And so the old year died…
There are certainly man year-end posts after Christmas in late December but I feel they aren’t as frequent in the first week of January. I prefer to make my hopes and dreams for the new year known in the new year, it feels more possible once you have the taste of the new year on your tongue.
Many people struggled through 2022 and looking back at that year, I can’t say I completely had the same experience. In fact, the year was relatively pleasant compared to other year’s past. There were struggles, certainly, but I haven’t entered a new year with as much peace and appreciation as I have this year in ages.
2022 brought a great deal of change to our lives. After existing as new parents in a pandemic with a child too young to be vaccinated, we finally were able to get him vaccinated and begin reentering the world. Alas, pandemic or not, preschoolers are prone to many illnesses as their little immune systems begin to strengthen up. We had our first visit to the ER this year which feels like some odd right of passage as a parent. That first visit was rapidly followed by a second, longer one. We’ve had multiple doctor appointments, some including specialists, and many, many colds. Overall, any time your child isn’t well it’s stressful and upsetting, but I feel we came out all the stronger. We know our child better, we know how he is when he doesn’t feel well, and we’ve learned to be better advocates for him after years of it just being the three of us with very little outside influence.
We were also able to see him off to preschool which was an event that left me in tears and rather lost. What was I going to do with myself while he wasn’t home? Hike, it seemed, because for most of autumn I went hiking once a week during preschool hours. I was able to run errands without having to take him with me or ensure my husband could watch him. For the first time in his life, we had moments where he had his own life separate from ours, and it was bittersweet but good.
I continued my gentle goal that has existed for years at this point to try new things when it came to the kitchen. Salads, stews, and dinners that always held my curiosity but never my bravery. This year was the first year where my confidence with cooking began to grow, where I began to add ingredients to meals that weren’t called for but I knew from cooking experience that they would be a good decision. I became an even more confident baker and I’ll say that baking is certainly my strong-suit, something that makes sense in my mind and clicks into place, while being a cook I am less confident with.
We had a year of dinner parties with my childhood friend and her husband. Every season, we would make it a point to come together and have a meal. Something nice, unique and fancy from her, while I would bake something new for me. We also continued with our farm CSA which we have done for three years now. With an abundance of fresh vegetables, I worked on expanding my canning knowledge and truly making the best in our investment at our local farm. We happily have months of preserved items on our shelves, something I like to do through winter in case we ever come upon a sudden weather phenomenon that prevents us from getting groceries.
But beyond all of that, there was the most growth and change in myself. I began writing again in a fever dream of sorts, completing a novel within a month both at the start and the end of the year. The first novel, TARNISHED, was edited and sent to beta readers. It was made as squeaky clean as I could manage before I began the query process in September. Publishing is somewhat disastrous right now and querying is terribly overwhelmed by so much good material that the likelihood of my finding an agent is low, but I’ve achieved a dream I’ve had for 25 years by beginning my querying journey and for that I’m proud. For that, my inner child is thrilled.
I also have continued with therapy and have gotten to a much better place regarding my generalized anxiety disorder. But there were more surprises in store as I became aware that I am autistic.
I suppose, I have always been autistic, but it wasn’t until the last year (possibly just a hair longer) that I began to recognize many of the signs of autism in myself. Being a queer female, I didn’t match the typical signs and was never tested for it as a child. But other signs were there. My deep discomfort of looking people in the eye, something I always blamed on being shy. My hyperfocus on things that I loved and self teaching myself to do multiple crafts. The feeling of unease regarding certain aspects of life that I often blamed anxiety for, but it never quite felt like anxiety. The very fact that I have an anxiety disorder and have had bouts of depression. My gut issues; my emotional reaction when I become overwhelmed; my twitchy nature when it comes to too much sound, too much lights, too much everything.
With the aid of my therapist, I began diving into more information and tests regarding autism. In the end, I haven’t received a diagnosis from a doctor, but I know what I am, and I know the diagnoses that doctors hand out for autism are based on evaluations geared towards white males, leaving out much nuance for those who are female, queer, or BIPOC. I learned that most of my adult life I masked to an extreme degree, particularly while I worked for the federal government, and it’s left me exhausted.
I learned that in being able to unmask while home with my son these last near-four-years, I was able to return more to myself than I’ve ever been able to since childhood. It’s through this unmasking, I am certain, that words began to flow and stories became alive again.
As I left 2022, I left loving myself in ways I hadn’t thought possible. I still have more to learn, more to explore about myself, and I’m eager for those experiences.
So we have entered 2023 and the new year has already dawned. We spent our New Year’s Day being lazy–too a degree–because I spent a good part of it working on a new novel with excited glee. In the evening, I began my first goal of the new year–one that was mentioned already in this post–in trying to expand my cooking experiences.
Every year for the last few we have had an extravagant meal on New Year’s Day. Home all day with no plans, I have the time to cook, and after the Christmas meals I’m ready to try something different. This year I made duck for the first time–something I had never done before–and fried fingerling potatoes in the remaining duck grease. I topped the dish with an orange and red wine sauce, and added butternut squash with an apple slaw as a side. It was a lot of work, but it was delicious, and I’m so glad to have tried it.
I hope in the next year to keep pushing myself in the kitchen. Both as a baker and a cook. I want to get more comfortable with cooking in particular since that remains the aspect of kitchen work that I am least comfortable with. This means I have to plan out a week’s worth of groceries and be truly mindful of what I’m making–and as I type this I realize I never planned dinner for tonight. Oh no!
I also hope to continue writing creatively, to submit materials to magazines, and to keep querying. There’s a “rule” that when you are querying one book, you should work on a new one so that you can query that too and up your chances of finding an agent. There’s a “rule” that you shouldn’t write sequels to your books because the first one may never be picked up; and if it is, it may not be granted a sequel; and if it does, the first book may meet so many edits that the sequel may need to be completely changed. I say forget the rule. I wrote a draft of a second book which was terrible and desperately needs full love and attention, but I can’t shake the world I created in TARNISHED. So I began writing that sequel and I’m already deeply invested and in love. The rules may work for some, and it may be the best way to have the best chances for representation, but I also feel that creativity and ideas are something worth savoring and loving. After having my creative voice drowned out by exhaustion from masking for years, I know that my creativity isn’t something to take for granted, and if I want to spend my time pouring my year out into a new book, I’m going to do just that.
I also hope to spend this next year treating myself better. I feel I did a much better job at that last year, but I want to grow to understand autism all the more so that I may better advocate for myself and find a place where I am comfortable in my own skin. I feel I’m already well on my way with that, and in doing so I feel a weight lifting off of my chest that has been there for years. I want more of that, and I know it will be a process but I’m eager to see that come to fruition.
I also, particularly want to write on this page more. I used to write so frequently and then I dropped off, forgetting the pour website despite my love for it. It is with hope that I may begin writing here once a month. A summary of sorts of what I am working on. I already predict I’ll forget to do this but perhaps speaking it into the world will set it in stone.