It is the morning of New Year's Eve. We don't really have great plans. We rarely do. Often, we don't even make it until midnight. The New Year does not require our participation. It will happen without us. So, we will have dinner at home: a new appetizer I found on Stacey Snacks (Spiedini alla Romana ~ little slices of bread with slices of fresh mozzarella layered in between, dipped in egg, pan fried and served with an anchovy caper sauce; for our main course, Tom's Roast Lemon Chicken with Croutons (not my Tom, but Tom from Bearly Edible. His recipe is simply the best chicken I've ever eaten. And I never would have thought to use croutons instead of potatoes or pasta, but it is amazing!)and some roasted asparagus spears; for dessert, my Tom's Creme Brulee, soft, silky and crunchy all in one bite. Mmmmmm.
I don't know what your year was like. I know for some of you, it brought many changes and challenges. For others, the entire year whipped by without incident. You were fortunate.
If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know that my year was also filled with changes and challenges; some of them painful and permanent, some painful but what I thought would not be permanent, some moments just plain crappy; all of those moments mixed with some incredibly great times, great joys and unbelievable reconnections. I've re-established estranged relationships while other relationships seem beyond repair or resolution. And, through it all, I continue to move forward and try to surround myself with people who support and love me unconditionally.
What have I learned this year? Well, I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know, but what I already knew became so abundantly clear and much more real. First, nothing is permanent. Nothing. Not your job, your relationships, your health, your life. Nothing. Your life and everything you knew about it can change in a split second and, more often than not, there is little you can do about it. Second, people will always surprise you. I used to think I couldn't be surprised by much of anything. I've lived 62 years so far. I've been married to the same man for 40 years and it's been good and bad; but mostly really, really good. We've raised two sons who couldn't be more different from each other. I spent four years training volunteers and answering telephones and counseling distressed people for a suicide and crisis hotline. I've worked for almost 20 years in some form of higher education, dispensing federal aid to students, many of whom attempt to circumvent the system to receive federal money for which they were not eligible. I thought I'd heard and seen just about everything. I was wrong at about that. People actually surprise the hell out of me. Some are at their worst when the chips are down and some are at their best. During my most difficult times, I was surprised by the people who took a hands-off approach, but I was more surprised by the people who rose to the occasion and reached out and supported me and I couldn't be more grateful to them. Now I know that if anything really bad happens to me ~ like cancer, stroke, heart attack, another loss or whatever ~ I know who I can count on, who will reach out, who will hold my hand, who will be there.
In spite of everything, this was a good holiday season for me for the first time in many, many, many years. Rather than living in a foggy holiday depression for a month, I only experienced a couple short bursts of gloom and crying. It wasn't about how I celebrated, where I celebrated, what gifts I gave or received. It was about how I prepared and approached it. I baked lots of cookies and gave most of them away, without regard to whether they were appreciated or not. We decorated the house and yard the weekend before Thanksgiving and I was determined this year I would enjoy having my collection of Santas displayed in the living room...
...and even though it's a fake, I loved having the Christmas tree up, with all of our old ornaments. Next year, I'm buying a real one to decorate.
We decided not to ask for Christmas lists this year. Instead, we bought Christmas gifts based on what we thought people would like without regard to whether it was the newest gadget or how "equal" the items cost. So, some people received gifts that cost maybe only $25, while others received gifts that cost $50. It didn't matter. Each gift was given based the information we had at the time. My favorite gift this year was the gift we bought for Tom's mom at Christina's suggestion. It was a blazer Mom saw in Belk (an upscale department store located exclusively in 16 southern states). We shared the expense of the blazer with Christina, and we all took Tom's parents out to lunch the Saturday before Christmas, where we presented them with their gifts. I have never seen anyone so thrilled with a gift as Tom's mom was when she opened her bag and unwrapped that blazer. She called us two times that afternoon and evening, just to thank us again and to let us know when exactly she was going to wear it and what she was going to wear it with. Then she called again on Sunday to tell us that she was enjoying just looking at the jacket as it hung on a hanger on the doorknob of her bedroom. I can't remember the last time anyone was as excited about and thankful for a gift I've given. It makes up for all the times when other gifts are barely acknowledged.
My only really bad day was this past Monday, the day after we arrived back from Savannah. I think I was just decompressing, but I was in a horrible mood...bitchy, pissy, whiny. Tom and I went to WalMart to do some grocery shopping that afternoon and I bitched and moaned in the car all the way from home, walking from the car into the store and half-way into the store. Finally, I took a deep breath, much to Tom's relief, and said:
Me: I'm sorry. I know I'm whining.
Tom: Honey, you're not whining...you're screaming.
And so it went for the entire evening. Fuming, pissy, crying, sobbing. But, when I woke up Tuesday morning I was in a much better mood and ready to plan for this evening and the rest of the weekend.
So, what's in store for next year? Who knows. Like everyone, I have plans, expectations, hopes. I have a new job that I am starting on January 6th and I'm really looking forward to it. I'd like to sell the flip house we remodeled. We've had two offers in the last 30 days...that's more than we've had in the last year and a half...and although both have fallen through, I am still hopeful. I'd still like to run a 5K someday, although I don't think I will be ready for the Savannah Shamrock 5K the first part of March. Mostly, I am trying very hard to just live day to day and enjoy the truly unexceptional things in my life. After the Christmas tree and decorations are put away and things settle down after the holidays, we will resume remodeling our house and maybe even finish it this year. My new AeroGarden is exceeding my expectations and we should be able to harvest some of the herbs in a couple more weeks. Tom and I have started wrapping ourselves in heavy jackets in the evening and taking Goldie for a walk after dinner. We have the rest of our Orpheum Theatre season to go ~ Legally Blonde, the Musical; The Color Purple; Fiddler on the Roof; and finally, Wicked on July 4th weekend. We still have the two boats up at the lake, so I will look forward again to summer.
Instead of making huge plans and burdening myself with unreasonable expectations, I've decided to try to just let things happen and make decisions based on existing circumstances.
I don't remember if it was Carl Jung or Werner Erhard who coined the phrase, "Live in the here and now." But, I think it would be a good way to start the year.
I hope all of you have a peaceful and prosperous year. Be safe.