“No matter how hard the past is, you can always begin again.”
“No matter how hard the past is, you can always begin again.”
“Celebrate endings – for they precede new beginnings.”
“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”
“To the old, long life and treasure; to the young, all health and pleasure.”
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
Edith Lovejoy Pierce
“You are never too old to reinvent yourself.”
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson
“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
Karen Kaiser Clark
“Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.”
“Every moment is a fresh beginning.”
“Life’s not about expecting, hoping and wishing, it’s about doing, being and becoming.”
“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
“Many years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to never make New Year’s resolutions. Hell, it’s been the only resolution I’ve ever kept!”
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
“The magic in new beginnings is truly the most powerful of them all.”
“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
“This year, be structured enough for success and achievement and flexible enough for creativity and fun.”
“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start.”
“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.”
“As long as I am breathing, in my eyes, I am just beginning.”
“Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”
“Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas.”
“New year – a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours.”
“Each year’s regrets are envelopes in which messages of hope are found for the new year.”
John R. Dallas, Jr.
“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”
“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written.”
“Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes next year and forever.”
“What the new year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year.”
“You will never win if you never begin.”
“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”
William E. Vaughn
“Strength shows not only in the ability to persist, but the ability to start over.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.”
“Every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all of our lives.”
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Neale Donald Walsch
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Image: ‘Seacrest Sunset’ by DecorumBY
We have so many reasons to be thankful for the times in which we live: air conditioning, television, cell phones, cars, and no creepy Victorian-era Christmas cards. It may be difficult to imagine, but our ancestors of the 19th and early 20th centuries either had a distorted idea of what the yuletide season is supposed to represent or they had too much alcohol and not enough sex.
Whatever was wrong with them, we can undoubtedly determine their bizarre mindsets from a glance at some of their holiday cards. I mean…what reasonable person would glean Christmas joy from images of dead birds and dancing frogs? Then again, look who’s talking!
I know I’m not alone in wishing this year a speedy demise. It certainly can’t end soon enough. On January 1, I personally felt I was at the precipice of a new beginning. I planned to finish and publish my second novel; a minor accomplishment that didn’t materialize last year. I also hoped to work towards upgrading my house. My father’s fetish for candles many years ago left soot marks throughout most every room. I also wanted to plant a couple of trees in the front yard. All sorts of good things loomed across the horizon! But, if you want to see the Great Creator’s sense of irony, announce your plans for the future.
At the end of January, my mother suffered a stroke; one bad enough to render her left side almost completely immobile. I had to admit her to a rehabilitation center and almost felt like I was abandoning her. She made good progress and started to regain movement on her left side, especially her arm. Then her Medicare benefits ran out, and the center had to discharge her. Basically they evicted her because she didn’t have enough money. So she returned home and went on hospice care. She passed away in June.
By then, however, the COVID-19 pandemic had hit, and the economy starting tanking. As my mother’s health deteriorated here at the house, I also fell ill and thought I’d contracted the C plague. Nasty visions of me lying in bed gasping for air, while my mother wilted in her own bed and hospice nurses tried getting into the house, burdened my days and nights. One morning local firefighters ambushed my front door with loud bangs. They’d been told a COVID victim might be trapped inside. A man stood on the porch with a heavy tool designed to breach everything from storm doors to bad attitudes.
After my mother died, I learned she had no beneficiary payouts from her two pension funds. Like so many Americans, I was unemployed and exhausting what funds I’d garnered from previous work. I couldn’t qualify for unemployment insurance, and no stimulus money was headed my way. I had to borrow money to pay basic utilities. Then I did receive money from an insurance policy I didn’t know existed. That became the brightest spot in my dismal life so far.
I’ve stabilized myself now, even as I remain jobless with minimal prospects. More importantly, I know I’m not alone in my feelings of despair and loneliness.
The U.S. is still mired in the depths of the most cantankerous presidential election in decades. The pandemic shows no signs of abating. And the economy remains brittle. Adding to the agony is that the Atlantic / Caribbean hurricane season just won’t quit. Even though it’s technically scheduled to cease on November 30, tell that to nature. Some fools tried that with the pandemic – ordering it to end by X date – and the scourge replied with a middle finger.
Such is 2020. Everything that could go wrong this year has gone wrong. We’ve reached the point, nevertheless, that any kind of mishap is answered with, ‘It’s 2020.’
The number 2020 is supposed to signify perfect vision. And, at this moment, we’ve seen how perfectly screwed up things can get. Thus, in the future, perhaps for generations to come, any crisis will be dubbed ‘A 2020’.
