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New Year

Tonight is Jewish New Year’s Eve.  The last day of 5774.  It feels ridiculously futuristic when you write the date like that.  It feels ridiculously ancient when you consider the world by the Hebrew calendar.

Despite my overwhelming Western-minded dependance on clocks (in Judaism, our days aren’t 24 hours.  They’re sundown to sundown.  One day may be longer or shorter than the next.  Isn’t that an odd thought, to the Western world?  To not have a specific time set for an activity, but instead to be waiting to see three stars or divide up the length of that day’s sunlight to find the proportional hour) my brain tends to lean more towards the Hebrew calendar than the Gregorian calendar.  Starting the new year in the fall makes sense.  School starts in the fall.  Activities start up in the fall.

There is this thing we do at the end of the year where we look back and rate our year.  I mean “we” as in most people.  (Though you Christian people tend to do it in the winter.  Or on your birthday.)  “This was a terrible year” or “this was the best year.”

I was thinking about what a dumb-ass thing this is to do.  There’s a lot that goes on inside a year, and 600 billion things that don’t go on within a year that need to be counted too.  It’s not just that I published a book this year or lost my aunt.  I also didn’t contract ebola or win the lottery. (Not that I played.  I guess you really do need to be in it to win it.)  And yet, we rate our year anyway.  We mark our year as good or bad, despite the fact that most of the time, it just is.  That even amongst the terrible events, wonderful things happen.  And even when we’re at our happiest, shitty things happen all around us.

I’m going to be honest: 5774 sucked by my life’s standards.  Someone else may look at my 5774 and say that it looks pretty damn sweet from the outside, but living it has been like a scene out of Candide, where crappy things happen and then I try to convince myself that it’s fine by pointing out how it technically could be worse.  I’ll remember this year as a time of job loss and death and a never-ending cold that seems to pop up again two days after I get rid of it.  It is all little stuff in comparison to the otherwise.  It is all big stuff when I’m in the middle of it.

Josh and I often go to bed, reassuring ourselves with an “at least.”  We set a pretty low bar.  “At least blood didn’t spurt out of our eyes today,” I’ll say.  And he’ll agree.  “We have that going for us.”

Last week, the Wolvog struck out at a baseball scrimmage, and when he was coming off the field, he threw his bat in frustration.  Later in the practice, he had a gorgeous catch that resulted in an out, and a great hit that scored an RBI.  Though he avoided me after the strike out, he trotted over to me after that inning, beaming.  We had a talk about how it’s easy to be in a good mood when things are going your way, but it’s practically a magic trick to still keep your inner calm when things are in turmoil.  To not take your bad mood out on the people around you.

It’s so easy to say that to your kid.

It’s so hard to live it as an adult.

We’ve gotten through harder things.  We’ve gotten through harder deaths with fewer coping mechanisms.  We’ve gotten through failed cycle after failed cycle, loss after loss.

One time when I miscarried, I threw my glasses across the room when I saw the blood.  It was this instinctive action, my muscle’s own volition.  A disbelief over what I was seeing.  And then I had to feel my way towards my glasses because I couldn’t see them on the floor.  I was scared that I was going to step on them, so I slid my feet forward without lifting them until my fingers touched the frames.

Sometimes, when things are shitty, I remind myself that once upon a time, there was a moment that I was certain I would not live through.  That there was a time when I stood in a bathroom and I cried like an animal after I threw my glasses in surprise.  And look, I’m still here.  The sun has continued to set and continued to set and continued to set, carrying me to 5774.  And now to 5775.  It’s an easy memory to use as a touchstone.  I always have my glasses with me.  I can always touch my face and feel them.

I sleep and wake by the maybes.  Maybe this day will be better.  Maybe this week will be fantastic.  Maybe something I didn’t expect will happen this year.  I mean, there’s always a chance.

Happy new year.

23 comments

1 SuzannaCatherine { 09.24.14 at 8:43 am }

Wishing you a very good year to come.
5775, now that’s a big number!
I love the symmetry of it.
I love the thought of the new year beginning in the Fall. I’ve always thought Christmas and New Years were too close together to really enjoy either one. I think the Jewish way makes more sense.
Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

2 jodifur { 09.24.14 at 9:04 am }

Oh Melissa, you know I believe things are going to get better. I’m so, so sorry for what you are going through.

L’Shana Tova.

3 Katherine A { 09.24.14 at 9:04 am }

Happy New Year to you and wishing you and your family a wonderful year in 5775.

You’re right about counting up everything and trying to determine whether or not it was a good or bad year. I’ve definitely had a few where the good clearly outweighed the bad, as well as a few where the bad clearly outweighed the good, but most years are sort of…middling. A mixture of bad and good so complex that really sorting out all the intertwined strands is virtually impossible.

I usually make most of my resolutions in the fall – at first because it’s when school restarted for me, later just because it works. Somehow, as you point out, it just feels like the right time. I’ve always hated it in January, when the days are dark, cold, the holidays are winding down and a long stretch of winter still remains, and I’ve also eaten far too much junk food over Christmas to feel good about myself.
And…can completely relate to what you say about the difficulty of keeping the inner self calm in the midst of turmoil and having touchstones to remind yourself what you’ve survived. It just resonates with me really powerfully today.

