I don’t care much for New Year’s observations. The parties don’t interest me, the resolutions leave me cold. The flip of a number that we humans have assigned rather arbitrarily to the passage of time seems too unimportant to orient my life around. If I want to make a resolution, I’ll make it when I need to. If I want to have a party, it will be for something more inspiring than moving from a 3 to a 4.
This year, however, 2014 seems to offer a clean break and a new opportunity for happiness.
Not that 2013 was a total waste of a year. I did have a fantastic reunion with my college friends over the summer, and of course there was the addition of McKenna, who has brought a lot of fun and energy into our little family.
On the other hand 2013 got off to a bad start. We weren’t even halfway through the first month when we got a phone call that Miss Chef’s mother was in the hospital. Miss Chef left for Alabama, and for the next three months, our lives were totally upended by the aftermath of her mother’s death. Our finances were hobbled, Miss Chef was away from home for long stretches of time, and we were both stressed about the ongoing difficulties of a complicated estate that, a year later, still remains unfinished.
And there were other, more insidious effects. I remember the first or second day after following Miss Chef to her hometown during that awful week, she and her brother and I stopped in at a fast-food restaurant to grab lunch. “It’s ok,” I told myself, thinking about what an unwise food choice we were making. “We can certainly make an exception in times like these.”
Alas, it was not an exception. After a week or two of “catching as catch can,” and two months of maintaining the household without Miss Chef, I found I’d slid quickly into bad habits. No gym. Comforting myself with salt, sugar and fat. Too many take-out meals, too few walks with Rosie, too much time at home by myself.
Miss Chef returned for Spring quarter in March, but after yet another round of administrative changes and layoffs at the school, it became apparent that my French classes would no longer be offered. At my day job, the new project I was invited to work on settled into a tedious, production-style data entry job that also separated me from the other people in my office. And constantly divided between our life and the ones she was managing in Alabama, Miss Chef fell into the same bad habits as I. We were no longer inspiring each other to do better, but validating our poor choices.
As the months passed and the heat of summer drove me indoors, my increasing girth and guilt, the loss of a job, the lack of social or outside activity, all contributed to a drop in my energy level and interest in life beyond the couch. Even my blogging became more of a responsibility and less of a fun hobby. I hoped that, as usual, the cool weather and clear skies of fall would help turn things around. But the unusually overcast, gloomy weather failed to draw me outdoors. I managed to prep the garden, but the weeks passed without much change.
Soon, I felt overwhelmed by circumstance. Our Thanksgiving plumbing debacle was the introduction to what turned out to be a lousy holiday season. I was worried about money, which wasn’t helped by my car needing another expensive repair. Miss Chef, facing her first Christmas without her mother, found herself uninspired for the usual round of decorating, shopping and wrapping. To finish things off in style, I was hit with a terrible cold that felled me on Christmas Eve and has yet to depart. As the world finally said farewell to the old year, I found myself at home on the couch while Miss Chef worked a catering gig--and I was just fine with that.
Ho ho ho, happy bleedin’ new year. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out, 2013.
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Back in the early days of last year, I asked Miss Chef how long she would be so focused on life in Alabama, as opposed to our life together. “At least a year,” she told me. It sounded fair; her family needed her and it was a difficult adjustment for them. Most of all, though, I was glad to have an end date, no matter if it was a bit distant.
So here we are, face-to-face with that end date. Truth be told, Miss Chef has already withdrawn a bit from her family’s day-to-day affairs, but it still feels like we are about to cross into a new era. When a year has passed after such a life-altering event, it’s time for things to change, right? Time to look forward, shrug the past off our shoulders, and decide that we can make a brighter future for ourselves.
It won’t be easy, and I won’t make promises even to myself (I really don’t want to head back to the crowded gym at this particular point in the year), but at the same time…this seems like a good time to drop the burdens of self-recrimination and guilt.
Sure, I’ve lost the tiny bit of fitness I had built up during my inconsistent workouts. But…it’s a new year. Yes, I’ve completely lost the habit of walking Rosie after work, but…it’s a new year. It may have been a long, long time since I did any regular volunteer work, but…it’s a new year.
No, it’s not the dawn of a new age for me, or a miraculous rebirth of sorts. It’s just a convenient opportunity to forgive myself and move on. It kind of reminds me of a Rosh Hoshanah tradition a Jewish friend once described to me, of writing one’s sins on paper that is burned, then tossing the ashes into flowing water to let them wash away. What a wonderful way to feel refreshed and ready to step into a new year without encumbrance.
So welcome, 2014. You look so fresh and clean. I hope I can be the same.