Had a bad day at work or school? Just tell people it was a 2020.
A rough trip through the airport? A 2020 escapade.
Burned food in the oven? You made a 2020.
How was it with your in-laws over? It was so 2020.
You get the message. Now, on to New Year’s!
On December 31, 1985, I gathered with one of my best friends, his then-girlfriend and her older sister at the girls’ house to ring in the New Year. In my 22 years of life at the time, I had never been so glad to see a single year fade away as 1985. Just about everything had gone wrong for me. I was placed on academic probation in college because of my dismal grades for the fall 1984 semester; then got suspended for the fall 1985 term because I still couldn’t get it right. That prevented me from becoming a full member of a fraternity I so desperately wanted to join. In April my parents and I had to put our German shepherd, Joshua, to sleep. That fall I had my first sexual experience, which proved embarrassing and depressing. In October I fell into a police trap and was arrested for drunk driving. (My blood alcohol level ultimately proved I wasn’t legally intoxicated.) By Christmas, I was an emotional and psychological wreck. I’d come as close to committing suicide as I ever had that year. But, as New Year’s rolled around, I’d settled down my troubled mind and realized my life could continue.
I realized 1985 was the worst single year of my brief existence and hoped I’d never see another one like it. For more than three decades that pretty much held true. For the longest time almost anything related to 1985 made me tremble with anxiety. Nineteen ninety-five turned out to be almost as bad; instilling a phobia in me about years ending in the number 5. Ironically, though, 2005 was a pretty good one for me, and last year was okay.
Then came 2016.
People all around me are waiting for this year to die, like a pack of hyenas loitering near a dying zebra. Aside from a raucous political campaign – with a finale that seems to have set back more than two centuries worth of progress – we’re wondering why this year has taken so many great public figures and left us with clowns like the Kardashians. I could care less. This year has also taken my father and my dog and is slowly taking my mother.
Over these last six months, I’ve experienced emotional pain unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I’ve never endured this kind of agony. It’s dropped me into an endless abyss of despair. Early in November, strange red spots began appearing all over my body. It brought with it chronic itching sensations. I wondered if small pox had been reintroduced into society and I was one of its unwitting earliest victims. The rashes and the itching would come and go, like million-dollar windfalls to an oil company executive.
It all shoved me back to the spring of 1985 and the odd little sores that sprung up on either side of my midsection. They were painful pustules of fluid that I tried to eliminate with calamine lotion, ice cubes and prayer. They finally vanished, and only afterwards did someone tell me what they were: shingles. I had to look up that one in a medical reference. For us cretins aged 40 and over, WebMD was a fool’s dream. But I knew that’s what I had, and its cause was just as apparent – personal stress. My poor academic performance, Joshua’s death, thinking my failure to join that stupid fraternity was a reflection of my failure as a human being – all of it had piled onto me.
In November of 1995 – about a week after my birthday – I woke up early one Saturday morning, stepped into the front room of my apartment and repeatedly banged my fists against the sliding glass door. I was aware of it, but I felt I was compelled to do it. As I lay back onto my bed, my hands already aching from pounding on the glass, I asked why I had done something so bizarre at that hour of the morning. Then, almost as quickly, I answered myself. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was experiencing serious financial problems at the time and I was having even more problems at work. My father had just experienced a major health scare. One of my best friends was sick with HIV and had been hospitalize with a severe case of bronchitis, and I’d just had a heated telephonic argument with another guy I thought was a close friend over…some stupid shit I can’t recall after all these years. So, after weeks of dealing with that soap-opera-esque drama, my mind cracked. Stress of any kind wreaks havoc on one’s mind and body. It’s several steps up from a bad day at the office. This is why U.S. presidents always look light-years older when they leave office.
So, as I smothered my body with cocoa butter lotion and anti-itch cream, I harkened back to 1985 and thought, ‘Goddamn! History repeats itself too conveniently.’ The death of another dog and more subconscious trauma. This time, though, events have been more critical than not being able to join a fucking fraternity or falling into a drunk driving trap.
But something else has changed. While my body reacted in such a volatile manner, my soul has been able to handle it better. I’m older and wiser now, and with that, comes the understanding that life is filled with such awful and unpredictable events. Yes, I’ve fallen into fits of depression. But I’m not suicidal. I don’t want to harm myself in any way. In fact, I want to heal and keep going. I didn’t kill myself in 1985 or in 1995 or in any other stressful period since then. I really just want to keep going.
