So we’ve come to the end of another year. In some ways it seems so ridiculous to be reflective because of an arbitrary day on the calendar. One day is the same as the next. 24 hours long. Waking in the morning and going to bed at night. Work. Meals. Bills.
It IS different though. Because we make it so. And as I look back at 2013, at what was the saddest and hardest year I have ever experienced, I react with a bittersweet mixture of gladness and melancholy that the year is over. Why would I regret the death of 2013? Should I not be ecstatic that it’s finally over? This year of pain and loss, grief and sorrow? Make no mistake. I am happy to see it go. In my mind at least, I have been able to pretend that midnight tonight is some sort of threshold to cross to better times. That immediately after the countdown, glass clinking and kisses that we’ll be forging a new and better path for all.
So from where then comes the regret? Only this. That this magic door of new years, that takes us from one calendar page to another, takes us in to a year in which my daughter never lived. It takes us further and further away from hearing her voice, for seeing her alive and well.
True, She died very early in 2013. It had barely begun. And in a week’s time I will have to jump the hurdle of her “Anniversary.” But she lived in 2013. 2014, she will not. And that fills me with a hollow sadness deeper than the usual. But I also look back on 2013 and see the things that made it better than I could have hoped. And it’s people. Family and friends that made me feel more loved than I have ever in my life. Do any of you know how much you mean to me? Do you know what it is that you really did for me? You may think you do, but you really don’t. The small things that were nothing to you, meant much more to me. And it’s only because of your character that you’d be unaware that you did so much without even knowing it. I can say this without a doubt, that if my daughter were able to, she would smile, and hug you, and thank you for taking care of her Dad. It was her way.
That was the back.
and what of the now? The now is a tired man, who’s come through a little piece of hell; a battle-scarred warrior who didn’t put up that much of a fight.
The now is a point in time where I have the choice to either fall back, back in to the misery that I’ve come through. Or a chance to fall forward. Stumbling forward, seeking better. My heart says fall back. My soul screams push forward. My brain says do neither. But I have hands on my back. The same hands that held me up, from falling backwards in to ruin, are the ones that are now pushing me ever so slightly forward. past the tipping point, so that I fall forward in to my future, instead of dwelling in my past. And although a large part of my past, the most difficult part of it, will come with me, I move. I move forward.
What is the forward? That’s the real mystery. I told my dear wife that the Christmas gift I wanted to give her was one that I couldn’t wrap, and that I couldn’t promise. A better life than we’ve had to this point. A recovery from the shadow of grief that has covered us this past 360 odd days, Removing the black veil. The mystery is not in what we want to do. Travel. See the world, live to the fullest. Make every day as incredible as we can. Love our friends. Love each other, in short, live completely. The mystery is whether or not this life will afford us the opportunities to do all that we want to do. But falling forward, we will do it. Live like we never have before. Falling forward, looking to enjoy what time we have left.
And as silly as the new years thing is, I indulge myself in another dream. In that when I fall forward, I can imagine that some of the hands on my back, are hers. That I can hear her laugh like crystal bells, and whispered words. “Go, daddy. Go and live.”
Just like she would want. Falling forward.
So we’ve finally made it. Christmas Eve… and then Christmas day. (Boxing day too, but that’s really more about doing nothing, and sleeping off the food baby named Turkey, than anything else.)
To the days that I’ve dreaded. Why? I don’t really know; Why should this one or two days be any harder than all the rest of them? In this year that has been a journey through loss, It’s just another day on the calendar flying by. The only real differences are the number of gifts, and the quality of the food you are likely to eat. If I were to hazard a guess though, it’s because of what the expectation for Christmas is; that everyone have a MERRY Christmas. Happy, joyful, and just so jingle-freaking-bells awesome, that you cannot help but be MERRY. We don’t really use that word any more. Well, perhaps Robin Hood and his band of merry men, but you probably didn’t even remember that reference until you read it here, it’s very passé.
So were’ expected to smile, and drink god-awful egg-nog, and make yourself sick on homemade cookies and chocolates. Particularly in the office, it’s all handshakes, or hugs with your closer friends at work. Lame jokes about seeing you in a year for those who have the days off until the new year passes, and well wishes for the holidays. Frankly, I think we’d do it better if we all just had a couple of belts of our favourite booze, and call it a day.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m not a Grinch. Or Scrooge. Although I’ve never been the biggest fan of Christmas. the incessant playing of Christmas carols has always made me feel like rage-stabbing the radio D.J. And don’t get me started on the nauseating remakes that all the pop stars do, same song, done worse each time. (I bet you all can’t wait until “a very Ke$ha Christmas” comes out. There’s a new track, skanking around the Christmas tree that is a must listen.) I love giving gifts, but hate shopping, I love seeing family, but hate the pace of running from place to place, I love the food…. well, I just love the food.
