A year ago today, I was returning from riding roller coasters with my best friend, musing on what it really means to be an adult. The entire notion that because of the hard work and effort I'd put into building a career and a community and structures and relationships, my fortieth birthday literally meant turning a profit riding roller coasters because it cost me less than a day's wages to do so, has colored my year.
The last ten years, more than anything, have been spent building. Building communities, building trust, building relationships. Growing into my own identity as a priestess, as a counselor, as a friend, as a woman.
The hardest lesson in these ten years is that though my choices have far-reaching effects, my power stops at the ends of my arms. If it's not within my control, then it's a variable beyond my influence.
It's hard to watch someone you love struggle through unhappiness, unable to help him figure out the key, that it has to start in your heart and move outwards, because no amount of pressure will drive it in to your core. I see people I love moving towards what look like painful life lessons, and I can only point and call out, "Mind that first step, there." Sometimes I can't even do that, because they're so well-shielded against anything that will crack the facade of bitterly determined vengeful happiness they're forging.
It's hard to watch communities tear at themselves, and be unable to stop them because patterns of hate lie like railroad tracks, driving people inexorably towards conflict. To hope desperately that common sense will prevail, as reason shatters upon the rocks.
It's hard to see people grinding themselves to nothing in the name of justice, compassion, and mercy, because there is so much work and it will never be done in our lifetimes but we cannot stop trying. To watch hearts break as hope fails, and to work to gather the pieces and begin to build with what can be salvaged.
That little voice that tells me to take up arms and rise against the windmills that plague others has been a guiding force of my life, and it's only really been this year that I see: It drives me to their battles to avoid acknowledging my own.
I can't say what's triggered this self-knowledge, this realisation that I must, in the next ten years, begin to get a real handle on the lessons I can use with my own two hands to keep my own life at the center of my priorities, but it's been a strong and powerful month.
A while ago, I began the process of reclaiming my life, of pulling back into control and learning to focus my energies on what feeds me in some way. And this process of building a life outside of meeting the needs of others has been ongoing for about three years now. But I see now that the realisations I thought were answers were only the beginning of a thousand more questions.
The first question I am asking, the one it is hardest to face, is "What can I build that serves me alone, that does not benefit me as a side effect of serving someone else?"