Near the end of 2021, I found myself in the throes of a very unsettled energy. I wasn’t crying uncontrollably and struggling to get out of the bed each morning, the way depression presented throughout most of my twenties. I was anxious, yes, but I had spent years building a toolbox to combat stress. I continued to implement those resources daily to calm any rising agitation. Regardless of how well those tools worked in the moment, I would snap right back to the same helpless feeling, over and over again.
Finally, I managed to name the foreign state of mind plaguing me: pessimism.
In early sobriety, I reclaimed my right to face the world with a Pollyanna-ish sense of enthusiasm. Releasing the self-limiting belief that “nice guys finish last” (don’t get me started on the ongoing drama of Cobra Kai), I donned my rose-colored glasses and tried my best to infect the world with optimism. I inspired others through courageous solo travel adventures and meet-ups and I spread compassion through my volunteer service.
Then COVID-19 happened.
By early 2021, the virus had infected not just the population’s bodies, but also their spirits. Grave headlines had dominated the news for nearly a year by then, and the world was collectively exhausted with trying to see the bright side of anything.
On January 8th last year, I learned the most somber news of all. Covid had claimed the life of my friend and sobriety mentor, Jim Jordan. I sat on the edge of my couch and let grief wash over me, sobbing and wailing at the mix of emptiness and regret. There was even a little bit of anger. Thanks to the pandemic, it had been far too many months since I’d been able to give Jim and Joan Jordan hugs in person. To melt sideways into Jim’s soft, fatherly embrace (he was “Buddha Jim” not just because of his spiritual philosophy). To feel the loving energy that emanated from them both.
The rest of last year brought more downs than ups, with travel lockdowns changing how I did my job and the stress of downsizing adding an abrupt change into the mix (albeit in support of a big dream). The bright spot in my year, however, was finishing and publishing my memoir, Strong Roots, Wayward Soul. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would dedicate the book to Jim. I credit his wisdom and shared philosophy to the new spiritual path I sought in Part IV: God.
Yesterday, friends and family gathered to remember Jim and to surround and uplift Joan with an abundance of love. We memorialized him through memories and humorous stories (his dry wit originally led me to think he didn’t like me one bit). The Unity minister talked about death in the most beautiful and honorable way I’ve ever heard. I noticed some of my friends who are on the same journey of self-discovery as I am nodding their heads in agreement as she described a dissipation of energy, rather than a finite ending. She talked about how many people he inspired, and I’m so fortunate to count myself among them.
I took the time I needed at the end of 2021 to turn inward and recharge my soul. Finishing and promoting my book was no small feat. Moving into a 350 square foot space was…interesting. In December, I got rigorously honest with myself and started back on anti-anxiety medication. It has helped me retrieve a baseline of functioning that doesn’t involve wild mood swings. Most importantly, it has helped me reclaim my sense of optimism.
My word for 2022 is “inspired.” I am inspired in the new year to find the joy in the little moments and hidden treasures Mother Nature has to offer. I’m inspired to keep writing, starting with the resurrection of this blog. I’m only sad “kcjimj” won’t be opening it on the other end. His memorial service yesterday reminded me that I’m on a mission, not only to be inspired, but to inspire others. To instill the courage and compassion I find so useful in facing all of the challenges life throws my way. What a treasured legacy Jim leaves, and what a tragically wonderful start to my new year.