All is Quiet

“All is quiet on New Year’s Day. A world in white gets underway.” ~U2

When I was working at the pizza buffet we would place bets on when the first customer would come in on New Year’s Day. Closest to the time got a free pie. I always bet the over, so if the latest time was noon, I would say 12:01. More often than not I was right too. You’d think others would have realized it at least one of the three New Year’s Days I worked there.

I always bet the over because I knew what everyone should know. While New Year’s Eve is full of all the pomp and circumstance, all the parties and excitement, all the balloons and revelry, even the giant ball descending from above, it leaves nothing for its counterpart on the other side of midnight. Well, it leaves exhausted people who just want to sleep as much as they possibly can.

That’s why New Year’s morning is always dead. Not many cars on the road. Not many people out and about. Not much at all. Which of course is in direct conflict with the idea of New Year’s, that everything is now vibrant with life, that the flipping of the calendar somehow makes it so. Instead, as the sun rises on a new year, all is quiet. And I love it. I love when things don’t match what they’re supposed to be, because it means there’s a chance the year will bring some positive surprises too.

So what am I doing up? Shhh. I’m not really.

Sam

1998

“There’s nothing where we used to lie. Conversation has run dry. That’s what’s going on. Nothing’s right. I’m torn.” ~Natalie Imbruglia

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It was my last year in Philadelphia, but I didn’t know it when the year started. Funny how that happens, how the monumental moments in our lives, the seismic shifts, often happen with no warning. I woke up on that New Year’s Day without a hangover, but the day was mostly over, testament to the insane amount of drinking I had been doing the night before and until the early morning hours — in celebration mode. That of course resulted in eventually passing out.

But it was okay. I was a newly minted 21 year old. I thought I was invincible.

Soon, though, even my invincible armor would be tested, as my engagement fell apart, my school lies began to unravel, and my relationship with my mother hit a huge wall. It was all my fault, but as a 21 year old I was angry with everyone else. I couldn’t blame myself because we just didn’t do that. It wasn’t the age of self-reflection; it was instead the era of pointing fingers and asking questions later. So that bluster took me from a young man who had hopes and dreams to a scared rabbit who was reacting instead of acting.

And I didn’t let anyone in, past the facade that masqueraded as my fearlessness, as the bravado that would ultimately lead to so many ridiculous and harmful decisions in my life. For me, 1998 was the turning point because so much could have gone differently in my journey if I had simply accessed and addressed my emotional state early on. It was like I dreamwalked through the year and woke up on the other side dazed and confused, and so much worse for wear.

“I don’t wanna close my eyes. I don’t wanna fall asleep, ’cause I’d miss you baby, and I don’t wanna miss a thing.” ~Aerosmith

By year’s end I was an outcast, shuffling off to Tennessee with a few boxes of my possessions, under cover of night because it was more appropriate that way. I was a married man then, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt like a prison break, yet I was still natalie-imbruglia-tornsomehow in prison, as if I had escaped a maze to be told it was part of a larger maze that I was only just beginning. Leaving the city of my birth was devastating, and yet it was my own decision making that precipitated it; I could blame no one but myself.

I still blame no one but myself. But if I had never left I wouldn’t be where I am now. I make myself remember that part because as 1998 ticked down, as I turned 22 in an entirely different place (both physically and emotionally), I was worn down. It was so drastic and so sudden that I guess you could say I was in a state of shock, all my problems and issues center stage that I would have to deal with sooner or later, but probably sooner. As much as I could see all of that even then, it was a whole different story¬† trying to rectify the situation, to reconcile myself to the loss, to grieve and to move on.

Maybe that’s what it was all about, that year, after all. Perhaps it was more than just a turning point. It might very well have been the beginning of my whole life, the old me turned to ash and bone, eventually fading over the passage of time. I do know that the promise I felt the year owed me was quickly snuffed out, and I have never been good at adjusting to change, so it festered and left me empty instead. So I went to Tennessee, and rung in the new year with absolutely no fanfare, fast asleep with no future in mind.

Only thinking about the past, and what went so astronomically wrong. In 1998.

Sam

So This Was the Old Year

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There was absolutely nothing wrong with 2015, at least from my perspective. The year opened with so much hope and promise, like so many years before it. I went back to therapy because it was necessary, not because I felt lost in an abyss. My children entered the year halfway through the lower grade and now end up halfway through the upper. We moved out of our house of 13 years and in with my mother-in-law. But even that is positive as it gives us a chance to save for the building of our new house in spring.

Always look on the bright side.

But 2015 isn’t over yet. In fact there are still a few hours remaining, and I plan on making the most of them, on making them count. Sure, 2016 will bring our move into our new house. It will carry on its wings my 40th birthday (shhhh). And it will usher in a new era as my oldest child turns a decade old in February. But 2015 isn’t over yet. These faint whispers of a year nearly gone by, almost buried in its grave, speak to me. It’s an old year, on its last legs, but it’s still here, and as such it needs to be remembered. We say that we shouldn’t let accolades for people linger until they become posthumous.