4 Peg { 09.24.14 at 10:15 am }

Happy New Year. I count on my maybes every single day. Whenever I say ” I have no idea how we are going to get through this” somehow we do and life keeps moving forward despite my desperate plea for it to stop and somehow re-wind back 5 years. Wishing you a great 5775.

5 earthandink { 09.24.14 at 10:57 am }

I’m pagan and we, too, do things via the paths of stars, the movements of planets, and the up and down of the sun and moon.
Although often, most days, actually, I’m swept in to the modern day way of doing things.

The past almost two years have been awful for me… still in the end of it to tell you the truth, of really, truly hard. And I can see it loosening up as well, and the idea that it’s en route to better.

I am positive better is en route and I want this for you as well. The wonderful thing about the new year is that it is a new start emotionally. We can put an exclamation mark on the year before, brush our hands off, and pronounce it done!

5775 has a lovely symmetry. L’Shana Tova.

6 Sharon { 09.24.14 at 12:12 pm }

Happy New Year to you! I think these things tend to be cyclical, so if the past year was a challenging one, the coming year is likely to be kinder to you. 🙂

7 a { 09.24.14 at 12:25 pm }

Happy New Year! I hope the next year is better for you. I hope the amazing, wonderful maybes all come to pass.

I don’t do a whole lot of reflecting – good and bad things are markers by which I remember years. I remember 1991, because my dad died. I remember 1995 because my nephew was born and I started my current job…but I don’t remember it as the year my grandmother died. I don’t remember much about 1999 at all. My husband likes to reflect – it just irritates me. Good things happened, bad things happened. The preponderance will be what’s remembered, but life goes on regardless.

8 Rachel { 09.24.14 at 12:43 pm }

This was EXACTLY what I needed today. Thank you. Shanah tova and much love.

9 JustHeather { 09.24.14 at 1:59 pm }

I too love the symmetry of 5775. Happy New Year to a better year to come.

10 Ana { 09.24.14 at 2:05 pm }

Yes, its hard enough to define a DAY as inherently “good” or “bad”, much less a whole YEAR. I guess its those major moments that jump out at you, that are seared in your memory, that determine whether the year will go down in history as a winner or a loser or neither of the above. Happy New Year to you, I hope (actually, I more than hope, I BELIEVE) better things are ahead.

11 Meagan { 09.24.14 at 2:32 pm }

I hope that this year carries good things for you. Reflecting is hard and to be honest, it’s easy to remember the bad stuff. They are forever etched in our memories, marking us, scarring us, and reminding us. I hope that this year marks you with good things.

12 Persnickety { 09.24.14 at 4:59 pm }

The new year used to start in spring (March/spring solstice). Which is another time of beginning. And in Japan, the new year stuff is in winter, but the financial year and school year and new job cycle all start in April. I like the idea of a new start with the new and growing things.
Timekeeping in its current fixed state is such a new thing- while there have been clocks for millennia, standard time is the result of trains. Before train time time lets, noon was when your town had midday sun. So sunrise to sundown makes sense.

13 Queenie { 09.24.14 at 9:43 pm }

Thinking of you. It’s so funny, because I read you almost every day, and I never would have guessed that this was a tough year for you. But we never really know the struggles of another person, do we? Not even our favorite bloggers. Best wishes for a wonderful upcoming day, month, year.

14 Jamie { 09.24.14 at 11:39 pm }

I liked this post. The part that spoke the most to me was, “It is all little stuff in comparison to the otherwise. It is all big stuff when I’m in the middle of it.” Hope this year brings you more joy.

15 Tiara { 09.25.14 at 5:19 am }

I’m sorry this year was a hard one. I hope this coming year is better…or at the very least, not as bad. Happy new year

16 A. { 09.25.14 at 7:50 am }

I guess I try to think less in terms of good or bad but make it a time for retrospective reflection and fresh starts. Happy New Year!

17 Bronwyn { 09.25.14 at 9:05 am }

Happy new year! May it be better than the last.

I do like the idea of taking stock of a year, but on the other hand summing it up in one word seems oversimplified. Maybe you dodged these bullets but got hit over the head by such and such when you weren’t looking. Maybe you could do this better but congratulate yourself on that.

Anyway, onward and upward.

18 gradualchanges { 09.25.14 at 11:38 am }

Happy New Year to you and your family Mel! I hope this time next year you’re posting about what a wonderful year it has been for you and yours.

19 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.25.14 at 5:19 pm }

“At least blood didn’t spurt out of our eyes today.”

You should know that the laughter this evoked made me feel better!

I hope 5775 brings you a string of gorgeous catches and great hits. <3 <3 <3

20 knottedfingers { 09.25.14 at 9:35 pm }

I hope your 5775 started off good today and there was still no blood spurting out of your eyes.

I’m about to give a cat a bath….. so I may be in shreds tomorrow

21 Mali { 09.25.14 at 11:53 pm }

Happy New Year Mel. (The calendar would never work down here – we’re sliding towards the end of the year here. Roll on summer!)

22 Turia { 09.26.14 at 3:16 pm }

I’m so sorry this was a hard year. I hope 5775 will be a great one for you and your family.

23 Mina { 09.27.14 at 2:13 pm }

Happy New Year, Mel!
May 5775 and the years that come be so much better than any so far, but by no means worse.

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