Leeann's Letter: A Rebuilding Year
“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” — Zora Neale Hurston
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20
How long is a year?
It’s a matter of some debate in my head. On days I’m being kind to myself, it’s the blink of an eye.
On impatient days, anxious, comparing days, a year is a lifetime, and everyone else’s went better than mine. They read more books, went on more dates, traveled farther, got more Instagram followers, and made more money than me (my anxious brain’s kind of a dick). They were smarter, because they better seized their time, the only thing you can't get more of, while I...well, I started a Reddit account that now has 55k karma (don't ask, I take my handle to the grave).
I think sometimes about the difference between people who approach the holidays with Leslie Knope-like enthusiasm, and those who don’t, and how incomprehensible each is to the other.
The difference is partly historical — did your family gather lovingly round the hearth to break bread, share fond memories, watch Elf, or whatever it is happy families do (idk just spitballing here)? Or did you fight with surprising intensity over the annual Christmas tree-raising (or was that just my family tradition)?
But the difference is also whether you feel that that tug of reckoning — another year gone, and what you’ve made of it. Because most writers are ruminators, I assume I’m not alone here.
One thing that helps me, when I start to compare, when I wake up at dawn with dissatisfaction already lodged tight in my chest, is a line Zora Neale Hurston wrote in “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
For me, 2017 was an unravelling year. In the span of a week, I lost a job I hated and an unfaithful partner I loved — good things to lose, but hard still, all my ballast suddenly gone. It took me until the tail end of 2017 to begin to peek back out at the world, to see it was still there, to hope I still had a place in it.
In 2018, I solved all my problems, became a millionaire, my ex came back on his knees as I cackled cruelly atop a mountain of worshipful men with black hair and blue eyes, and I healed my unconscious, broken definitions of love.
JUST KIDDING, none of that shit happened! But I made strides.
I read some books, made some new friends, reconnected with others, let a few go. I loved one person, laughed and danced and drank a lot, wrote some but tbh not enough, meditated a little, and tried not to be too insufferable about it when I did.
I see now the questions 2017 asked: Can you survive losing what you think matters most? When the world shrinks away from you, can you live on faith? Can you accept the unacceptable? Can you stop feeling sorry for yourself and commit to the task of imagining, then obtaining, another life?
2018 didn’t fully answer, but it was a start. I settled into this feeling, that I have had other lives before, and I will have other lives again. In between those lives, there will be cataclysm, death, loss, but also connection, kindness, comfort, love. My life has never been flat. 2018 told me I can still climb out when I need to.
The ex I mentioned was big into baseball. His team was the most loved, most hated, the official team of everyone with the good taste to not be born in Boston: the Yankees.
It was good being a Yankees fan in the ‘90s, when they were unstoppable. By the 2010s, like Sox fans always knew, the Yankees sucked. Their stars were famous enough to fill the stadium full of tourists and $12 beer drinkers, but too old and injured to win.
Every year, my ex began the season with a hope quickly dashed by a string of losses. Then, he’d make the same weary joke: "It’s a rebuilding year.”
I like that phrase. It reimagines losses for the good — the team slowly coalescing around new talents and strategies. The acknowledgement that winning, and certainly being unstoppable, takes time.
The phrase popped into my head recently while doing my year-end ruminating: 2018 was a rebuilding year. World Series, not currently in my purview. But things are stirring. My answers are coming. I'm glad I'm still playing.