“The welcome book would have taught us that power and signs of status can’t save us, that welcome, both offering and receiving, is our source of safety. Various chapters of this book would remind us that we are wanted and even occasionally delighted in, despite the unfortunate truth that we are greedy-grabby, self-referential, indulgent, overly judgmental, and often hysterical.” Anne Lamott
“You’ve given me everything I need.” Rory Gilmore
The first New Year’s party I ever went to was at my Aunt Patti’s when I was in about first grade. We didn’t get to go to all of the family things because we lived three or four hours away in snowy rural Pennsylvania, and our family cars were not super-reliable. But this magical year we got to go. We arrived just a few minutes before midnight, banged pots and pans outside, and then stayed up until four in the morning doing The Alley Cat and such. It was the most amazing thing that I’d ever experienced—my first real party.
The next year, we weren’t able to go, and though I’d never noticed New Years before, I was devastated to be away from the festivities. It was my first visit from deep dark winter sadness. I thought ahead to all of the New Yearses to come, and all of the Christmases, and I realized that there’d only be a finite number of them. I was a mini-Existentialist, and though I fret less about the shortness of lilac season than I used to, the end of the year always comes with sadness.
This year, I got home from Christmas with the family on Saturday and on Sunday I watched the last episodes of Gilmore Girls. The finale is as wrenching as it is capital-H-Hopeful—instead of a post-college roller coaster tour with Lorelai, Rory, with her almost-Mary-Sue-like knack for lucky breaks, is hired for a job reporting on then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign. The quirky townspeople decide to throw her a surprise party in the town square, and when it threatens rain, Luke collects every tarp, tent, and raincoat in town and covers the square so the party can happen. The moment when Lorelai and Rory see the surprise is one of the sobbiest TV moments of all time, and it perfectly suited my melancholy end-of year mood.
Like Rory saying goodbye to Lorelai and Stars Hollow, I feel full of everything 2014 has given me. I had a major therapeutic breakthrough, spent a mountain of restorative time with my family, and somehow transformed a bad marriage into a good best-friendship. When everyone was exploding with Ferguson grief, I realized I am very lucky to know how to try and be part of the solution, to get to work for justice even though it seems impossible most of the time.
But to get to this good, open place, I had to leave a lot behind. As the trauma left me, so, somehow, did my place in the polyamory community. Like the poetry community before that, there’s not really a replacement. The friendships and relationships that buoyed and inspired me for the past few years were mostly just…gone. I wouldn’t U-turn back there, I’m relieved to admit who I am, but there’s a void that I don’t know how to fill. Backtracking all the way to waiting for true love instead of just cobbling it together out of…opportunities is a pretty big change, it’s a huge leap of faith.
Polyamory WAS a place. All my life, I’ve wished for a safe place where I could perfectly belong, where I’d be embraced, accepted, and welcomed. I had that feeling for a while, of being able to do no wrong. It felt like a place where every flaw, every foible, every selfish thing about me could be rationalized and loved, where I could be nakedly vulnerable and still walk through life unscathed.
But after a while I saw that way we were encouraged to build boundaries, to be cruel in the name of transparency, to slough people off when they ceased to fit, was the opposite of vulnerable, it was a life of constantly constructing ever-more-elaborate walls to keep everything and everyone contained and separate. The walls kept crumbling and springing leaks, human messiness kept flooding through the contracts and agreements until there wasn’t anything I could do but stop building them. I wanted so much to fit, and it hurt so badly to walk way.
The dream of the magical fitting-in place is gone. The only safety I’ll ever know is within myself—the ability to speak up, to go against the grain, to make room for what’s really important, which right now is family and work and hugging the cats.
There’s still the Big Missing Thing, but I can occasionally have faith about it. When I went to Christmas Ever church with my friends and their new baby, we were figuring out how to arrange ourselves on the pew so that more people could come in, and I joked that we should leave room for my boyfriend to show up, just in case we were in a Hallmark movie. Later when I tried to scoot over to accommodate another family, my pal looked over and said, joking-but-serious, “No, you’ve got to save that space.”
A saved space is better than a void, don’t you think? I sang carols and smiled and had the kind of happy certainty that can only happen at church, that someday my person would be sitting next to me. Until then, I have a good car and if I want, I can go to every single family party. Happy New Year to me