A year of blisters
#84: A curious year and love as the opposite of control, ft. b-sides from 2021
As the new year approaches, this little old newsletter I started in 2016 (!) seems to be be growing at a rate it had not before. I am grateful for that, and I look forward to growing this curious space with you. Thanks for being here. In today’s issue I explore the our nagging idiosyncrasies and share one forgotten image from each month of the year — photos that didn’t make the cut for ‘other things’.
We’re here. The last week of the year — a miniature purgatory squashed in the holi-daze. Or as my friend Jonah put it, more optimistically:
“The week between Christmas and New Year is consistently the best of the entire year. It's gloriously quiet, allowing for deep dives and intellectual excursions rather than the usual fire drills and distractions.”
In this arbitrarily final week, I do try to make time for the deep dives — allowing the space for a specific wave of reflection and forwardly hopeful thinking that only lies here in this late December sandwich.
But I have to be honest with you — as I look back on this year, I am not so fond of this particular retrospective. While I’ve grown in some ways, I’ve faltered in others (I suppose that’s totally normal). Zora Neale Hurston’s musing brought me more clarity:
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
For me, this year has been blistered with questions. The nectar of my challenges this year – the pus in these blisters – are the ever-nagging flaws that still lurk beneath the surface. Under the right amount of pressure, they squeeze out.
Living in these pain points are parts of me that have long resisted change, and so have remained quite young — these immaturities, damned as they are, are always eking out into empty moments. Most regrettably standard to me, they are like liquid, oozing out into the brief exhaustion, the pause in small talk, the kitchen tiff.
I am embarrassed by the ooze. “Why did I just say that?” What I am talking about, of course, are the parts of ourselves that we struggle to love because we have so little control over them.
But as we grow, we learn that love is much the opposite of control, and that each of our idiosyncrasies are born of our truest depths. In all of our most natural pushing back, we’ve left behind some child-selves; we must have compassion for them.
I understand that self-compassion is a difficult proposition. Flawed and laid bare in the sunshine we feel the burn of helplessness — browning and shrinking we thirst. It is entirely possible that years or decades pass and still we struggle to grow these branches and vines. But I know that our only real hope in these matters is the steady watering can of a compassionate eye and the will to forgive ourselves. We are whole, and there is much to love here.
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B-sides, 2021 📷
This week in the photo department: A retrospective I did enjoy. I’m sharing a favorite b-side from each month of the past year — quiet scenes forgotten by the barrage of my camera roll.
✏️ Joan Didion’s beautiful descriptions of New Orleans
🎸 The final plug for my Best of 2021 playlist (Spotify, Apple Music)
🎨 Recently saved: The work of Nick Dahlen, Wouter Van de Voorde, and Zarina Hashmi
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”