Three years ago, I began a New Year practice of reflecting with gratitude on the year prior. In 2023, some of the big ticket items I find myself grateful for include coming out as genderqueer/nonbinary, getting engaged to my best friend Jessica, and performing as an official showcase artist at Folk Alliance Region West. I got into a writing habit with my newsletter, wrote a couple pieces for Rainbow Rodeo, and released my first song after two years.
But what I am most grateful for this year is learning how to suffer better through the ever-deepening awareness that my suffering is connected to the world's. I've known this to be true from the scriptures that I grew up with, which taught me "mourn with those who mourn." Later, I discovered it from the Twelve Steps' wisdom regarding our common welfare. Throughout 2023, I've learned it by experience, in what has been one of the hardest years of my life.
For the entirety of 2023, I coped with debilitating fatigue and body aches and the frustration of navigating American healthcare. This impaired my ability to earn a living, socialize, and perform menial tasks. The mental anguish mounted to a depressive episode like I haven't had in years. It has been only in the last few weeks of the year that I've been fortunate enough to begin treatment for what my doctors suspect to be fibromyalgia. And in nearly the same timing, I received a diagnosis for autism, after what has been two years of seeking help.
In spite of these hardships, I'm quite lucky. I survived thanks to the love in my life, particularly that of my fiancée, my family, and my closest friends. I've heard stories of people in similar circumstances who could not get the care they need. Instead of healthcare being regarding and administered as a right, it remains but a privilege. This is most strikingly apparent to me in the bombing of hospitals in Gaza and the blocking of humanitarian aid.
The troubles of my health and disability are symptomatic of a larger dysfunctional system. I live under a nation-state that uses tax dollars to first and foremost fund war, not healthcare; militaries, not peacemakers; genocide, not life. My suffering is not removed from the suffering of Palestinians, not only in a spiritual sense, but in a very practical sense, due to the violence of capitalism and statism, as rulers withhold a better quality of life from not only their enemies, but from the very people they presume to protect.
Emma Lazarus said, "Until we are all free, we are none of us free." Maya Angelou later reminded us the same. The hope of Palestinian liberation is a herald for the end of antisemitism and Islamophobia, of racism and imperialism, of misogyny and queerphobia. I hope we may be in solidarity and be encouraged to seek the freedom of all people. I hope this year we may see a permanent ceasefire, liberty for the captives, and jubilee.