Somewhere in between Christmas and New Years, during that lull of short, quiet days after a hectic holiday season--after a hectic year--I woke up to the gray light of early morning and rested my cheek on my husband's chest. He was still sleeping, and I could hear the even bellows of his breath; the deep, slow beat of his heart.
I couldn't remember the last time I did that. Every other day, I'd be rolling out of bed to brew coffee and get to work, or I would wake up and he would be gone, already starting his day. Self-employed life depends on maintaining a strict, consistent routine that extends past your usual 9-5 business hours. When both partners in a relationship are self-employed, the venn diagram circles of strict consistency don't always overlap.
This simple act of intimacy had become foreign to me. I lay curled against him for as long as I could, not waking him up, so I could make it familiar again.
It wasn't just mornings with my husband that had stopped being familiar. 2015 was filled with so many rapid-fire changes that I didn't allow myself to look back. I didn't want to feel anything, because even a drop of emotion would open a flood gate that I didn't think I'd be able to close again. I was too overwhelmed by everything happening around me, so I did what I've always done to cope.
I made myself a machine--spending every waking moment writing and strategizing and applying all my energy into breaking ground on a new life, the life that I've always wanted, as an author. Any time I felt a swell of frustration, sadness, confusion, or grief, I shut another steel trap door on my feelings, and focused on my work. Instead of helplessly asking, Why is this happening?, I asked myself, How can I become a better writer?
This method of channeling energy is one of the skills I learned from an upbringing in martial arts. It's a technique that I have practiced doing forms in kung fu, and more clumsily in tai chi--this concept that you can counter your opponents advances by redirecting their own energy back at them.
What I didn't realize until those last days of December, when life slowed down enough for me to lay my cheek against my husband's chest, is that by treating my emotions like an enemy, I was ultimately hurting myself. All that time I had been asking myself, How can I be a better writer? the answer was hidden away into my coping mechanism. It was the very thing that I didn't allow myself last year: the capacity to be vulnerable.
I've regarded vulnerability as a sign of weakness for a long time, long before I buckled down and got to work in 2015. I know I'm not the only one to do this: we all find ways to protect ourselves, to numb or hide our feelings and flaws. But, when we pick up a book or turn to Netflix to hit the pause button on our own problems, we are searching for that same vulnerability in the stories we are consuming. The characters imperfections are what makes them believable, authentic, real. Human.
Last year was incredible, but it was also not sustainable--emotionally, mentally, or physically. After my last event in December, I gave myself two weeks of a much needed break, and tried to think of what I could do in 2016 to not only be a better writer, but a better wife, friend, daughter, sister, and human. Listening to my husband's heartbeat, I knew that I could go even further this year by sharing more of my feelings and flaws with the people around me, and in the stories I write. That's why I'm sharing this post. To let you know that I'm not just a writing machine.
I am human, after all.