Surely I can’t be the only one feeling a little melancholy at the start of a new year?
Rationally seen, I’m actually on a good trajectory. Last year was a doozie for me, with the onset of a mysterious ailment on Inauguration Day that continues to disrupt my life. I still don’t have a name for it – which is mostly good news, because I didn’t much hanker to call it MS or vasculitis or lupus – and I still feel lousy most of the time. I’m slowly getting better with more energy from month to month. I’m grateful that my cognitive capacities seem to have recovered, apart from minor trouble recalling names. My hope for 2010 is to get the upper hand over the remaining pain, tingling, and fatigue.
But the start of the new year always brings retrospection as well as hope, and I guess it’s inevitable that we grieve what we’ve lost.
For me, New Year’s Day is also the anniversary of the death of my dear cousin Jacquie, whom I lost to an especially aggressive form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She’s now a decade gone. If you’ve ever listened to Diane Rehm’s radio program and admired her gift for listening to her interviewees, then you’ve had a taste of Jacquie’s great gift, too, though she never made a career of it. She knew how to make people feel that whatever they were doing and thinking was just fascinating. I don’t believe it was ever fake, either. This deep, pervasive fascination was how she embraced the whole world. In midlife, she returned to college and completed a bachelors and master’s in anthropology. She was the one person in my family who understood the love of academia, and so she was my only relative who fully understood that part of me. A generation older than me, she was like a sister to my dad, and he still breaks into tears if he starts thinking too much about his loss. He’s not the only one.
And then, in a different register but still important to me, the anniversary of Grey Kitty’s death overshadows the next couple of days. She, too, died of lymphoma, to the best of our knowledge. She left us on January 3, 2001. I wrote about her last year on that anniversary, so I’ll stop before I get even more maudlin.
The days are short. The skies are dark. Holiday lights and baubles are going back into storage. The next ten weeks will bring the chaos of snow days and power outages, sick children and struggling parents. The North Dakotan in me says that I should be grateful to live in southeast Ohio. The Californian in me asks, WTF was I ever thinking when I left???!
The economy is still a shambles. Health care reform is about to shipwreck on the shoals of a mandate with weak cost controls. We’re still involved in Iraq and miring ourselves ever deeper in Afghanistan.
So let me tally up the good: George Bush and Dick Cheney are no longer our lords and masters. My kids are healthy, bright, and basically kind-hearted – well, to everyone but each other. None of my loved ones with a cancer history have had a recurrence. My niece’s serious arm fracture seems to be healing well, so far. Life is peachy with my dear mate; we’ve been watching the final season of Monk and remembering why we like each other. My teaching load should be slightly lower this quarter than last, giving me time for nature’s greatest tonic: sleep. I still have a job (at least until May) and my husband’s job is secure. My family loves me, and I love them. I have a community of friends who sustained me during the darkest days of last winter. We’ll do it again.
Here’s wishing you blessings, joys, and good health in 2010. Feel free to commiserate or celebrate – or both! – in comments.