a year in review

A Year in Review

In January I study new beginnings hoping to break whatever curse this is. I sit with my Mom while I recover from my injuries. We stay up until 2 am every day binge watching Outlander and she rubs my arm while we watch tv, just like she did when I was a child. I am not alone and this is a familiar love. We watch the woman on the screen arm herself for time travel and I wonder what I would take with me if I knew what I know now. My mind spins as I think about all the things I could change, the long list of stuff I would resolve to be better at, the bridges I would not set on fire this time around. I ask my Mom what is most important to her and she whispers “peanut M&Ms” bringing me swiftly back to earth. We dissolve into giggles and I mentally make room for candy in my emergency preparedness kit.

In February I am acutely aware of my single status and surrender to two truths: I am constantly going to see images of people in the happy coupledom I wish to be in and the people that post about it the most are the ones projecting the image of happiness over the true state of their union. It isn’t true, right? I’ve peeked behind the curtain. In fact, the only happily married couple I know are my brother and his wife and I’m pretty sure it’s because he wears headphones 80% of the day. Like he got an infection in his ears from it. It made my parents hesitant to buy me AirPods for my birthday, it was that bad. So.

Spring is springing in March and I roll through a mobile vaccination site with my parents. I fill out all of our cards while we wait in the parking lot to make sure we are safe to drive home. There is an overwhelming sense of relief, maybe we actually have a handle on this thing? It floods the next week in our town, which doesn’t bode well but we can spend time now with my 85 year old Granny and not worry that we are going to harm her. We help her decorate her apartment and daydream about activities we can do when it’s safe again. For instance, she would like to dine in at a Taco Bell.

In April, my Dad talks me down off of emotional ledges and reminds me how to laugh again. Social media is a blessing and a curse. I use it to keep up with the lives of those I am invested in, but I also have a running tally of lack so big that it threatens to swallow me whole. I weekly fight down the urge to switch back to a flip phone and get a tv that is far less smart. The big thick kind with tubes that you have to just abandon when you move because it’s too heavy and you’re too old to have friends who will still come on a weekend to lug all your shit out but somehow still too young to pay a moving company. For $1,500 I can just get all new stuff, right?

May is here and it’s hard to keep up with who we are all mad at in the world. I distract myself by planning and executing a trip with my girlfriends. We are vaxxed and rent an Airbnb in town, bringing loads of clothes for photo shoots. We spend time breathing life back into one another between making s’mores, singing 90’s country at the top of our voices, watching reality dating shows and talking about all the things that have happened and not happened since we saw each other pre-pandemic. We share clothes and tell secrets and I go out to eat for the first time in over a year. Being with them is easy, but I’m no longer comfortable outside. I wonder if I will ever feel normal again?

I am firm in my intention to stop taking Buzzfeed quizzes about what year I will get married based on my preferred pizza toppings. I uninstall the app on a hot June day after another person broke my trust. I might never get married. I could do that, I realize now. Live my life alone. Oh, I don’t want to, though! Imagine having all of this to give only for it to go to waste. I hold someone else’s soft, sweet smelling baby with big eyes and I swallow the moon sized lump in my throat, consciously choosing the joy of getting to love her over the ache of my own empty arms. Which wolf do you feed, etc.

July comes in unsure and unsteady, just like me. I hold our fragile little dog close, her body wasted by a fast spreading cancer we found too late. I weep in a small veterinarian office at 1 am as she takes her last breath, My Dad’s steady hand on my shoulder. I hear people saying they live with no regrets and they wouldn’t change anything about the past, but my god I have so many notes. I wish I could start over again at 15, at 25, at 35, but I feel frozen in place today. I get out of town with some friends to find a little joy, but I can’t even bring myself to leave the house we rented. My Granny says “the time will pass anyway” and she is not wrong, the days are like sand through my fingers and I miss my girl. My family asks why I sleep so much, they think we weren’t meant to spend life in bed and I wonder truly if they’ve ever experienced the combination of a soft mattress and 4 CBD gummies.

