Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Charles Dickens Was Onto Something

September 8, 2010--The night before LO's Bris, and 3 years and 5 days before BB's birth
For much of my life, I've had a rather black and white view of the world. Events and moments were either good or bad, joyous or tragic, hopeful or hopeless. I grew up thinking that you were contractually obligated to enjoy yourself on your birthday, on gift-giving occasions, during summer breaks, and any time you found yourself in Paris.

On the other side of the coin, I felt like misery was also all-encompassing. There could be no laughter at funerals or dentists' offices. Bad news could not come with a side of wry amusement.

Of course, my views have evolved over the years. I've had shitty birthdays and I've whistled while cleaning up a backed up sewer. I know that life doesn't fit into neat little categories that can be tidily placed in the various filing cabinets of my mind.

And yet, I still tend to think of calendar years as being either all good or all bad. I often spend New Year's Eve each year thinking either "Good riddance!" or "Boy, will I miss you!"

But 2013 has been both the worst and the best of years.

My dear Dad died in April. It's still so big and so raw and so painful that I can hardly wrap my mind around it. Saying goodbye to 2013 means saying goodbye to the last year he will ever see. How can I live through the celebration at midnight knowing my father will never see another?

My sweet BB was born in September. His name is in honor of my father--an honor that I am unbelievably grateful to bestow, except that it means my father is gone. BB shares my father's ears, along with his name, and I know that Dad would delight in this child, as he did in LO and my niece. Like the Grinch, my (already overflowing) heart grew two sizes when I met my second son, and I am enjoying our return to babyhood. But I can't share this with my Dad.

I wrote a book this year. After spending three years building a strange hybrid writing career online, I was offered the opportunity to write a book on retirement. My dad was a financial planner, and had he been here during the writing process, I would have peppered him with daily questions about the often arcane issues surrounding retirement. In some ways, I feel like he would be even prouder of his shy daughter for finding other sources of information and figuring it out without him. But I wish he could have held a copy of my book and known that I have linked his old dream of writing with his expertise in financial management.

My 14-year-old self might see the times I have felt joyful during this year--my excitement for BB, my pride over my career, my closeness with J--as some sort of betrayal of my despair at losing Dad. How could I possibly feel happy now, this year, when 2013 was when I had to say goodbye to Dad long before either of us were ready?

But my 34-year-old self is coming to realize that 2013 was the best and worst of my life--just as every year has been the best and worst of times. That's life. 2014 will similarly have its ups and downs--although I hope the downs will not be quite so low.

It's my own folly to try to see experiences as fitting into simple good and bad categories. Life is not a kid's movie.

And, as it turns out, you can be miserable in Paris. The French have been perfecting that for centuries.

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