notice we are capable of more, but damn it was excellent while it lasted. Now it is time to release that reluctance, that draw to the past. That will never allow us to reach our potential.
We have work to do. With every session of therapy, with every moment of quality sleep, with every belief of full recovery, the light reroutes itself. It reroutes itself in all of us who hold the vision. It is time now to fill the dark space 2016 has left with the light of patience, perseverance, and trust. This next year will be one of mindful intention, laser-like focus beyond the rough terrain while taking one step at on time on this undeniable path.
What I do know for certain is my love is the rarest of the rare, medically and otherwise. He’s the kind of human that forces you to examine your own perceived limitations. Because although he seems magic, his magic is the unmagic of patience, grit, and relentless pursuit of a vision few are willing to allow for themselves for fear of failure. The choices he made to steward his body with such tenacity are without a doubt the reason he is still with us through all this chaos. And he is the reason I have no doubt that same tenacity will bend the world to his will.
I have already witnessed this trajectory over the last months of this year we will always remember. The trajectory of recovery is both a gift and a liability with demonstrations of what feel like miracles and the impatience in the form of a taste of what will come if we choose to sustain.
So there is our 2017, we could say it stretches out before us, but actually the path doesn’t exist until we take the next step. I accept that 2017 is nothing and everything but love and challenge, connections and goodbyes, light and dark, until I make a choice in every moment. Yet those choices lead us to the next choice either toward or away from our vision so those mindful decisions are the difference between resignation and triumph. We are each brighter than the dark. While the choices are demanding, I believe we can all use a bit of triumph in 2017. That is my vision.