I've been thinking I needed to write a recap of the GGA Project--now already 2 weeks in my rear view mirror--before moving on to post on other subjects, but as the time goes on I'm finding my lack of motivation to write that recap is standing in the way of my writing about other things. This is not good! So, as a lazy compromise, I offer this somewhat brief summation:
The GGA Project was, I think, the best thing I knew to do to help me through the past year. Through it I discovered a lot of interesting places and happenings in the area that I wouldn't have sought out otherwise. I ate a crapload of good food and have a dozen new baked goods recipes in my toolbox. I reconnected with old friends, and tried new fun forms of exercise as well as new torturous ones. And, simply, I re-learned to focus on all the promise of joy out there in the world.
This last part was huge.
I'm not exactly sure when I stopped paying attention, where along the way I learned to put out of my mind the fact that my life is a fleetingly brief smidge bit time in the overall sense--the equivalent of a cameo appearance in movie that lasts 2 decades. When I lost sight of that, I was the worst version of myself I'd ever known: the version that stopped believing in wonder and dreams and the happiness that comes when I am truly, fully open to life's offerings. I settled for what I could see and touch right in front of me and decided to ignore all that could be, even all that I'd already known was.
But somehow, through no particular series of events or logical causal relationship, the GGA Project snapped me out of it. For that, I will be forever thankful that I chose to spend 365 days of my life in that way. I have emerged, yes, divorced--but rather than bitter and discouraged, I am hopeful and renewed. I am once again joyful.
I'm not trying to say my life is one big happy ball of fun. I have my down times for sure. And I have my setbacks and insecurities and mournful, broken-hearted moments too. But they do pass. They are to be felt realistically and embraced, because fully alive, sentient beings do experience pain. And those moments are to be appreciated for the brilliance with which the coming, brighter days will shine in comparison.
A few weeks ago an elderly regular customer at the bank came to my window, and we started chatting about the Indian restaurant he owns up in The City. He knows I've never been there, so he started telling me about it, and this was the detail he chose to share about the restaurant's interior: "There are over a million hearts on the walls of the dining room," he said. "I've drawn most of them myself." He picked up the pen sitting on the counter, asked for a piece of paper, and drew a single heart at the top. "I might start like this," he said. "And then I look at that and think, 'that's no good. I can do better.'" And with that, he drew a second heart around the first.
He kept going while I printed out the cashier's check he needed and completed his other transactions, which have faded to the background of non-memorable parts of that encounter.
By the time I finished, he'd created this, which he signed and dated and asked me to hold onto, "until he becomes famous," he said, with a wink:
It's on my wall above my desk. And here's why: I think my own heart is like his must be. My heart is full of love-to-give such that I could easily picture myself handing out heart-filled doodles to near-strangers in banks. It seems elderly men can pull this move off a little better than those in other segments of the population, so I'll hold off on that, but I loved experiencing that recognition--a kindred spirit and hopeful soul. The man's face was pure serenity and wisdom, and I thought: this is why you keep moving forward, keep opening yourself up to life and love and joy--so that everywhere you roam, you embody and spread peace and are the bright spot in the monotony of a bank teller's (of an anybody's) day.
That is where 80 years' worth of that kind of living takes you.
I will look at that little piece of paper and it will bring me hope when I'm discouraged and calm when I'm full of anxiety. The single upside-down heart is, I think, a nice touch as well. It's a reminder of variations on the theme, maybe even of design flaws or production failures. It's the phase in a person's life that didn't go according to plan, but which made an equal contribution to that life's perfection--perhaps a more interesting (certainly more character-building) contribution than all the years that did pass smoothly, unremarkably.
I know that upside-down heart phase now too, and in a way I know I'll never be able to fully put words to, I'm thankful for it.
I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who has followed my project and supported my efforts to end up in a much different, much better place now than I was a year ago. I have leaned heavily on many shoulders for support, and all of those shoulders have proven strong enough to carry me but soft enough to offer comfort.
To my family and my chosen family-of-friends, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a New Year full of inspiration and the energy to follow through on it. I wish you both smooth sailing and enriching, stormy seas. And, as always, I wish you joy.
So with that, I'm officially laying the GGA Project to rest and moving on. I hope you'll keep reading as I share all that inspires along the way...