How does one look back on a year such as mine? Three years ago, I ventured out into one of the scariest places I think I’ve ever been. Post divorce, 40-something, straddled with debt that wasn’t all mine, looking forward to fewer years to earn back the losses than I had behind me. While many would say I look good for my age, the fact that they had to add the phrase “for my age” said it all. I was divorced, single with more children than most, struggling to avoid bankruptcy, and wondering how I was going to pay the bills and put food on the table. I was frightened. I was destitute. I was humiliated and ashamed. I was alone. To make things better, I blew an engine on one car, and dropped the rear differential out of another. I had no credit, no cash, no clue what an engine or a rear differential was, and nowhere to turn. I was terrified. I wondered, often, how and if I was going to survive. I was also 40-something and it was only a matter of time before the aging process we all must eventually succumb to, became no longer disguisable. Further, I still had children at home, lots of them, and would probably retire (if that was still even a possibility for me) with them at home. Not exactly the formula for finding someone to spend your golden years with before you actually get to your golden years.
2010 dawned much like the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. Dark, dismal, discouraging. Finances were tight and showed no signs of letting up for a long time to come. Life in the dating world were disappointing at best, and completely discouraging most of the time. In fact, online dating resembled something more of a leper colony than a way to meet decent people with whom I might share some common ground. After just under 3 years of dating, I was ready to take it or leave it. I mostly left it. I was in and just as quickly out of three relationships this year. I was less willing to hang out with someone who declared verbally that they were really into me but announced the opposite with their behavior.
Sometimes truth dawns slowly like the early light of morning on an overcast day. I’d long been aware that I was capable of going places alone and doing things on my own. One simply doesn’t go through tough times like my last decade without realizing that somehow things will all work out. The realization that I actually enjoyed being on my own, that I looked forward to those times alone, that I was okay with me, and that I wanted to be able to make my own decisions and chart my own course dawned gradually in my awareness, but it changed my thinking and, I believe, the course of my year.
As I experienced the year, it seemed I spent most of the year alone even though I was either starting, developing or ending some sort of dating relationship for most of the year. One would think this would leave a person with some sense of personal failure or inadequacy at worst and at best leave one feeling incredibly lonely. One might think this would taint one’s overall assessment of the success or failure of a particular passage of time. Not so, for me. As I rewind through all the most poignant episodes of my year I am struck by the variation of emotions and experiences we are blessed with as human beings. I cherish these memories and revisit them as one might thumb through the pages of a favorite scrapbook. There are disappointing and discouraging times to be sure, but there are just as many hopeful, encouraging, joyous and exhilarating episodes as well. The happier scenes lend far more color to the collage of my year than do those disappointing junctures. The thought occurs to me, that in most of these memories I am in the company of those I care deeply about; a son, a daughter, a close friend, a long lost friend or family member, and, yes, those dates that passed through my life on their way to other destinations till finally one decided to walk along the path with me for a while. I haven’t been lonely nor have I been alone.
From the snapshots of watching Avatar three times to starting an exercise program and fighting the balancing act between kids’ schedules, work schedules and my own personal motivation; from watching the World Cup on a big screen TV in a very crowded sports bar in a nearby town with my oldest daughter to traveling to Portland to see with my older sister and her daughter after losing contact with them over 30 years ago; from a birthday in San Francisco and 4th of July in Portland to front row seats at my daughter’s Seussical production where once again she and all the cast made me cry with their brilliant performances; from walking along the waterfront and across the bridges of Portland dreaming that someday I might own my own bike to a casual meet up over coffee that blossomed to a friendship among bike enthusiasts resulting in me actually purchasing my bike and later one for my daughter for Christmas; from reconnecting with classmates on Facebook to a fantastic 30-year class reunion which reunited me with several dear, dear friends; from watching my son play a drum in the high school drum line that is almost bigger than he is to trick-or-treating with family; from Thanksgiving dinners along the Portland waterfront with long lost loved ones to photographing places I once knew when I inhabited a child’s body and crying for all the regrets and lost moments with a beautiful woman I only wish I could have known better over the last 30 years; from starting out the year with more questions than answers to closing out the year with more answers and hope than questions and doubt, this year truly tops them all in terms of the richness of the experiences I was privileged to partake in.
The year has been an absolutely blessed one.
When so many of the years of my life have been difficult or painful to look back on, it is a gift to have a year that sneaks in like every other one does but which takes me by complete surprise leaving me with this sense that come what may life is good and confident that, like my mother used to say, “There are better days ahead.”
And though it is now the beginning of a new year, the celebratory champagne cheers long silenced, I’d like to raise my literary glass and pen one last 2010 toast to the world: At this time next year, may you look back on more that is happy than sad, more hope than despair, more redemption than futility, more health than harm. May you experience a rich year filled with peace, joy, love and blessings and may you experience it with those in your life that are most precious to you. Cheers!
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
~ James Burns, 1788 (English translation, minimalist, from Wikipedia)
Author’s Note: All photos in this post were taken by the author and will be recognizable and memorable to those who were there. May our old (and new) acquaintance not be forgotten and may we all (and those not pictured though still very much a part of this author’s year) “take a cup of kindness yet” as we head together into this New Year.