Like hosing down a Bourbon St. sidewalk the morning after Mardi Gras, I’m ready to wash away 2016’s leftover stinky mess and move into a new year. Not that I have a real choice, it’s going to happen no matter what, but it’s nice to have that proactive feeling of accomplishment simply by sitting on my butt watching the clock hit midnight.
It’s not been my favorite year. Through 2016 I felt a bit like I was the lead in an old fashioned zany slapstick movie where in-between being repeatedly knocked in my noggin I dealt with wave after wave of stressful adversity. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of nice moments during the year too, but I kind of had to use my New Yorker eyes to see the good. You know what I mean; that ability of city dwellers to stop and appreciate the beauty of something like a beautiful blooming flower while completely ignoring the filthy dog poop covered garbage strewed dirt patch in the cracked sidewalk it is growing out of.
But I’m not blaming 2016 for all my woes, the actual physical year did not do anything except count away it’s days, weeks and months. And actually, it did it mercifully fast although that could just be my age. I’ve hit that point where time really flies by. I mean literally zips by; blink and its springtime, blink again and its winter. Seasons pass as fast as a weekend vacation in Vegas. I’m knee deep in my 50’s and trying to remember what the hell happened to my 30s and 40s? Blip, gone, vapor, disappeared. Maybe it’s actually a Sci-Fi movie I’m in and I have been sucked into some kind of time warp and somehow skipped a decade or something.
Although New Year’s Day is kind of an arbitrary holiday that exists where it does because centuries ago we adopted the Gregorian calendar (chants, calendars and compulsory clergy celibacy… gee that Pope Gregory’s era sounds even worse than my 2016), people find it hard to resist using January 1st as a beginning or ending date for other things as well. The hanging of a new calendar seems to mentally give us a clean slate and feels like a natural starting point. Hoping for a positive life change seems less believable beginning on say August 23rd or October 8th versus Day One of a crisp clean new year.
I’ve learned unfortunately that growth is hard and old habits don’t die easy; my ever shrinking and expanding gut is proof of that. But I’m not typically a fan of making New Year’s resolutions, they have the same hokey fake-e-ness as superstitions. It’s almost like by making the mass proclamation of change at such a trite time almost assures its eventual failure. Back when I went to the gym five days a week, I hated January because suddenly the place would fill up with ‘resolutioners’ and I’d suddenly have to wait to use the equipment. Luckily by February the lines would always be gone as most of the newcomers had slipped back into the previous year’s bad habits again.
Even without resolutions, the end of the year usually offers me some sort of closure and optimism. But 2016 messed with head and I worry it’s dragging 2017 down before it even gets started. That movie that I think I’m trapped in might not be an old timey black and white slapstick comedy or future fantasy but actually a blood-red technicolor horror flick. Only it’s not a monster or deranged demented moral-less psychopath chasing me from scene to scene. It’s something far scarier that I can’t hide from or avoid by simply not opening the dreaded, poorly lit door. The grizzled horrific beast chasing me is Old Age
Not so rosy mental and physical examples of the ravages of growing old and its eventual conclusion with death seem to have surrounded me this year. Whereas I previously have been almost fascinated by the changes in my world and body that each new year brings, I now find myself fearing what is next. I’m afraid of the inevitable physical breakdown of my body and brain. And if those do manage to hold out I dread the feelings of uselessness and loneliness advanced age can bring.
As I sat eating lunch the other day I saw two elderly men walk by the front of the restaurant together. You could tell by their contorted expressions that the winter wind was blowing right through them despite the heavy overcoats over their nicely clean but definitely dated slightly miss-matched suits. One used a walker and he was the faster of the two. Where were they going, I wondered?
I recalled, as a kid, seeing the old men that would slowly walk to the benches at the edge of the park and just sit. Just sit for hours. Sometimes alone, sometimes with others metaphorically watching the universe pass them by as their personal world grinded to a halt. Little boy Dan saw them for what they were at that exact age but as grown man I imagine their entire life and backstory leading up to the current moment. I wonder what highs and lows of a lifetime has led them to where they are. I wonder what pains and sorrows and difficulties they have had to deal with simply by outliving others. I wonder if they are happy. I wonder if there is anyone left that cares about the story of their life and every experience that shaped them and made them who they are; everything that has led up to that exact moment on that exact bench. And most of all, I wonder if that will one day be me on that bench. And I fear that no one will care.
You see, I know I am not really in any movie. This is my real life and it’s the only one I have. There are no take backs or redos. I can’t re-shoot what didn’t work out right, fix it in the edit or cut out the bad stuff. So maybe I do need to make a resolution. And maybe I do need to stick to it.
I can’t control the world around me. I can’t control if 2017 will offer less adversity than 2016. But I can control some things. I need to make every day the best it can be. I need to appreciate all that I have and all the I have done and all the have seen without worrying so much about what I don’t have and have not done. I need to treasure my family and friends and tell them how important they are to me. And I need to be a better me so I am healthy enough in mind and body to be around for a long time. I’m not sure if those are resolutions or not? But I do know it is foolish to live afraid. So please join me and as we celebrate the arrival of 2017 and have a Happy No Fear.