only for love (a 2022 retrospective)
+ 14 really good books I read this year
Susan Rothenberg, The Caribbean, 2015
For me, this year was broadly focused on accountability. I think of accountability as the opposite of self-hatred (which is really just another form of self-indulgence, isn’t it?). It’s about giving myself credit for what I’ve done well but also taking responsibility for what I can do better. I’ve been living like an adult for a while, but this is the first year I’ve really felt like one. Here are some of the ways I’ve tried to be accountable:
Being proud of what I’ve written and am counting to write, while recognizing that there’s infinite room for improvement
Being proud of what I’ve accomplished in my work life and feeling excited that things feel so fertile—I really believe in the direction I’m heading in. At the same time, recognizing that I’m at the very beginning of my career in so many ways and often still feel anxious and uncertain
Being proud of the ways I’m a good partner and friend, while accepting that I’m fully responsible for my own flaws and need to improve
I’m a big believer in certain types of enmeshment. I believe that we’re interdependent, not independent—I am proud to be part of an ecosystem. I know that I’ve been meaningfully shaped by every person who’s been a significant part of my life. At the same time, I know it’s important to individuate.
I am at a point in my life where I have no dependents (other than canine ones, ha). Which means I don’t need to explain myself to anyone. My job is to live in accordance to my own values, to cultivate myself however I want. The flip side of this: I am not ultimately responsible for anyone else’s behavior. It’s not my job to try to control other people—they can behave how they want towards me. Obviously, in any relationship that I’m part of, whether it be familial, platonic, romantic or work, it’s my job to be a good communicator of my needs and desires, and to be receptive to other people’s. But I am fundamentally only responsible for myself.
The truth is, I’ve always felt valued for how I make other people feel. Loved for how I make other people feel. Which led to me, unfairly, to resent them for not being able to make me feel the same way. I’ve always felt that my perceptiveness, my ability to intuit need and desire, was not returned in kind. But I’ve come to understand that that’s not necessarily anyone else’s fault. The truth is, I reflexively do emotional labor no one asked for to drive towards an outcome I’m not even sure I want. And it’s not easy for anyone to be observant of or attentive to someone like me—someone who is often evasive and habitually opaque.
I need to take complete responsibility for my own decisions. A friend and I were discussing this—I’m just not very good at depending on others, being passive, following direction. So if I can’t do that, I have to be able to do the other thing. And I have to accept that I can’t change other people. It is just not fair for me to get upset at anyone who’s important to me for not doing what I think is best for them. I need to accept them as they are, completely as they are. I think that’s the definition of love that means the most to me.
From the biography of Shirley Hazzard that I’m currently obsessed with:
Last summer, Vladimir Nabokov was remembered in the press as having told his students: “You have to saturate yourself with English poetry in order to compose English prose … You must study the poets.”
I read this to Francis and he said: “Exactly. Still, one cannot truly do it for a ‘purpose.’ Only for love.”
You are never going to be the person I want you to be. I so know that. But that’s not your job. Your job is to be the person you need. And my job is to be the person I’ve always been waiting for. I’ve pursued competence intensely and that might make me seem practically motivated, but it’s really because I think that mastery affords a level of depth that makes us able to love better. I love to read and love to write and love people, and I want to get closer to all these things, always. It’s not for any real purpose and never has been—only for love.