To all appearances, I have had a busy but unremarkable year.

The last nine months have rolled along like so many before. I delivered work on my accounts, spent two weeks wandering another country while contemplating time, space and my passage through it, ate nice dinners, took long walks, drank espresso, dove into great conversations with the best of friends, taught/learned things, patted all the dogs, managed not to lose any digits, learned how to make bolognese, bought art.

My collection of short stories and the series of essays (and maybe a novel) bubble and simmer, occasionally spilling over into greatness, but nothing is ready for publication and I haven’t written anything decent in weeks. No landmark moments either. I didn’t adopt an animal (still allergic to everything), get a boyfriend (still inconceivable, I know) or buy new real estate (still happily ensconced).

Nothing glamorous or deserving of congratulations. The only accomplishments I can list for 2019 are things I didn’t do.

I didn’t immediately acquiesce to the opinions of others. I kept the good advice, said no when I had to, and always trusted that I would have the right answer.

I didn’t give up when I made a mistake or got something wrong. I forgave myself, learned something from it and kept going.

I didn’t buy into the stories that have been following me for years. Once that faucet was turned off, it turns out, I have the space to embrace the highly competent, powerful, creative, articulate and nowhere near being “too much” person I am.

I didn’t agree to date anyone for the simple reason that they presented a warm body. If he tried to push me into a small box, only showed interest when he was bored or expected me to be the Rosetta Stone to his success while pretending not to have any needs of my own, it was a hard and fast no.

I didn’t tolerate thoughtless language from family members and friends, who had gotten accustomed to saying what they wanted to me and never paying the consequences for it. Boundaries were drawn, trenches were reinforced and somehow, I was treated a lot better when I started demanding better.

I didn’t give to others until I was depleted. I invested and gave generously to those who are walking the same path, but I also stepped back when my body was crumbling, forgot my phone existed for hours at a time and walked away from conversations built around drama, shame and judgement.

When you dedicate yourself so fully to depriving yourself of all the crutches, shortcuts and symbolic painkillers that have stood between you and whatever comes next, you find yourself unmoored, not sure what you can hold on to now that all the comforting landmarks are out of sight.

If I’m not spending so much time reacting, then how do I fill the days? Do I still exist?

The things you have to celebrate are not easily understood by others. You spend a lot of time alone (or call it self-care, if that’s your bent). Because, frankly, when you decide to no longer be a martyr for the insecurities of others, some friends will walk out of your life and some will have to be nudged out. You are always aware of the sea changes inside of you and you welcome them, but then some days, it’s hard to discern whether a given moment is there for you to conquer or a sign that this path is not for you.

So there has been a lot of NO in my year thus far… and so much restraint. The hardest part about drawing boundaries is keeping them. Like not texting X, the need for apology like a stone in my belly, pressing into my organs with every breath. Like being okay with the sound of the phone not ringing. Like allowing others to sort out their own problems and keeping my helpful ideas to myself.

I have three months left to this year and I’ve decided to fill them with YES. I’m assuming that I will be presented with more and better opportunities and that I’ll be present enough to say YES, to recognize the goodness offered. Heaven knows I’ve cleaned up around here. There’s plenty of open space to be occupied and the fridge is full.

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