I keep a list of story ideas; a Word document amidst my electronic collection of cerebral curiosities. When I peruse that list, I realize I may not be able to bring all of those ideas to life. But, if I didn’t try, why should I even bother with it? Why bother even with getting up every morning?
Something has kept me alive all these years. Something has kept me going. Earlier this month I noticed a cluster of irises had bloomed unexpectedly in the back yard. My father had planted them a while back. With Texas weather being so schizophrenic, warmer-than-usual temperatures must have confused the flowers, and they jutted their blossoms upward into the swirling air. I had to gather a few before temperatures cooled, which they did. They languished on the kitchen counter for the next couple of weeks, longer than usual. And I realized their presence is coyly symbolic. My father was telling me that, despite the heartache of this past year, life continues, and things will get better.
I still miss my father and my dog, but I care for my mother as best I can, even as her memory keeps her thoughts muddled from one day to the next. And I continue writing because that’s who I am and what I love to do. I can’t change what happened years ago, but it brought me to where I am now. I couldn’t alter the events of this past year. But it’ll all carry me into the following years.
Happy New Year’s 2017 to all of you, my followers, and to all of my fellow bloggers!
“The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.”
― Maya Angelou
Thank you to all my followers, visitors and fellow bloggers for another great year! It is up to us to keep the world moving.
To all who share the same passion for the written word as I do, just keep fighting and keep writing!
Image courtesy Anna Lenabem.
On December 31, 2010, I decided spontaneously to go out for New Year’s Eve. I had been laid off nearly three months earlier from an engineering company and wondered when things would improve. I visited my favorite bar just north of downtown Dallas and was glad to encounter a few friends and acquaintances. As I stood near the DJ booth, surveying the eclectic crowd, I suddenly recollected the very first New Year’s party my parents had decided to throw – 1973.
We had moved into our new house in suburban Dallas a year earlier. My parents had already made friends with several neighbors; their ebullient personalities attracting even the most staid of individuals. As the clock struck midnight, and we welcomed 1974, I pulled back the heavy drapes against the patio door to look for my then 7-month-old German shepherd, Joshua. His ears already beginning to triangulate, he glanced at me and jumped up. I went outside to pet him and wish him a happy New Year.
By the time I rang in 2011, Joshua had been dead for a quarter century, and my parents had long ceased their partying ways. Last night, I sat with some wine coolers and watched television. My parents and my dog, Wolfgang, all had retired for the night. I’m so glad to see 2013 go, happier than I was three years earlier. In fact, I haven’t been this thrilled to let go of a year since 1985 – the year we put Joshua to sleep; a year I’ve always considered the single worst of my entire life.
New Year’s is my favorite holiday. It’s not just the feverish atmosphere surrounding a fresh start. For me, it’s always been associated with the gathering of family and friends; people who occupy our lives and make it good. Besides, most everyone feels giddy on New Year’s Eve. Why not celebrate?
My parents threw a number of New Year’s parties. Ours was the fun house on the block. It was during those raucous indoor festivals when I learned how to spin records (on a turntable), mix drinks, and show people how good I could dance. I can still bump and grind with the best of them, but usually the lights have to be dim.
Two of our perennial guests were among my parents’ closest friends: a young couple who lived next door and were among the first people we befriended in the neighborhood. They were both exceptionally tall. They got me addicted to “National Geographic” by purchasing us a gift subscription in 1976. And, they offered my parents and me one of the best bits of advice anyone could hear: always hang around people who know more than you do.
At one particular late 1970s New Year’s gathering, a neighbor got so drunk we escorted him into my parents’ bedroom to lie down for a while. My dad took Polaroids of many of us – including the man’s wife – encircling him on the bed. It was a while before he returned to our house for another New Year’s party. When he did, his wife became so intoxicated she had to spend the night in my bedroom; her husband returned home (I think) alone. I slept on the living room couch.
Some other neighbors, a couple whose kids attended the same high school I did, were also frequent visitors. The man would often bring his guitar and sing along with his wife. And, they really could sing. As newlyweds in their native New México, they once entered an amateur singing contest, but lost out because the judges said they sounded too much like professionals. That didn’t matter to us so many years later, though, as they strummed out tunes from José Feliciano and even The Doors’ “Light My Fire.”
That was quite a different reaction from that of another neighbor, a housewife who lived up the street with her stony husband and three unruly children. At one New Year’s party, she imbibed in too many of the margaritas I’d whipped up and haphazardly commented that she liked to sing. Seeing a chance to humiliate a fat, drunk stay-at-home mom who sold decorative glassware on the side and considered herself a devout Christian, two other friends – a neighbor and a man my parents had known for several years – began escorting her around the house; telling certain individuals, ‘You gotta hear this!’ And, as the woman started to croon, sounding much like a Hereford cow going into labor, the two men merely stepped away. They’d return a minute later to set her upon another unsuspecting partier.
