We can imagine what our lives will be like, say we know what we want in the future. I had an image in my head of myself as a young woman, sitting in a studio apartment in a big city somewhere, writing, drinking coffee in the mornings, wine in the evening. Traveling the world. Riding airplanes and ordering cocktails during layovers. The thing that I've found about life is that I forget about all these plans and dreams I made while sitting in my cold bedroom in Clover Valley, Minnesota until I was living them out. Somewhere over the Rockies, chasing the sunset west in an airplane, I realized my life today is everything I had wanted to make it, but with so many twists and turns I couldn't have expected along the way - which make it that much more exciting and worth the journey.
I began 2011 with blood singing through my body. Dancing to roving jazz music along the misty mouth of the Mississippi, while the city of New Orleans erupted around me. Trumpets, fireworks, bodies, voices... they exploded, shouted and danced wildly as midnight announced herself among us with flourish. I held tightly to and kissed a man fully, in that moment so utterly in love with him, myself and the possibilities I saw for my life, there's no point in looking back and wondering if it should or could not have been this way.
What a place to start the new year in - and what a place I have ended up. I did dearly hope by this time last year that I would be in Los Angeles right now, but how it has ended up is so distant from what I had in mind. Yet in the end it is so clear that this is where I am supposed to be right now. Some days I wonder if Aaron's job in my life was to bring me to Los Angeles. To make that an actual possibly in my mind, because as I've told people over and over again, less than two years ago even visiting this city was not on the list of things to do in my life.
In 2011, I traveled through the American South, went to Chicago and stayed in a VERY fancy hotel on Michigan Avenue, lived and struggled in Venezuela, lived in three different apartments, worked three different jobs, graduated from college, moved to Southern California, visited Portland, Oregon for the first time, started going to church again on a weekly basis (I've kind of been forced to do this one), learned to bumble my way through Spanish, started going to yoga classes again, started writing my novel again, had my heart so utterly broken I had a hard time breathing for weeks, healed from this heart break, joined an online dating service, had my first car totaled, biked to work every single day, swam in the largest lake in North America and the largest lake in South America.
I think the best thing I did for myself in 2011 was to watch the life I thought I could count on and which I had so carefully crafted and protected totally disintegrate around me, then rebuild my house by myself for myself. As Miriam Greenspan writes, in order to see what is inside something, sometimes it needs to be broken opened, shattered in fact. I have said this before, but there is something to be said for your worst fears coming true in the worst way imaginable. Looking back on myself throughout the last year and how that one particular relationships affected and changed me, I cannot say I wish it didn't happen. I cannot say I would have come to California in such an appropriate way - with such a positive and engaging program and supportive group around me - without this experience. I wouldn't be in the place I am personally or professionally without it.
Already in 2012 I have a trip to San Francisco planned in a few weeks. We'll drive up through Big Sur. Check check, goal list. I'll go back to San Francisco for the first time since 2009, when I came the California for the first time. I am such a different person now, but still in love with that girl I was then, exploring the city for the first time, so full of love and hope and optimism. I'm planning a camping trip and whale watching excursion in Channel Islands National Park for the next month or so, and other trips across the Southwest. Looking forward to going to Seattle this spring/summer, and developing my plans for going back to Northern Ireland in spring of 2013.
I started 2012 back at home in Clover Valley, near a bonfire, in the forest close to men and women I've known my whole life, grown up with and under. 2011 ended much quieter than it began. 2012 was just a cloud being blown away, letting the moon come forth and reflect off the snow in the yard.