PREFACE: This is the second part of my two-part year-end wrap-up. The first part is here. The first part also begins with a preface, which explains why there needs to be two parts to this. I’m not sure this preface was necessary, so in order to make this necessary I feel the need to give you some important information. So here’s some important information: you shouldn’t let your cats play with pony-tail holders because your cats could go for, oh, like ten years playing with pony-tail holders carefully and responsibly, and then BAM, they look at the pony-tail holder and think, wait, I’ve been playing with this carefully and responsibly for like ten years and now I see that this is clearly FOOD. Things will go downhill from there. You’re welcome.
This year, I learned that living transparently online doesn’t necessarily mean publicly posting your private grocery list. I learned that the very act of making your private grocery list public means making it not-private, and therefore means creating an artifice to explain what the list means to yourself, and creating a self to explain.
I’m now going to drop that metaphor in the hopes of actually (maybe) making (at least a little) sense here: living transparently doesn’t mean putting your private self online so much as it means creating a cohesive narrative of yourself. Which is, I now realize, really what I did this year: when I said I wanted to live transparently, what I really meant was that I wanted to create a cohesive persona who appeared to be living transparently. I wanted to act out the narrative of transparency online. I worked to live more fully online, to synchronize my selves on different social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, this blog.
As the year went on, I realized that I’d done an okay job synchronizing these selves and a sort-of-okay job representing – or, rather, re-presenting – myself online. I also realized that doing a sort-of-okay job at this was probably best. As the year went on, I also realized that private documents and pieces of documentation, from private photographs to journals to random notes scrawled in the margins of books, never meant to be seen by anyone else if only because they wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else, and couldn’t – became more important to me. I realized that having both sets of selves, or rather records of selves, was important, because I could see the discrepancy between them.
When I look at the public records of my self and my story in 2012, I see one story. When I look at the private records, I see a very different story – if only because I don’t see a story, I just see a wash of colors and images and events which definitely had impact, though that exact impact isn’t yet clear. When I look at the public records, I see a self who’s made events into meanings. When I look at the private records, I see myself looking at parts of the year and thinking woah, what was that mess, and I see myself not looking at parts of the year and thinking you know, I should probably pay more attention to the fact that that happened and maybe figure out why it happened and how to prevent it from happening in the future rather than just watching this America’s Next Top Model marathon while eating miniature Snickers and looking at the models and thinking, ha, I can eat miniature Snickers.
When I look back at 2012, I see a year of great griefs and great joys, of great losses and great gains – and I see that I may not know yet which is which, that my greatest losses may have been my greatest gains, my greatest griefs the harbingers of my greatest joys. I see a year marred by illness, by intense physical pain, but I also see a year filled with Dickinson’s formal feeling, that strange meditative stillness that sometimes only physical suffering can bring. I see a woman who’s learned from that stillness. I see a woman who’s fought that stillness. I see a woman who has learned the worst that people can do and I see a woman who never, ever seems to learn that people will so often do their worst. I see a woman who’s been touched beyond touched while watching the lengths to which people will go to do good, to offer others a kindness, a woman who’s learned that even the smallest kindness can make the grandest difference. I see a woman who’s been shocked at the lengths to which people will go to hurt others and do wrong, and I see a woman who’s learned that what’s really shocking is the lengths to which people will go to hide or justify their actions, and I see a woman who’s learned to include herself in that sentence. I see a woman who’s willing to fight for her happiness and I see a woman who’s finally learned that sometimes the only way to happiness is to quit fighting. And finally, I see a woman who’s different from her Tweeted comments on Bravo’s late-evening programming or her Facebook status updates about her cat licking a window. She’s different than her scribbled marginalia and less-than-half-legible journal entries. She’s different than the lectures she gave on memes and My Little Pony, different than the poems she wrote about jellyfish and houses and melancholy and love and loss and how sometimes that loss is the only thing she can accurately call a blessing. She’s different because she is all of these things, and she is none of these things.
If there is one thing that living transparently – or trying to, at least, though I failed, and though now the task seems one that’s impossible, one that has to fail — has taught me, it’s that a person both is and is not the sum of their parts. A person – every person – is too beautifully, terribly, terrifyingly, wonderfully complex to be presented or re-presented fully in any of their works – but we will always continue, and we will continue to try, and if there’s a better reason to look forward to another new year, I don’t know what it could be.