All the appeals for charity. We should be thinking of being as charitable as we can afford, but it shouldn’t be a two-day-good-will-to-you-poor-people kind of thing, Increased charity appeals shouldn’t have to happen because it should be a continuous theme among those of us that are more prosperous.
It’s all the Christmas movies, which by God, are annoying as a piece of salad stuck between your teeth with no toothpicks around. Is there a Christmas movie out there that isn’t solved happily by the end? That a little kid singing a Christmas carol, or a letter to Santa or some ridiculous 11th hour profession of love doesn’t wrap up the film with a warm fuzzy for all involved? That’s a triple blech with a gag me on the side.
And I’ll try not to say too much about the advertising which starts in November, and doesn’t stop until you’ve questioned your sanity. If I get really started, I’ll never stop. But the commercials seem to be from some other dimension where people can afford to give cars with red bows on them for Christmas, and each family member clearly has a budget of about ten grand to spend on their nieces and nephews. The avarice of it is disgusting.
All those things are the reasons that I don’t really like Christmas much, but what stands out the most is the expectation of delirious happiness just because the 25th of December has rolled around again. Because it’s fake! At least it’s fake as far as I have seen in all my time in this world. I have not met, nor do I know, or have had a relationship with someone be it friend, family or acquaintance, that has such a gosh-darn-gee-willkers perfect life. Every one has carried sadness or loss or tragedy in to the holidays. Stress and pressure, expectation and disappointment.
So, I had to do something. Something to make it through. I had to change what Merry means. At least what it means to me. I went in to the office, I spoke to my friends, and I changed “Merry” from sugar-plum jolliness to mean something far more profound to me.
In my mind, I changed it to mean peace. So, I wished them each a peaceful Christmas. Which is what we can all use in our stockings, a little measure of peace from all the tumult. And, in the same vein, I listened to it the same. I simply believed that when each person wished me a Merry Christmas, they were wishing me peace. And it’s the best gift that I could get. I anticipated a truly difficult day, and my little subterfuge actually worked. It has been a long time since I felt that much of a connection with the people around me.
And I wish, to all those who read this, a very, Merry Christmas.
Even if I don’t know you, Merry Christmas. Because now you know what I mean when I say it. And I know you need it. We all do.
I have had enough. Too much time bowed under the pressures of life. Too much time with face in hands, sobbing; too much grief and tragedy.
A life gripped by fear and insecurity and regret. A life that stripped away the confidence that i once carried myself with. Determination to better myself swallowed by self-doubt. A half-life, more than a real one. An existence with the desire for meaningful human contact, coupled with difficulty not loathing most of humanity. A life bitter at the unfairness of it all, while feeling like a hypocritical monster because I have it better than so many. A life of dreams flown by, and out of reach.
It sounds all so familiar, like the dark thoughts that consumed my daughters soul, and eventually her life; a crippling dissatisfaction of what this universe has had to offer. Unable to count the diamonds of blessings among the piles of shit. The difference is I don’t have mental illness as an excuse.
So I come to the end of the rope, grasping feebly. And I choose to let go.
But I let go to something different from my end. I let go of my expectation of what life was supposed to be. I release my assumption that there should be fairness or balance or peace for us all.
No peace. War.
I choose to let go and fight. Fight a futile battle, against the universe. Against the cold and uncaring randomness, that cycles on and on, mindless of the struggles and pains that follow in its wake.
I will fight. To scrape every ounce of life from the universe. To extract every moment of care, love and happiness that I can either give, or receive.
The universe doesn’t care, my war against it is as meaningless as a speck of dust landing on an elephant. Irrelevant, meaningless and of no notice.
But I will fight. I will do my all to let my cherished friends and family know that I care. I will make life as meaningful as I can for me and my beloved. I will dance, and write, and drink, and laugh madly, sometimes when I’d rather crumple in tears.
I will live, and in doing so defy the grind of reality.
And in the end, it will win. One day, the universe will crush me in to dust like all those before me, and will go on and on as I slip further and further in to a place where I am not even remembered. I will lose battles; friendships valued may be lost. Those that once cared about me may stop. Disappointments will continue to wash over me like an endless tide.
I will stand at the grave of someone who I love again.
And I will die.
But I will go to me end with my arms raised in victory, not bowed in failure. That I fought, that I loved. And that I will be remembered, at least until those that remember me are also taken by ceaseless time.
As futile as a war as it is, I will not stop. A life any other way is not worth living.
I chose to live.
We recently passed thanksgiving here in Canada. With apologies to our American cousins, we do it at a different time of the year. The benefits of Canadian thanksgiving is warmer days and some leaves still on the trees. American thanksgiving is superior because of all the football. This is a piece I wrote about thanksgiving, be it Canadian or American, it’s all the same.