My favorite New Year’s gathering took place at my parents’ home in 1979. I was excited to bring in not just a new year, but a new decade. If you’re old enough to recall the fashions and hair styles of the 1970s, surely you can identify with my elation in sending that decade into the history books. It was a unique affair in that we invited both family and friends – and they all showed up! We didn’t think this house could hold that many people and not incite calls to the police. Even my grandmother was there – and, aside from midnight mass on Christmas Eve at her local Catholic church, she was almost never up past 9 P.M. Above the fireplace I hung a large piece of blue poster board with the term “The ‘80s” on it. I had spent days cutting up sheets of colored paper into tiny squares to make confetti. I stuffed it all into a large brown paper sack and hurtled the pieces into the air at the stroke of midnight. As we cleaned up later, my mother commented that “we’ll be picking up confetti for a year.” And, sure enough, exactly one year later – after another New Year’s blowout – I found a single piece of confetti buried beneath a couch.
Of course, we attended New Year’s parties at the homes of other friends and neighbors. Whether at my parents’ house or somewhere else, I always made it a point to have a good time – and not just because alcohol and food were plentiful, although that adds to the fervor. I just really enjoy New Year’s celebrations. Regardless, there’s something unique about ringing in a new year with the people closest to you.
On New Year’s Eve 1988, I was at the apartment of a friend, working on a stage play. Along with some other friends, her and I were trying to launch our own theatrical group and had scheduled a handful of gigs for the spring. It was almost half past midnight before we realized it was 1989. We hugged and clinked wine cooler bottles, then got back to work. I did make it a point, though, to call my parents from there and wish them a Happy New Year. I was surprised to find out they were already in bed. “I was just thinking about all the New Year’s parties we used to throw,” my dad told me, sounding rather sad.
A year later a friend and I decided to usher in the 1990s at Dick’s Last Resort in Dallas’ West End. For a $20 cover, we could have all the food we wanted and a variety of drink specials. But, my friend was coming down with a cold and, around 10 P.M., asked me to take him back to his apartment. So much for that $20! But, I decided to join another friend at a warehouse party just south of downtown. He was both surprised and glad to see me. Standing 6’7”, he was almost a whole foot taller and considered me his adopted little brother. His older brother had died of cancer shortly before Christmas 1978. Even though a fight broke out between two guys – one who showed up high on something – I had more fun than I probably would have at the other place.
I spent New Year’s Eve 1990 with a friend, Daniel, who I wrote about recently. He was sad because he’d just learned his former long-time boyfriend had died of AIDS a month earlier. As we sat listening to a jazz version of “Auld Lang Syne” on a local radio station, his two Lhasa Apsos resting near the fireplace, we heard what we thought were firecrackers. When I looked out the patio door of his second-story apartment, I realized the popping sounds were coming from a burning car on the opposite side of the highway. “I hope they weren’t on their way to a New Year’s party,” I said.
I peruse the bevy of old photos from our various New Year’s gatherings and wonder about some of the people in them. The tall couple eventually sold their house and moved to El Paso, Texas before I graduated from high school. They promised to stay in touch, which they did – for a little while. But, we haven’t seen or heard from them in over two decades. The drunken neighbor moved away a few years ago – not long after his wife succumbed to cancer. The guitar-playing couple died within two months of each other in the summer of 2010. The would-be songstress and her husband also vacated the neighborhood long ago. Strangely, I ran into their daughter in the summer of 1985 at the country club where we both worked. My friend Daniel died in 1993, and I eventually lost touch with those other three friends.
My grandmother passed away in 2001, and most of my cousins have married and had kids of their own. We’ve all gone on to lead our own lives, but I’ve managed to stay in touch with a few. It’s still fun, though, as I recollect the good times and gaze at the scores of glossy photos that captured those moments. Yes, that’s happening with greater frequency as I get older. But, life isn’t worth the trouble if you can’t have fun with family and friends and then, remember it all.
Thank you all for visiting my blog this past year! And, thanks for the many great contributions from my fellow bloggers, writers, photographers and various medley of other disturbed minds.
As the old Spanish saying goes…
“Salud, amor, dinero y el tiempo para gastarlos.”
“Health, love, money and the time to spend it all.”
Here’s to an incredible 2014!