When the stars ain't shinin' bright/You feel like you've lost your way,
When those candle lights of home/Burn so very far away,
Well you got to let your soul shine/Just like my daddy used to say.
He used to say soulshine/It's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine/Damn sure better than rain.
Hey now people don't mind/We all feel this way sometime,
Got to let your soul shine/Shine till the break of day.
-The Allman Brothers Band, Soulshine
2016 was a year of spectacular suckitude for many of us. The deaths of our musical, athletic, and cinematic heroes aside, it feels more broadly like there was an overabundance of woe and calamity, from ill health and loss on the personal level to the world going to hell in a handbasket more generally. Whether this is just due to how our brains perceive the universe, acutely picking up on pain while ignoring beauty, or due to some sort of actual quantifiable calamity is kind of moot (and hearing how other years “had it worse” is not helpful – way to be super tone-deaf, New York Times.)
Globally, I have pretty limited control over whether or not 2017 carries on in 2016’s proud tradition of sucking donkey balls. We certainly have plenty of reasons to think it’s going to be a tough one. On the personal level, though, I have some thoughts.
See, I haven’t made any resolutions this January. I’m not really big on resolutions. I did make a number of plans and colour-coded schedules (god, that should be a fetish), broken down into achievable steps and goals. These mainly involve Very Boring Grownup Tasks, like sticking to a bedtime that works for me, planning my meals ahead, and flossing on a semi-regular basis (i.e. more than just directly before every dentist's appointment. Apparently, you can’t just skip the rest of the time and then aggressively attack and inflame your gums for ten minutes twice a year. WHO KNEW?) These tasks mainly have to do with knowing what it is I need, as an Autistic introvert, to keep myself in good enough mental and physical health to maintain healthy relationships, and to have the energy to pursue the things I love. 2016 was a year of even deeper solitude than usual for me. In some ways, that gave me some rest I needed. In other ways, though, I lost out badly. I had relatively little human contact, and could manage less and less as the year went on and my health spiralled (Side note: 2016 was also the Year of the Auto-Immune Diagnosis for me. Don’t look for it on the Chinese calendar; I think it’s one of the ones that got dropped in favour of the Year of the Snake. Solid choice on their part; snakes are much cooler.)
So no resolutions, just taking advantage of that “fresh start” feeling of January to try create a space where I can take better care of myself throughout the year. Secretly, though, I do have something in the way of a larger (and thematically richer) target in mind.
The thing about the relentlessness of the pain and the sadness out there in the universe – pain and sadness that has been there forever but that has felt a little too close to home for many of us recently – is that it can blind you to some of the neat stuff. And when I say neat, I mean breathtakingly beautiful. Glorious. Dazzling. One of the fun things about the way my brain works is that I feel everything a little too much (I may know I’m autistic now, but as a kid my parents basically just had to keep reading “Raising Your Highly Sensitive Child” over and over again.) My capacity for hurt is set way too high. So too, though, is my capacity for joy, when I have the energy to find the space inside me for it.
So, yeah. I guess I have a resolution after all, if we have to call it that. I’m not resolving to socialize more or practice my guitar more or do anything else that brings me happiness but requires energy, because I know those things will come when I am ready. Instead, I’m just resolving to be good to myself in very practical ways. To put away my laundry and make my bed and write up my grocery lists far in advance, not in the name of self-care in the abstract or earning the every-elusive Functional Adult Merit Badge, but as a concrete way of rebuilding my joy-capacity. Like changing the oil in your car not because the little light comes on and you know you should, but because you know it will provide you with better performance in the long run (Look Daddy, a car metaphor just for you! Did I do it right? Is that what that light means?). And it will be tough and painful in places, and I will call myself an idiot multiple times for thinking that flossing = noticeable overall increase in jubilation.
But I’m going to try, because futile optimism à la Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has always been one of my best qualities.
In 2017, I resolve to let my soul shine. Just try and stop me.
With great love,