I can’t help it. I can’t help but write a 2011 Retrospective. Maybe it’s because my daughter moved out this year or maybe because we survived two hurricanes and a Verizon strike. It might be related to my imminent unemployment, or perimenopausal syndrome. Maybe it’s just proof that I’m a nostalgia addict having a midlife crisis. Whatever the reason, I seem to be stuck in that Year In Review mode and not much besides writing it up will get me unstuck.
I don’t need to remind anyone in the Catskills of the grand events of 2011. Driving around the evidence still lies strewn alongside stream banks, or in the “bridge out, road closed” signs. Irene and Lee buffed disaster to a high shine, and the communities responded with an outpouring of aid that was as chaotic and overwhelming at times as the disaster itself. Disaster and repair – seems like a natural cycle here in the country. It snows, we plow and shovel. The trees fall, we cut ‘em up. Power is out, power is restored. We roll with it as best we can. This was different by several orders of magnitude, but that rhythm of disaster and repair has started to feel more than just natural. Eternal even.
The passage of a year makes me shake my head in wonder. Last Christmas we had just sent RedCloud (ol’ Skeletor, our foster dog-son) off to his forever home, and life had gotten “back to normal” with Iske and Lily. Cinder arrived months later, adopted without ever meeting her, trusting the rescue organization and the universe that this would work out. Today she practiced her SAR work with Tom and me, as if this was what she was born to do. I can’t believe I ever lived without her.
In truth, I look back in order to look forward. I look for clues, for confirmation. I have no idea what the universe will bring over the next twelve months, and I struggle with the idea that I’d like to be prepared. I believe the seeds of what’s to come are present in what is, if only we look carefully. I’m looking back over 2011, clueless and hopeful that whatever I find will, like a compass, point relentlessly towards “good.”
Many things I’ve done in my life, from my marriage (2007) to my trip to India (1987), and many things in between, have been a tad willy-nilly. No plan, no real knowledge of what comes next – for the 15 weeks I lived in India my main guiding purpose was to not get killed or fall off the edge of the earth somehow, and then to eventually decide to do something like either go home or go somewhere else. I rarely planned for more than a day or two at a time, staying in a city until I’d had enough of it, deciding where to go next based on café chatter and a Lonely Planet guidebook. I’ve lived much of my life with the same looseness, the same “ok for now” attitude. I’ve been incredibly lucky: buying a house, selling a house, getting married, getting divorced, raising a daughter, letting a daughter go… none of these tasks were not taken lightly, but as much as I’ve tried to steer and control, I’ve always had to come back to accepting that life really is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.
I’ve been abandoning and returning to this post for a week now. I won’t give up and hit “delete” and yet I can’t quite capture what I want to say. There’s gratitude, fear, hope, relief, and eagerness, all balled up inside me. I want to organize it and lay it out neatly, sort through at all. I want to dance the Snoopy-dance of joy at finally facing the possibility of having time. And there’s the guilt/shame at having this opportunity, knowing that for the first time in decades, I am letting someone help me. Maybe that’s the elephant in the living room – the hugeness of allowing myself to be supported by my partner, and all the feelings about what that means. The pure unadulterated joy at finally having time to do all that needs to be done (hello, mildew on the bathroom ceiling. I’ve been watching you for some time now.) sleeps uneasily next to fears of his potential resentment or my guilt. I try hard not to seem too happy about being laid off, but I am euphoric, truth be told.
I will savor every moment. I have no idea how long it will last.