“There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying.
When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.”
—Pink Floyd, lyrics, “Comfortably Numb”
We approach the threshold. The new advances; the old recedes. This year, 2007, only days away from being ushered out the door. Like the classic sketch, the long-bearded old man, frail and stooped and leaning on a walking stick, tottering with exhausted steps toward the exit. My reaction: good-bye and good riddance. I welcome and cele- brate the little infant baby that is 2008.
It’s been a pretty crappy year. That’s stating it mildly. The Chinese Year of the Pig. And I’m glad it’s over. While the events that unfolded throughout the year may not yet have reached their apex, at least the year has reached its end. It is written that our days are as grass; our lives bloom and blossom, then wither and fade like flowers bereft of the sun. I have never been one to wish for time to accelerate, to wish the days to pass faster than they naturally do anyway. But this year was different. I am so very, very ready for it to be gone, to take its slot in the annals of dark history. May there never be another like it.
It’s actually been a tough, brutal, turbulent year. From beginning to end, and every day between. A year of loss, of heartbreak, of letting go, of pulling up strength where there was little or none. Of absorbing blow after bitter blow, the world I knew crashing down around me in dust and ashes. Of getting up and facing each day, of inching, moving forward because that was the only choice; there was nowhere else to go. Of plucking and eating the bitter fruit born of a poisonous seed.
I learned a lot. About the depths of depravity in the human heart. About how life works. Really works, I mean. One can read volumes of all the platitudes ever pub- lished and still have absolutely no grasp at all of how things really are, or can be when the going gets tough. When things happen, when events take on an orbit of their own, when one’s existence spirals out of control.
I used to have a lot of answers, about a lot of things. I don’t anymore. I’m deeply suspicious of anyone who does or claims to have.
A life can get reduced to shambles pretty quickly. Any life. Anywhere. Any time. It doesn’t matter if you are a pillar of the community, or some druggy lurking out on the fringes, or somewhere in between, which is where most of us are. It doesn’t matter if you are a multi-millionaire or a pauper, or somewhere in between, which is where most of us are. Once events are triggered and released, the boom gets lowered, and there ain’t no stopping it. It smashes everything in its path. And everyone in its path. It’s all the same. For everything and everyone.
It gets messy. Despite all the Christian teachings, all the ultimate truths ever pro- claimed from all the pulpits in the country. Or in all the Sunday School classes. Just so much chatter, really. The harsh reality stands in stark contrast to the sweet, syrupy, sugary goo that pervades so much of what we hear in church. The real truth I will tell you: sometimes things don’t work out, and not everyone lives together happily ever after. Sometimes hard things are done, hard choices are made. One does what one must to survive, and lives with the consequences.
That’s the way the cookie crumples. And pop! goes the weasel. And all that.
Portions of this past year remain hazy in my mind. Probably a choice on my part, a protective reaction. And while I don’t want to rehash the things already stated before on this site, there were times I felt stranded in the middle of a vast, barren wasteland. Hopeless, hearing the voices of those around me, but ultimately alone.
Time crawled. Minutes seemed like hours, hours like days, days like weeks, weeks like months, and months like years. The year a decade. And now it ends.
I learned a lot. About my friends. About who they were, and who they are. The ones who stood with me in the trenches on the darkest days, silent perhaps, but solidly there nonetheless. Which ones had integrity. And which one was utterly devoid of even the slightest shred. And remains devoid. And integrity lost is not easily regained.
Like Paradise lost. That which was, now dimly seen only in fleeting glimpses. The result of choices. Ripple effects. Consequences. Abandonment. Desolation. Hard, bitter real- izations. Hard, bitter, brutal facts. A new reality. The years will not dim the lessons learned. Or diminish the bleak but abundant harvest the future will impose.
Tomorrow is a new day. And as I face the New Year, I have become comfortably numb. I’m not sure if it’s from general weariness or from actually having worked through some things. Probably a little of both. Time will tell. Time always tells.
I do look forward to 2008. A fresh slate. For good things. At least some of the time.
I will, I suppose, spend some time absorbing and adapting to the new realities un- leashed this year. Opening and examining the foggy realms that my subconscious mind has suppressed. Including the rage, which has seeped into every pore of my soul and will do some real damage if not faced and dealt with. I have heard all the advice, all the yada, yada, yada, all the formulas. I know what needs to be done. For my own sanity. But knowing and doing are two very different things, almost like two opposing forces.
I am comfortable in my job. I like my work. And the people I work with. The New Year will bring some major projects, beyond the size and scope of anything we have ever done before. So we are optimistic that 2008 will be a good year. The company will continue to do what it does best.
For me, the first practical order of business will be to lose the five-plus pounds gained over the holidays. Too much good, rich food, and too many legitimate excuses to indulge. No more. Back to the salads. Back to the gym, the jump rope and the tread-mill for extended workouts.
Sometime in 2008, I want to travel with Big Blue, just me and my truck and the road. Visit family scattered from Kentucky to Kansas and points between. Take some time, a few weeks at least, meander my way through some back roads, travel some uncrowd- ed highways. Stop where I want, when I feel like it. Converse with inhabitants of road- side dives. Talk with grizzled old men. Listen to their tales, glean their wisdom. Sift through their stories of fantastic imagination. Blog from the road.
Sometime, perhaps in the next year, I will need to decide the next step, where to go with my writing. Until now, I have been blogging with hastily-crafted little blurbs. What you read each week is the result of six to eight hours of writing and intensive rewriting. Sometimes more. At some point, I will have to decide whether to strive for the next level and what that level is. As I see it, little that I have posted is of publishable quality, although some of it might be with a bit of polishing, a few more rewritings.
I figure with about two years of uninterrupted labor, I could produce the foundation of the core essence that clamors to be told. For now, I plan to keep blogging weekly; the discipline of doing that is clearly what I need at this time. But at some point, that stage will pass. And I will either stop or move forward. I’m actually pretty fatalistic about it. Either my story will get written in time, over time. Or it won’t. In the big scheme of things, what’s one more voice? Or one less?
One generation passes; the next moves in to take its place. On Christmas night, my father’s older sister, Anna (Mrs. Peter) Stoll, passed away peacefully in her sleep in her home in Aylmer, Ontario. She was ninety-six years old and simply worn out. The funeral was this morning, Friday, Dec. 28th. My parents made the long journey from Iowa to attend.
While I was tempted to go, I decided not to. Just too much baggage in my life right now. Although I’m sure my cousins (Anna’s children) would have been kind and gracious, there nevertheless would have been a large white elephant looming in every room I entered. And who wants to deal with that at a funeral? So for their sakes and for my own, I thought it best to stay away. Choices. Ripple effects. Consequences. In life, and at the end of life.
And now, in this last post of the year, I wish you, my readers, a great New Year. I consider the vast majority of you my friends. Some of you are not. And that’s OK. But I thank all of you for taking the time (whether regularly or sporadically) to read my blog. I appreciate that more than I can express in words.
I anticipate good things. I wish them for each of you as well. Through one more season of summer, winter, frost and heat. May your face be warmed by gentle sun- light; may the winds more often than not be at your back. May the rains that fall in your life be refreshing, and bring new growth.
May the tears of you who weep be wiped away. May healing come to the wounded and joy return to those who mourn. May they who walk in darkness emerge again into the light they have abandoned.
As the year unfolds, join me in greeting each new day with wonder and appreciation. Be thankful. To God. In all things. And treasure life for the rare and precious gift it is. It’s not always beautiful. Or clean. Or easy. But it’s always worth living. Always.
HAPPY NEW YEAR.
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