Everyone says to be more positive. Good Vibes Only. No bad days in August or ever except the day the step broke on my porch and I wrecked my body again. I should not be living alone, right? I guess the good news is that I have been alone for most of my adult life and I already know the worst thing about it. I have already had the lonely nights and I have survived them. I have absolutely no idea what could be the worst thing about being with someone new. What if they are one of those people who loves to do extended camping trips? What if they collect funko pops? What if they txt lik dis. I drag myself to my car and drive to my parent’s house where I am nursed back to health through a series of hearty chilis and a Yellowstone deep dive.

I have been trying to convince myself that I like Matisse all September. I saw a print that an influencer had in her home and she seemed happy next to it. What if I could become a peaceful tea drinker. Would I be more me as a woman who shaves her legs every other day? Who am I if I do not worry constantly about how I could die alone and how many ways I could die alone and who would throw everything in my nightstand including all my electronics into a fire when I die alone. I have to consider this deeply as I spend so much time isolated and last week a hard candy almost took me out. I sit walled in by boxes in my otherwise bare living room and imagine all the things in my house unpacked and the pieces I have purchased sitting on shelves or hung on the wall, pride of place. I wonder if the life inside these boxes that I’ve cobbled together from Etsy and Anthro and U.O. is mine and if it means something important. I imagine hosting and people sitting on my emerald green velvet bench telling me they love the art I picked because I read in a book that everything in your home needs to be “you” even though I don’t quite know who I am yet.

I begin unfollowing people on Instagram that make me feel bad about myself. I determine in October that anyone on the TL who seems like they get their news from a Snapple lid must go, yet I seem confident I can mod podge my way through depression by collecting screenshots of uplifting quotes. I stop short of posting them to my story, though, as I do not want to alert the masses to my mental illness. On world mental health day I see people posting about their triumphs and tragedies. I whisper to myself “I’m okay, I’m okay” softly, like a prayer as I trace the half-moon scar on my leg. Not wanting to tempt fate or throw myself out of balance, I keep holding my breath.

I was told to take inventory, so I sit down to make a list. If I start in November, hopefully that is early enough to get it right next year. In spite of pain and sadness, there is nothing in me that believes we dream for no reason, that we hope for nothing, that love goes forever unreturned. Maybe I can attribute this growth to therapy or maybe it’s because I recently discovered that Hershey’s makes birthday cake flavored kisses. I read the Langston Hughes poem Harlem out loud over and over and I wonder if I can choose the syrupy sweet? All is not lost, there is still magic, not everything is a trick of the light, but what can I do if I don’t know how to move forward? Have the past two years caused so much pain that I can no longer find joy on my own? Do I have to be lead to it? Hey, at least we don’t have to Clorox our fruit anymore.

December is in and out before I have a moment to breathe. I remember nothing but the loud murder mystery game I played with my family in the living room. Separated for years, we are finally together and we laugh as easily as if we didn’t skip a day. I resolve to make no resolutions, determined that my survival is great enough work to take on. There is so much missing and so much lost but I am daring to hope that I will exhale again. I cull my social media one more time before the new year starts. We live in the ultimate age of comparison and we are behind. Or I am, rather, which I personally find a little insulting considering I got boobs in 3rd grade. Straight to a real bra, even! I skipped the whole training bra phase. It seems odd, then, that 3 decades later I am writing this essay on the most valuable piece of property I own while my friends are married with families and houses and a checking and savings account. Okay, to be totally fair to myself, I have a savings account but my bank has told me that if I transfer the money out of it one more time, they’re going to convert it to a second checking account. The teller calls and explains the concept of savings to me like I am an idiot. Why doesn’t he understand that I need the visual of the word “savings” in front of me to feel like I am making strides toward a more steady existence, even if there is only 3.85 in there at the time of publishing. I take it back, I do make a resolution. I resolve to stop judging myself on what I can accomplish alone based on what my friends who have partners are accomplishing. I celebrate this achievement by putting Doordash on a credit card I will pay interest on. I make a note to send that teller a card in the mail, perhaps I am an idiot after all.

Brittney Pugh hasn’t been published since 2009, but her Mom framed all her old articles and she is pretty confident that she hasn’t lost her mojo. If she isn’t writing poetry in her Notes App or practicing self care (read: avoiding house work), she is probably hanging out with her family. How else would you expect her to have the inspiration to generate content? She legitimately googled “hire a bot to write a bio”, found nothing, so this will very likely remain-as she ever is-a work in progress.

dearbrittney@vast.press