I am exhausted by my outrage at my misplaced outrage.
It's meta and vicious, this cycle of outrage.
What is the point, anyway? Who gives a damn about personal well-being in the wake of travesty?
I think this is exactly the point. Allow me to be politically lofty for a moment and consider the ideals on which America was founded: Life. Liberty. And the Pursuit of Happiness. The founders weren't fools. They knew it wasn't enough to merely exist in a free state. The pursuit of happiness was a key component of American liberty. For the vast majority of my friends, the terrors in the world today are not directly impacting our lives and liberties. But the barrage of horror surely strikes at the pursuit of happiness. Who dares to be happy because Ebola?
When I'm at a loss for my own words, I turn to the poets. I think this one sums it up nicely:
“A Brief for the Defense"
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.”
― Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven
So in 2014, the Life Olympics is my pursuit of stubborn gladness.
The beginning of this year feels like 10 years ago. This time last year, I was still the sole full-time employee of Allovue, which seems totally impossible. I feel like I've been working with my team my whole life. I can't believe how much the company has grown and evolved during the past year. Hiring my team is the best thing I did this year, maybe in my life. They continue to delight and astound me. I can't wait to see what we do together in 2015.
So why silver star this year? I think I've let my work overrun my life too much. I can hardly hold a conversation that isn't about work, and if I do, it's half-assed, because I'm still thinking about work (sincere apologies to everyone with whom I've tried to hold a conversation this year). I've abruptly ended relationships and slowly abandoned almost all other personal interests in the name of work. Mark Suster claims that he seeks out this sort of founder obsession, but I'm not at all convinced that it's healthy. Intellectually, I know that I should not derive all of my joy, purpose, and energy from work, but it's easier said than done. In the coming year, I need to learn how to "turn it off" at times. I'll probably always be someone who is defined by her work, but I can't be totally consumed by it.
Home - Gold Star
I will just say this: I finally swallowed my pride and hired a cleaning service and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Even my mother remarked how clean my house looks.
Lesson Learned: achieving wellness in your life doesn't mean you have to do everything yourself. Ask for help. Pay for help. Don't add unnecessary stress to your life.
Relationships - No Star Awarded
I feel like I have developed a nice bond with my cat this year - does that count? No? Well, then.
I sucked at relationships all around this year - with friends, romantic partners, family. I have selfishly and ruthlessly prioritized work. I made a half-hearted attempt at dating for a few months, but after dismissing one nice guy after another, I asked myself, "What exactly are you looking for here, Jess? And what are you willing to give?" The answers were, "I have no idea" and "Nothing that requires any sort of emotional commitment or vulnerability because I don't have room for that right now." So. I decided that is not really a fair attitude to bring to the table, and maybe it was time for a little break from the dating world - or, as my grandmother calls it, "a sabbatical." And I have to say, I feel a lot better now that I have removed the (mostly) self-imposed stress of dating. I am clearly in no place to be in a serious relationship right now, and I have finally given myself permission to be single. Since I am a hopeless romantic at heart, I am sure that in time I will be ready to let the right person into my life in a real way. But for now, I'm on sabbatical.
Health - Bronze Star
I think I have been more consistently devoted to my Bikram practice this year than ever before. I feel stronger and more resilient as a result - physically and mentally. Bikram definitely overlaps with the spiritual wellness category for me, too. There is such a wonderful community of support at the BYB studio, and the solace I find in the hot room is unparalleled.
I have gotten off the bandwagon in terms of healthy eating. Again, here, I have prioritized work to taking the time to prepare and eat healthful meals. There were more than a few nights that I succumbed to the total cliche of just heating up some ramen. I have also had a few meals consisting solely of peppermint patties and wine. A sugar detox may be due in short order...
Wellness - Silver Star
This personal/spiritual wellness category is always my albatross. It seems a bit like cheating to count my Bikram practice in two categories, but it really does a lot for me beyond the physical effects. I have maintained my singing lesson every other week, which is a wonderful Monday evening delight. I've also rededicated myself to reading in a big way recently - especially works of fiction. Reading has been such an integral part of my life, and after months of feeling like a didn't have time to read, I just decided to make some time. I started getting off the computer earlier at night and working in a good chunk of reading time before bed. My surge in reading coincided with my "dating sabbatical," so I guess you could say I traded men for books. Not mad at it.
Maybe some day, striving for personal wellness won't feel like such a burden. Maybe it will finally achieve its rightful place in the equilibrium of my life.
My friend Stephanie has a great philosophy about New Year's Resolutions that I'm adopting. Instead of making a specific resolution like quitting smoking or losing weight, she chooses a theme for the year to apply in all areas of life.
I want 2015 to be the antidote to my outrage fatigue of 2014. And how to combat fatigue?
Invigorate: give strength or energy to.
Invigorate. It just sounds healthy. It's fresh and tangy and zesty and clean. Just the thing for 2015.