For the better part of 2020, even before the pandemic hit and well after, I was obsessed with the myth of Icarus. You know the one: the story of the arrogant young man who, despite warnings, put on wings made of wax, flew so close to the Sun that the wax melted, fell in the sea, and died.
“What if Icarus survived his fall?” I asked myself – and others around me. “What if a large wave threw him on a sandy shore? And then, coughing up water, what if he healed and learned to become soft?” I had no idea why I couldn’t let go of this thought. I just knew I needed to keep exploring it.
Now, looking back on my year, I see something that surprises me: that is exactly how 2020 went for me. I put on my best pair of wings and flew straight towards the Sun, and just as I thought I was going to touch it, just as I started feeling the heat radiating on my skin, my wings gave out, and I fell straight into the sea.
I used to think the myth of Icarus existed to point out the dangers of arrogance. “Hey kids, beware of hubris.” This year, I learned that arrogance has many different faces. When I flew towards the Sun, back in February, I didn’t think I was flying to my doom. I was convinced I was flying towards the one thing I’d always wanted the most, and it took nosediving in the ocean to show me that maybe I didn’t want that thing at all.
The Sun, in my case, was moss-coloured and smelled like Earl Grey. It was plans of buying a house and sharing it with a friend and her cat. It was reading up on homesteads and looking at real estate listings near the coast. It was revelling in the feeling of being wanted so much that I forgot to realize I wasn’t being seen.
And the Fall – the Fall was a saturated blue and tasted like oranges. It was a pandemic. It was losing my job and moving back in with my parents. It was holding on as the world seemed to crumble, as too many of my relationships seemed to crumble.
But some people stayed. One dear friend swam beside me in the stormy sea, and another gave me her hand when I reached the shore. Gently, they reminded me that love still exists. As I walked the path of healing, the path of softening, the path of becoming myself, they kept me company.
So, I flew towards the Sun. I fell in the sea. I almost drowned. I was thrown on the shore. I healed. I softened. I let myself in. And now, I’m at the strange point in the story where the realization that I’ve yet again outgrown my life has broken me open. I ache and I’m so grateful and I ache some more.
2020 Highlights and Lessons
In February, I went to see Jojo Rabbit at the cinema, and it really struck me when one of the characters said (and I paraphrase) that to grow up is to look the tiger in the eyes and trust fearlessly. I asked myself how I could do that. How I could look the tiger in the eyes. How I could trust more wholeheartedly.
In April, Florence + the Machine released Light of Love, and I listened to it hundreds of times. It turned out to be my most listened-to song of 2020, according to Spotify. There’s a lot of relatable lyrics in that song – like “I tried to get it right so badly that I always got it wrong,” which is only the story of my entire life – but another part I liked is this one:
And now we are awake and it seems too much to take
Looking back on my year 2020, I realize that’s exactly what I did. I looked at everything that felt like too much to take, and I didn’t look away. I kept asking myself: “Can I look the tiger in the eyes?” I tried over and over to be able to answer “yes” honestly. It astonishes me how hard I tried this year, how I kept showing up and showing up, how I continued to care. What enabled me to do this is also beautifully expressed in the song:
Don’t go blindly into the dark
This year really saw me deepen my dedication to cultivate acts of love, tenderness of being, and fearless trust, vulnerability, and intimacy in relationships.
I tried every day to connect with and nurture my truest self and deepest longings. I ached over losses, over loneliness, and I took care of myself through it all. I boiled with rage, and I accepted that feeling. This year was terrifying and so challenging, and now I see that I did look the tiger in the eyes. I kept trying to soften.
I was listening to my top 100 songs from 2020 and it struck me how soft they were… I wrote the entire tracklist in my journal (yes, I am Extra), and I just felt a wave of gratitude for these lovely creations that saw me through 2020, and for myself for choosing to listen to them so much.
It astounds me how I managed to go through 2020 and still care. But then again, I realized that that’s who I am: I’m a person who cares relentlessly. It hurts me a lot of the time, but it also means that I’m a person who always shows up. I learned to show up for myself first. I learned to improve my ability to self-nurture to the point where this practice makes me feel strong and hopeful – not hopeful that life will be nice, but hopeful that I will be able to face it.
And Everything Else
Have I zoomed out too much? This post was so honest. At the same time, it’s my year seen from far away, the lens unfocussed just a little, just enough to make it all blend together, to make it cohesive and meaningful.
I would have liked to be able to zoom in and dig, too. But words fail me.
I discovered things about myself I don’t know how to label. I don’t even know how to explain them to anyone but me. Trying to put words to them, I would only be trying to describe “something incommunicable,” “something I only feel in my bones and which can only be experienced in those bones.” (to quote Franz Kafka because, well, why not)
But I’ll try, ok? Here it goes.
Up to my calves in saltwater, waves crashing on my shins, Aphrodite can you hear me? I found my way back to the Moon. I carry seashells in my coat pockets. I wake up early, and sometimes when the sky is clear I brave the cold and go look at the night sky. I’ve perfected my carrot cake, my cinnamon bun, my brownie, my almond croissant. I light candles and I put on opera just to feel something different, cumin and onions sizzling in the pan. When I go for walks in the forest, I feel like the fairy godmother of birds and squirrels and trees. I paint to keep my inner child happy.
But sometimes when I paint it’s not for my inner child. I put Bedroom Hymns on repeat and I smash red on the canvas and still I can’t capture it: the realization that now, every one of my cells is ablaze with a power I truly believed I would never get to touch.
Because it was 11:11am and I didn’t know what to wish for, I knew it was time: I had to unblock it once and for all. The primal unison of all the fibres of my being screaming that they ache to impact and be impacted, to conquer and be conquered, to claim and be claimed. Suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted, and it didn’t make anything easier.
I have so much to be grateful for and I do feel it, a tremendous gratitude, when I stop to consider it. A lot is imperfect but all of it is so precious. For all the ways I’ve been supported, for everything that enabled me to write this overly long post, I’m thankful.
Let’s make 2021 better.
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