New Year’s is the holiday toward which I feel the most conflicted. And that makes sense, I think; it’s an invitation to look both backward at the year you’re leaving behind and forward into the one ahead. It’s both of these things, and it’s both of these things at once. It’s the end of a chapter. You may not be finished digesting what you’ve read, but somebody’s already turning the page for you.
Christmas makes me sad. Halloween makes me happy. New Year’s splits me in two.
I’m not sorry to say goodbye to 2013. It was, in all honesty, the hardest year I’ve ever had to endure. Personally, professionally, emotionally, romantically, financially…I’m not sure I had even a week during which I didn’t have to worry about something immediate and pressing.
The saddest part? I kind of miss it.
That’s New Year’s for you.
Kate and I split up this past year. For good. That’s both a sadness and a relief. A problem and a solution. A regret and a milestone. There’s no need to delve into detail, because the detail isn’t what matters. And, besides, if we were to divide up all of the negativity in that relationship I’m positive that at least half of it would have been mine. I don’t intend to shift any blame. I don’t think that would do anybody any good.
But sometimes you step back and look at something and you don’t know what to think. If you’re captaining a ship that goes down without you, wouldn’t you feel relieved to be alive just as much as you’re sorry to lose the ship? Conversely, wouldn’t you be just as sorry to lose the ship as you are relieved to be alive? Checks and balances. Swings and roundabouts. Yin and yang.
It’s all tangled together. “I don’t like you,” Smokey Robinson sang, “but I love you.” And he wasn’t being clever. He was being honest.
And so I’m here, bidding farewell to the most difficult year of my life…the year during which I managed, somehow, to lose more than I actually had. And yet I can’t help but think back and…well, and smile. And sometimes laugh. Because if I had the chance to do it all over again, even if I couldn’t change the outcome, I probably would.
That’s what New Year’s does to me. I start thinking about everything that won’t be making the trip into 2014 with me. And I get sad. Because all I really want is to take everything with me. To get it right to the point that I don’t have to leave things behind all the time…or get left behind by them. Somewhere, inside of me, there’s a man who could have done everything right. I know there is. And maybe some years he gets his way more than others. But I only seem to notice when he doesn’t.
There are a lot of sad things about It’s a Wonderful Life, but my personal favorite is the fact that George is kind of a dick. The film hinges on the idea that he has an innate goodness about him, and that’s true, because when it comes down to making a fateful decision, he places everyone else’s needs before his own. However in the long spaces in between those fateful decisions, he’s an ass. He doesn’t realize what he has. He barely seems to want it. He’s caustic and dismissive and self-pitying. Clarence doesn’t just ask about why he wishes he was never born; Clarence asks why the fuck he can’t appreciate how much he has. The ending isn’t uplifting because he stays out of jail…the ending is uplifting because he returns home grateful to see his family, and you get the sense that it’s been a long, long time since that happened.
I’m sorry, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I’m sorry that I’m a dick. I’m sorry that I didn’t get this year right. I’m sorry that I tried to do all of the wrong things, and didn’t try very hard to do the right ones. I’m not a bad guy, but I sure as hell made a lot of bad decisions.
In spite of that, there have been more great people in my life than I even deserved. And I number my readers here among them. This blog, as silly as it may sound, has been my one constant throughout a year of ups and downs. And it’s not just because I have a place to write and post my meandering nonsense…it’s because of you. You, right there, reading this.
I know. I get mushy sometimes. It won’t happen often. I think I just wanted to take a moment to reflect, to look back, and to acknowledge. I could easily paint myself as a hero for making it this far alive. I could just as easily paint myself as a tragic figure deserving of your commiserations. I don’t want to do either.
I just want to be a human being who’s big enough to learn from what’s happened, and small enough to understand that he deserved a good deal of it.
It’s okay. It’s okay, because the world keeps spinning. We move along, we move onward, and we move upward. Because that’s all we can do. And I can look back on 2013 and cringe at some things and wish I could hold on to others. But I can’t change 2013.
And neither can you.
On the flipside, I’ve got total control over 2014. Not in terms of what happens, but in terms of how I react to it. That’s my responsibility, and it’s one that I’ll take.
In Gravity’s Rainbow there’s a very moving sequence toward the end of the book when one of the central characters reflects upon just how much he’s lost, and we are made privy to his Partial List of Wishes on Evening Stars for This Period.
His wishes are selfish, selfless, practical, impossible, desperate. They can’t all come true…but if even one of them does, then he’s that much further ahead.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of them will come true. And that’s okay. What’s important is that you take the time to identify what it is you need. Because until you do that, you have no hope of finding it.
Thank you for helping me through 2013. I’m grateful for every last one of you…and I’m glad that you’re all coming into the new year along with me. We’ll take a cup of kindness, yet. For auld lang syne.