The standard new year’s post feels a little hollow this year (and, somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that).
I learned a lot of new things in 2016. I learned that a 70-watt soldering iron heated to the highest setting will burn your hair off and not hurt if you accidentally graze your thumb on it. I learned that the morning after election day can combine the worst sensations of both outcomes (the smell of burning carbons and scorched nerve endings).
2016 was also the year I lost focus — I didn’t even make a New Year’s post until January 10th this year. Long projects were not my friends and I left several half-finished as the fog drifted in and out of my brain at its leisure. 2016 was also the year I finished National Novel Writing Month less than 2000 words shy of the 50K goal. 2016 was the year where I didn’t feel like celebrating — not holidays with families, not holidays in blog post form, not in general. But 2016 was also the year I celebrated two years with my girlfriend.
I can normally find a balance but, like a lot of others, not much made sense to me this year. I lost a friend back in August. I lost another friend to a heart attack right before Christmas. One was my age, the other just a few years older. They were generous young men, intelligent, with so much promise and so much life left. I watched other people I care about get put through the wringer — break-ups, medical procedures, life and death — and process their grief in various ways while I grappled with my own.
So, how to deal with it? At heart, I like to create and that’s most often where I turn to. I feel at my best when I am making something. I learned to craft when I was severely depressed — not the year I worked in a jewelry store, not the year I found myself adrift in an abusive relationship, and not the year I started this blog; but two decades earlier, when I picked up a stray bit of Aida cloth and floss from one of my mother’s discarded needlepoint kits and embroidered, without a pattern, a blocky, profile of an awkward pony.
With every new episode, I learned a new craft — beading, decoupage, knitting, embroidery, metal stamping, crochet, soldering. For the trying times, I came up with projects to keep my hands busy and my brain from shorting out. From my finished projects, I created talismans to imbue with a sense of purpose, accomplishment, my own personal defiance and love of absurdity.
I suspect I’ll make many more projects and many more talismans in the coming year(s). In the meantime, we’ll go out with the usual song. Cue the music!
(I was tempted to end it with a WWII era torch song or a jaunty soldier’s farewell. Nope! Watching Wade Wilson, a queer, disabled veteran and immigrant, getting justice is really the only way to end this year and open the new one).