Although I’ve never been a regular smoker, I used to light a cigarette every Old Year’s. Then I’d start my list of New Year’s resolutions with “Quit smoking” so I’d keep at least one. I guess I thought that might motivate me to work toward the other resolutions, or at least prevent me from feeling like a total failure when I didn’t achieve them.
Eventually, though, I stopped making resolutions. Obviously I’m not the only person who struggles to keep them; breaking them is not only cliched but almost expected. So I tried re-framing resolutions as goals.
My goals for 2020 were to
- read the entire Bible (for which I bought a Bible with readings broken down by date)
- organize my life (for which I bought a book with tasks broken down by month)
- finish my memoir
- meet a great guy
- find a job with growth potential and move somewhere with more opportunities for interpersonal connections.
How did I do? Spoiler alert: not well.
- I made it halfway through January in my Bible-in-a-year quest. Those daily readings were daunting. I ultimately decided that taking time to absorb and reflect is more important than packing the whole thing into a year, so now I’m going book by book. I found gorgeous illustrated Bible journals that include space to write, draw, respond to, pray, and interact with the text. I don’t use them every day, but that’s okay: when I do, I’m present in a way I wasn’t when I was trying to meet the one-year deadline.
- I got to Week Three in the organization book. I started 2020 hoping to move in May, which gave me less than a year to organize my life, but once the shutdown happened, I found myself with no motivation or energy. However. I have committed to leave both my job and my apartment this spring, and I’ve already started to sort and pack and hopefully facilitate organization on the other end of the move.
- I didn’t finish my memoir, although I did write a few more chapters. And I started this blog. And began work on a novel over the summer. The tricky part is finding time; when I engage in writing, it tends to take over my life, so I don’t dare immerse myself in it the way I need to. How can I change that in 2021? I’m not sure, but I need to find a way.
- Meeting a great guy is a frustrating goal because it’s so entirely out of my control. I’ve wasted too much time and money on dating apps, but I’m not sure what else to try. I recently closed my profiles even on the free apps, because they became too discouraging: I’d get excited in spite of myself whenever I had a new message, only to be met with a rude comment (“That lipstick clashes with your hazel eyes,” said one guy, even though my eyes are blue) or yet another query about whether I’d be open to polyamory. And very few of the men I contacted ever responded.
I don’t know when or if or how I’ll meet someone. Hoping feels like a sadistic joke. Being contented with singleness feels like settling, like accepting that my life will continue to have this huge absence where I always imagined a loving partner. I’m in a perpetual state of furious, helpless despair about the prospect of ever meeting someone I’d actually want to be with. I don’t know where to go with that.
- COVID-19 put a damper in my job search/moving plans. I was able to spend the summer and most of December with family in Colorado, but the closer I get to returning to rural Georgia, the more depressed I grow (especially with a birthday looming a week after my return). I don’t feel like there’s anything left for me there. I don’t foresee anything for the spring but more months of brutal, grinding loneliness and despair, and frankly, I don’t know how I’m going to get through it.
Given the unforeseen challenges posed by 2020, I think just surviving it is an accomplishment. I know a few people who (claim to have) thrived, and I can barely stand to talk to them. Most of us struggled in fierce and exhausting ways. The friends who opened up to me about their personal hells are the ones who helped most. I’m so grateful for them and the vulnerability they were willing to share.
Every New Year’s, I hope this is the last year I’ll have to usher in alone. And I hope that in the coming year, the holes in my heart will fill, and that I’ll find time to write and discover an opportunity to make my living doing work I love. So far those dreams haven’t come true. I have no real reason to believe they will. Hope often feels futile, even cruel. I started 2020 thinking God had made specific promises to me, promises I was very excited to see fulfilled — but with every day they don’t come to pass, I become more and more suspicious that I got my wires crossed, that they weren’t promises at all but just wishful thinking, that God’s plan for my life is loneliness and deprivation and absence because that’s been so much of life so far. My faith is increasingly fragile, and bitterness crowds around the edges.
Yet I keep thinking there has to be something better. Something that will be beautiful and redemptive, that will, if not justify the difficult times, at least blunt their edges and give me a reason to have survived them.
If such a something exists, I hope it arrives in 2021. I need it to, because I’m not sure how much more my faith can survive, or how much longer I’ll be able to hold on in the hope that things might somehow, someday become better.