I sent out the last Notes on Being Human on Christmas Eve 2021. It was Note #69 and I titled it, “The last newsletter”. The subtitle was “for 2021—fear not! More inside,” and I went on to explain that I was only going away for two weeks, to be back the second week of January.
It turned out those two weeks turned into one year.
I’m really sorry about that. I’m excited to be back, and I’m grateful again to those of you who reached out during my unannounced hiatus.
As you can imagine from my going incommunicado, it wasn’t my best year. But actually—it kind of was, in other ways. Y’know what I mean? Sometimes your world falls apart and in the middle of the ruins you find new life pushing through, in the stubborn way life tends to. I won’t go now into the details of the ruins (although I’m doing a good bit better), but I am quite happy to talk about some of the new life that blossomed like. To quote Tupac Shakur:
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
In my case there were 3 roses.
I turned the big four-oh
On one hand, age is only a number, right? But then 40 also feels to me like half-time. There’s every reason I might change my view on this with time, of course, but I really do feel like if I’m lucky to make 80 years, anything after that is practically injury time. So me turning 40 felt like a moment to really re-evaluate life, but also take a few chances, because why not?
So in 2022 I did a 35-mile walk for charity just because, abseiled down a 30-foot building, and even tried go-karting for the first time, and even got back into regular running after abandoning it for almost two years. In the last month of the year, I started journalling again, and in the final week I took a plunge into learning the basics of Spanish. These weren’t big things as such, but each was important to me. But the biggest thing I took a chance with this year deserves its own category…
I learned how to cycle
Don’t laugh. Seriously, before 2022 I didn’t know how to ride a bike. It felt like after I missed learning in childhood, the moment for that had passed. But after moving a few years ago to the UK and seeing more and more people ride, I started to think about it again. A couple years ago a friend took a couple hours to try to teach me. It was in vain and I became even more convinced I was past learning how to balance on two wheels.
But then in 2022 I met a friend in her thirties who had only just learned—by herself. That inspired me anew, so I bought a cheap bike, got an hour’s lesson in how to push off from stationary and…that was it. I figured the rest out on my own, trusting that my body in fact had the ability to figure out how to manage the moment-to-moment balancing act required to ride a bike. I eventually bought this beauty (because of course I wanted an e-bike), and ended up cycling almost 200 miles in under two months.
I dug deeper into relationships.
I stopped going to church during the pandemic, switching with the rest of the worshiping world to online meetings, but when things started to open up in 2021, I was glad to be back in physical church. But it was last year that saw me finding community and friendship there, at a time when I needed that the most.
I also connected more richly with some longstanding friends, got a lot closer to a recent one and made some delightful new ones. I couldn’t have got through the year as well as I did without these precious people who were incredibly generous with their time and their hearts. There’s some research indicating that men tend to make and keep few friends as they get older, so renewing old friendships and finding new ones at 40 felt truly significant.
So those were the three flowers I found blooming in what started off looking like a ruin of a year: time, learning, relationships. And going into a new year…
I certainly find myself wanting to reach even deeper into those three things: to use my time even more richly, to learn even more keenly and to love even more fully. And a big part of that includes getting back to writing and publishing regularly—journalling, essays and this newsletter. Speaking of writing, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that: I want to write a lot more about the way stories shape us as humans—the stories we tell, the stories we believe, the stories we live.
But more on that in my next newsletter—this one is long enough as it is.
What did 2022 mean to you, and what are you looking forward to in 2023? Share in the comments, would you?
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So glad to have you back! 😃😃😃
Thank you for returning, and finding the flowers blooming in those moments.
I pray that you have strength and joy for the days ahead, and there's a garden at the end of the year.
PS: Have I mentioned I am overjoyed? 😃
Welcome back! Great to hear from you again.