In one year — and out the other.

bigstock-new-year-sign-27449927Confetti and noisemakers are so yesterday. Seriously, my husband and I never did the expected New Year’s Eve frolic.  We were either too lazy to do the whole dress up/party down scene, or thought our own couch, movies and snacks more closely equalled ‘cozy’ over ‘crazy’. Either way, we did New Year’s Eve our way.

Truth be told, we were never wild revelers. More often than not, our Saturday date nights were either a quiet dinner out, alone or with friends, or Netflix with whatever nosh looked good at the moment.  We both had been there, done that and had no wild oats to sow. We didn’t need any more hoopla to be happy; being together was plenty good enough. As long as your loving sidekick is beside you, it’s all good, right?  When they’re not, even New Year’s Eve — is just another night.

The way I figure it, the New Year’s Eve ball doesn’t need my help to make its descent this year. No liquor store will miss the sale of my one glass of wine and the only noisemaker will be the sound of my snoring. (No lie, unfortunately) No worries about a gala outfit; my flannel lounge pants will do just fine. My snacks are obscenely healthy and I won’t need excuses to duck away for calls to my dad and kids at exactly midnight. No matter my choice for this end-of-year merrymaking, my husband will still be AOL — and it’s still a hard pill to swallow.  The empty space on the couch next to me or at my side making social chatter. His absence still makes it hard to be home – and hard to be out. Awkward.

For some strange reason last week, I thought about the wide eyed, sweet little New Year’s baby who, by the end of the year, morphs into the weathered, tired Father Time. As each year closes, that long bearded dude passes the torch back to the diapered newbie who takes tentative baby steps into the next 365. While I can’t imagine ever being as innocently full of hope about a brand new year as that little tyke, I’m not yet ready to be a cynical Father Time either. Yes, the grief of this past year really, really sucked, but it also held some beautiful moments, too. Friends who touched and supported me in ways I can never repay. Insights that I am grateful for and the courage to do things I never thought I would.

We are all on the precipice of a brand new year.  An empty calendar yawns open before us.  A widow in transit, I can’t even predict my next week, let alone the next 52. What I DO hope is that this coming year is a whole lot better than the last.  We’ve seen babies born, and loved ones die. We’ve experienced all the jubilant, terrible, happy, tragic things a year can and does bring. We’ve lived through an interminable election season that finally ended in a divided country. Yet, no matter where we are geographically or emotionally, we’ll all watch that brilliant ball drop at midnight as we say goodbye to this past year’s entire mess.

Still, I want to look to the unknown new year with hope, not dread; with the wonder that things can be better, brighter in a brand new year. And I want it for everyone I love and care about. I want it for my sister’s friend who discovered she has cancer for the third time, and two of my own friends who are being treated now. I want it for this country as it enters unknown territory with so many fears. I want it for every child who sits in a hospital without the rosy cheeks, excitement and twinkling eyes of my own gorgeous grandchildren. And for peoples across the globe who are terrorized and killed daily in their own lands, help for those who can’t make ends meet, for single moms, the disabled, and disenfranchised. Let’s get a ‘hell, yes’ for a new year that’s really ‘new’, really good and really whole.

Minutes will count down, time will click away as it has every last day of every year since the world began. And it will be rinse repeat each year long after we are gone. Years go on, life goes on and time teaches you how to live with the worst, as we try to make each day our best. Married, widowed, single, black, white, sick, well, gay, straight – time marches on for every one. All we can do is march with it in the best way we can, alone and together.

2016 is a wrap. While I will never again get to lip-lock my handsome husband on a New Year’s midnight or look forward to a year ahead with him, I can choose to live my best life for the time I have been given. None of us knows what the year ahead holds— and that might be a damn good thing. Bill Vaughn said that ‘An optimist stays up until midnight to see a new year in; a pessimist stays up to make sure the old one leaves’. That about sums it up.

We all know well, especially all who’ve lost someone precious, that the days in our lives are numbered. We just don’t have the cliff notes about what that number is. Ready or not, 2017 is incoming. The last chapters of our story may have really sucked. Just this morning, one of my oldest friends died suddenly and I haven’t begun to process the loss. We may have had way more tears than smiles; anxiety than peace. But we can’t escape it; the future is walking in the front door.  And as T.S. Eliot said “Last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.”

We each have a voice. And mine says ‘You got this!’

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