One year ago today I wrote this essay right here. It was about embracing your inner weirdo, forging forward through failure and a promise to be by your side as we stumbled through 2016. It was a story not of false hope but that through it all, we’d grow together.

And the first chapters of the year were still painted with the brush of loneliness and a heart waiting, patiently, to hear the song to which it could reply; in time that song was actually heard. While no path is ever paved with ease, and while I highly doubt the existence of only one true soul in all of the universe that is your counterpart and happens to live in the same area code, I do believe in the rarity and scarcity of truly loving someone with the sum of all of your heart’s parts. When given the opportunity to grow in a place of love with her, again, to begin anew without all of the previous detriments and emotional chaos, I never looked back. Cherish the scarce and love without condition, and it’s amazing to watch it begin to blossom, more beautiful than before. So passed the rest of the year, which explains my absence from writing; while heartbreak provides tremendous fuel for inspired writing, I’m glad to be out of gas as far as that’s concerned. My heart hums in a rhythmic pace these days, and for that I am simply grateful.

So where do we go? I’m long since half past awesome, I’m at the age of discovering new skills like growing hair out of the sides of my ears; it’s pretty incredible. The numbers tick upward while the spirit continues to emerge from the fog of the last several years more vibrant than ever. Celebrities and, more importantly to me, family members continue to leave this world at a pace that reminds me of time’s relentless march to the abyss. I worry less about it, and more about the choices my teen sons are making and soon to make. I think there’s an underlying guilt that murmurs to each of us in these quiet moments “you’re screwing this all up. You don’t know what you’re doing. They KNOW you don’t know what you’re doing.” My parents seemed to have their whole world in sync by this age, at least according to my memory, but it’s been confirmed that they, too, were winging it the best they could. We all are, honestly.

Growth? Oh yes….2016 had plenty of it. It was a tough year in many ways, but far better than 2015 in so many others. Two days into 2017, with an abundance of love in my heart and a constant pain in my lower back, it’s already twice as encouraging. Some of those who helped me at the lowest points are now in their own wicked battles, and finally I feel capable of helping once again, healthily. I’m grateful to be given the chance. With enough aspirin on board, perhaps I can do some heavy lifting for them when they need it most.