Thanksgiving. A time to gather with family, and give thanks for our blessings. A time to look at all the things in your life that are good, and FEEL good about it. But what about when you don’t feel particularly thankful? What if things in your life have conspired to take away so much, security, love, money, loved ones? What if you don’t even know if you believe in the entity to which you are supposedly give thanks anymore? That’s always been a struggle, and it’s not one that’s gotten any easier: Give thanks for what?
For the food on the table? Don’t I work for that? My family? What about the ones that are a constant annoyance or disappointment? And isn’t a loving family something that should be a given, not a special blessing? Give thanks for strength, because you’ve managed to endure? It would be far better to be thankful for things not happening that are horrible, instead of gratitude of surviving tragedy.
How many people are sitting down to the table to give thanks, and their minds are consumed with their worries instead of their wonders?
An empty seat that was once filled. A husband, a parent… a child. Sitting up to a fine feast of sandwiches or cold cuts because a turkey wasn’t in the budget, and next month won’t be easier. Leaving the table early because you have to go work another shift at the job that isn’t really making you happy, and isn’t really paying for everything? Finishing your thanksgiving meal with a handful of pills to keep your disease at bay for another day?
Give thanks? Why? To whom? What for?
I have only one answer: Because even if you don’t have someone to thank, our souls simply must respond. To the good, to the lovely, to the intimate wonders that we create together. Does it matter if you don’t believe that they are provided by a benevolent supernatural being? No. Does it matter if you just haven’t felt much of anything but thanklessness and pain? No. Your soul, be it figment or reality, sings at the small things.
The friends who stood by you. Their words, their laughter. Give thanks to them for being in your life. The piece of music that brings tears to your eyes. Give thanks to the creator of the beauty. To the lover in your life, who takes you away from all of it, if only for moments at a time… give thanks to them for loving you.
Give thanks, yes. Thanks. Give thanks to the pinpoints of light in the often dark room, that makes life worth anything at all.
Hey there, little brat. Up the stairs you come yapping on your cell phone. It’s a quiet zone up here. We come up here to get away from people like you. You ignore the signs, and keep on talking. Quite the nuisance, disturbing the rest of us. But you don’t care. What the hell is wrong with you?
Hey there rich girl. With your high heels, dark sunglasses and oversized Coach bag. I saw you push by that other women to get up the stairs. Kind of rude, don’t you think? But you don’t care. Tons of seats available, but you have to get up there to get first choice. What the hell is wrong with you?
Hey there, Mr. Stink. I’m glad you sat at the other end of the train car. Just walking by filled the air with the smell of sweat and cheap cologne and frustration. But you don’t care. I bet I’ll smell that for the rest of the ride home, so thanks for that. What the hell is wrong with you?
Hey there, Mr. Elbows. Tons of empty seats, but you choose the one next to me. Hard to sit comfortably with your fat wing slamming in to my ribs every time you move. Can’t you see I’m working here? I know you can see that before you sit down. But you don’t care. What the hell is wrong with you?
Hey there incompetent mother. Your kids been screaming since we left the station. I mean really, why did you bring her on the train at rush hour? Her ear shattering wails make it seem like you’re pinching her, but you just sit there with a defeated look on your face. You should be more considerate of others! But you don’t care. What the hell is wrong with you?
Hey there Mr. Drunk. You can’t fool us; we know you just puked in the bathroom. We heard it. And now you are staggering around trying to find where you were sitting. You walked past it twice. Looks like you’re going to lose your cellphone too. It’s on the seat you can’t find. You probably have some sob story about how you lost your job or how your wife left you or something. Like you’re the only one who has suffered. And we have to put up with your melancholy alcoholism. But you don’t care. What the hell is wrong with you?
Hey there Mr. Crutches. We’re trying to get home here. Waiting for you made us late. If you can’t move a little faster than that, you shouldn’t be getting on the train at all. So inconsiderate. Probably on crutches because you did something stupid. And even if you didn’t, it’s not as if it’s our fault, why should we have to wait? But you don’t care. What the hell is wrong with you?
Hey there you douchebag blogger. Tapping away at your laptop. Sunglasses still on and a frown on your face. Sitting in judgment of your fellow commuters, because they don’t fit your ideal. Because they are talking to their mother trying to figure out how to get home. Because they have insecurities they hide behind fancy clothes and baubles. Because they’ve just worked 12 hours and have more work to do when they get home. But you don’t care. Because they are just so exhausted that walking even a few more steps to another seat is just too much. Because colic has ruined their life. Because Life is painful, and they don’t have the skills to cope. Because disease and injury chose them, it was not chosen by them. But you don’t care.
All these people who just want to get home, just like you. But you don’t care.
What the hell is wrong with you?