So raise your glass to the fading embers of 2015.. Here are my most robust memories of a year nearly gone:

  • The surprise call. The surprise news. The surprise job. There’s something to be said for patience, and even though I haven’t prided myself on it of late, I am now a professor.
  • The return of the therapist. I had missed her after more than a year away, and my life had been on hold. But my positivism had started to wane, and I needed to be rejuvenated. I needed to get it out.
  • The move, but more importantly, the possibility it hinted at. I never wanted to move, not unless it was directly to our new house, but the universe had other plans. And I shifted accordingly to accommodate them.
  • The writing. November brought a new novel, but even before that I had been dusting a manuscript off, breathing new life into it in anticipation of publication. The process is a long one, as always, but this year all of the editing has been rewarding, to say the least.
  • The growing older. Just four days ago I hit 39, and if I were a woman that would probably be my final number, but I’m not. And it’s not. Instead it’s just another reminder that life is short, that years can move by in the blink of a moment.
  • The music. As always, the music. It has been a trying year in that respect as my iPod decided it would need resuscitation. It deleted all of my songs, and I’ve been working hard on reviving it all, re-creating playlists, and not crying over it all. Music is my third child.
  • My oldest. Alexa developed an attitude in 2015, becoming a pseudo-teenager when I wasn’t looking. It’s been a serious challenge dealing with this new facet of her already inflexible personality, but that’s what we see it as — a challenge that can be overcome.
  • My youngest. Madeline went through what seemed like a procedure and a half this year, getting her adenoids out, her tonsils shaved, having the sleep study in the first place, and everything that went along with that worry-wise. She came through the other side, and so did we.
  • Speaking of procedures, Alexa went through another one of her own this year. We should buy stock in University Hospital. Seriously. But we found out some good information, and she’s doing well… as well. If I don’t have to see the hospital in 2016 I’ll be just fine.
  • This blog. My blog hit some major milestones in 2015, most notably the end of my consecutive days blogging streak on August 30th. It meant I wasn’t dragging myself in here to write down whatever passed for coherent thoughts every day anymore. And I think my writing has benefited from it.
  • My marriage. There were a few bumps in the road coming into 2015 that I’ll admit stressed me out more than I cared to admit at the time, but the return of therapy was also the return of taking time to talk with my wife, to keep up those bonds that can so easily become frayed. We both need that connection, and the rediscovery of it has been a godsend.

That’s just a tip of the cap to a year that has given more than it’s taken, that’s allowed me to be myself more than I feel I’ve been in a very long time, that’s given me both silence and noise in equal measure. I’ve needed every single thing, every single obstacle, every single joy, that this year has given to me, and I will always look back on it fondly. Was it only 16 years ago that we were looking forward to a new millennium with such uncertainty?

Now I look forward to 2016 for all of the obstacles, for all of the joys, and for all of the surprises that it will give to me. Amen.

Sam

The Year of Sam

“So this is the new year, and I don’t feel any different.” ~Death Cab For Cutie

My wife said it best this morning. “It may be a new year, but it’s just tomorrow to our kids.” Each day tends to blend into the next. Yesterday was supposedly a big one, and today is also treasured by society, but what are these days really? They’re just yesterday’s tomorrows wrapped up in rhetoric and delivered to us pre-packaged and postage-due on arrival.

new-year-black-hat-p6724I listened to the above song this morning after I woke up instead of my traditional “New Year’s Day” by U2 because even though nothing really changes everything changes. Maybe having my birthday so close to the new year makes that happen for me because I get nostalgic, but I’m not nostalgic for the pain and despair that totally infuses U2’s classic anthem. I’m nostalgic for the peace and quiet of the status quo of the Death Cab For Cutie lyric and melody, a peace and quiet that I’ve never really known in my life except for in fleeting moments.

I want this to be one of those fleeting moments, but magnified to encompass the whole year, and beyond. And I don’t want it to begin today. I want it to be ongoing from yesterday and extend into tomorrow, regardless of the changing of the calendar. It will be my own “new year,” and I will call it “The Year of Sam,” because it will be all about my own mindset, about changing it to fit where I want to go instead of adjusting it to match where I’ve already been. I know the past, and I can learn from it, but only if I admit that I need to change it one step at a time, one moment at a time, one year at a time.

“So this is the new year, and I have no resolutions.”

fireworks_14And I do have resolve, that feeling of pure adrenaline that accompanies making new choices and doing my best to stick with them come hell or high water because I know they’re good for me, because I know that what I was doing wasn’t working. I also have goals and an implementation plan in place to reach them, but they’re not resolutions. I detest the word and the painful memories it imposes with its utterance, all the failures attached to it because the word has become synonymous with failure, of others and of myself. And my goals have already begun. I started them yesterday, or a few yesterdays ago, and they’re building momentum.

So this is the Year of Sam, a year of possibility and excitement that may take two years, or five years, or ten, but the excitement is the same because it’s all about making those better choices day in and day out, about not letting life come to me but going out and shaking it until it cries uncle. Then doing it again. It is not a war anthem but instead a calm declaration of pressing forward, and a firm determination to keep it going.

Sam

So This is the New Year

I remember when we were all looking forward, not backward, to the millennium. We figured out how old we would be when the clock struck 12 over a brand new world. We listened to Prince’s 1999 on repeat, trying to glean some deeper knowledge and understanding of our brave new world from it. We used every New Year’s Eve between then and the end of 1999 as a mock millennium celebration, and we dressed our dogs up in tissue paper. Ah, those were the days.

Can you believe that was 13 years ago? And each time another date switches from the current year to the present perfect year, yet again, I am reminded of that feeling. Because it was pure, unadulterated joy and anticipation that hasn’t been matched since. Sure, I had water stocked up in barrels “just in case that Y2K thing was real,” but even that was an adventure.

Now what is there? As I read my Facebook wall today, I see repeating mediocre themes that don’t even remotely measure up. People are talking about their resolutions, while others are saying how resolutions are stupid. People are talking about how this is going to be better than 2012, while others are pointing out that we said the same thing at the end of 2011. While still others are trying to convince us that 2013 won’t be unlucky even though it has the unlucky number in it. I think my six year old has the right idea. She says it’s just an excuse to have a party.

Who will I be kissing when the new year arrives? My pillow. I’m old. I think back to the age I was when I was dreaming of Y2K and I laugh out loud to think how naive I was, but also have serious nostalgia for that time, because everything was so fresh and new, even if it was just in our heads, and it will never be that way again.

Sam

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