It was the 31st of December when intuition gave me news I’m not quite ready to share with the world. I entered the year abandoned, frustrated, laden with a feeling of guilt that coloured outside the lines of my body.
Everything was chaos in a city I still felt foreign in. I remember that feeling of hopelessness now with a sharp pang of shame. With every obstacle in your journey there is the reprieve – the transition from worst case scenario to the recovery of a normal life. When you bottom out on the first day of a new year, there really is only one way to go.
My upwards motion took its physical form in this almost full jar. I committed myself to collecting every moment of happiness I experienced in 2020. These glimpses at the intangible are all I have of a year when the world fell to its knees during a pandemic, when I slid into January with the poorest mental health I’ve had. But the message is here: still, the jar is full.
Today there are 56 dated and folded notes. Some could be inconsequential to an outsider; that first glass of wine with a new friend, a conversation about uncertain love on a balcony, a compliment from a cashier in the tobacconists. What matters is that for a brief second, afternoon, day, the world around allowed me to feel something other than despair.
The idea came from my long standing struggle with manic depression, oscillating between apathy, self hatred, listlessness and a hysterical anxiety I am too embarrassed to elaborate on. When you feel nothing or everything, it can be difficult to hold on to the small things that make life worth living. In your forgetting, often there is the alluring pull towards non existence. But I am just turning thirty and people tell me I am not quite ready to die.
I am a details-oriented person. My creative life is born from paying attention. When I am splashing around in sabotage and misery, life passes over my head like a skimmed rock on a static ocean. For years I have gone nowhere, my eyes closed to the deep appreciation of a life I desperately wanted to love but couldn’t commit to.
I don’t know fully what the jar contains, I haven’t opened any of the crumpled notes since I have written them. Today, only half-remembered joys come to mind, incomplete, without scent, flavour, without a real anchor to the actual memory. On December 31st I’ll read each one, probably surprised by the gravity small paradises can have. Maybe I’ll set fire to them, and thank each person in every moment for the respite they gave to me unknowingly.
I move forward with gratitude and a fire in my belly to love deeply. Now I know the secret to staying alive. It’s the collection of those impossibly tiny but infinitely sacred delights which happen when you stop holding your breath. It is the folding of some idea of bliss you can’t quite lay your hands on. It is the refusal to sleep through another bad day. And no one is more surprised than me – the jar is almost full.
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