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.