2016 was, at a macro level, a total disaster. But, as Rachel Held Evans writes, in a moving post on becoming a mother, it also was some people’s best year. It was my best one in a long time. Hard and complicated, yes, but also amazing.

This is the year I was 33. In Mennonite circles (and perhaps others, but I’ve mostly heard it from Mennonites), people half-jokingly call 33 “the Jesus Year.” Since Jesus lived to be (roughly) 33, and did his most intense ministry during his last year, the idea is that the Jesus Year is a time when one might experience a spiritual awakening, call to service, etc. We kind of wink at it, since most of us know that those experiences can’t be scheduled, and certainly won’t show up on an arbitrary date.

And yet, I have had an incredible year, one filled with intense awakening and change. I feel a little bashful about saying it at all; I know that many of my friends have had a terrible year. Early in the year, my brother began the process of a divorce, and I remember talking with him on the phone one night, parked in my car after dance class. “It sounds like you are going to have a terrible year,” I told him, “and I’m so sorry. But I feel like this year is going to be incredible for me.” I was right on both counts. He said he didn’t mind my having a good year, even if he was not.

I’ve written a great deal about how my art has developed this year. Those “new senses” that appeared during my Duchess rehearsals have only grown, rather than disappearing when the rehearsals ended, as I had feared. They’ve expanded their reach, too, beyond the rehearsal hall and into other aspects of life. I’ve become more intuitive about relationships between people, about subtext, about listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

I’ve become braver, this year, especially where other people are concerned. I remember, when I was in my early 20s, overhearing a friend talking about me and saying that I wore my heart on my sleeve. I was a bit embarrassed and irritated by this; I thought of myself as very much the opposite of that kind of person. Later, I realized she was right, and I was more embarrassed; this year, I’ve embraced that aspect of myself. I’ve gone out of my way to tell people that I admire them.

After years of leading only in rehearsal, I was called to serve on my church council and I’ve discovered new ways to use the abilities that I learned in the theater. When they asked me last year, around my birthday, I said, “Isn’t this the kind of job that they want an adult for?” It’s gone well, so far. Maybe I’ve become a more adulty adult.

This year, I’ve seen past events with new eyes and looked forward to a future I couldn’t have imagined. I feel like this year has been a turning point in ways that I won’t understand for a long time yet.

All year, I’ve been processing this shift, wondering how it started, where it came from, where it’s going.

Last month, on the anniversary of Andy’s death, Facebook reminded me of something I had reposted from his wall. It was his New Year’s resolution for 2015, and I declared it mine for 2016. I forgot about it pretty quickly thereafter, with all the Duchess business, but when it resurfaced, I realized it had been with me all year. A gift, from Andy. Andy who listened to his muse and no one else. Andy, who was quick to tell people he loved them. Andy, who was brave and fierce in defending those he loved. Andy, who let art make him. Andy, who for sixty-some years let art make him faster and better and deeper than his mental illness could unmake him.

This year, may I be brave enough to continue to let art make me.


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