I’ve written, every now and then, about my New Year’s practice of trying to sum up the year that’s passed in just twelve words, one for each month. I’m not much of a diarist, other than in the ways I write my life here and on Ricochet, and as a rule I try not to place myself at the center of events, so sometimes it’s a bit hard to focus and come up with the right–or what may be the right–ones. Nevertheless, here’s my round-up for 2022:
Bathrooms, Odo, anniversaries, family, learning, reading, reflection, dedication, majesty, grief, remembrance, celebration.
It’s been a tough year. Sorrow in the midst of joy, and vice-versa. Over and over. Losing Levi, right before Christmas of 2021, and then finding Odo in February of this year. Finding myself more moved than I thought I’d be by the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and the very early family memories it provoked. Losing Xena right before Christmas of 2022, and yet having found Xuxa in October, and picked her up the day before my best friend of almost 50 years died, so that Odo would have a playmate of about his own age, and wouldn’t be bereft when Xena–in a time that I could see was fast-approaching, died herself. (That worked! See the video of my joyously filthy two dogs at the end of this post.)
Andrea’s death. Auntie Pat’s death. Mr. Right’s dear friend Jim’s death. All bunched up between the end of October and Christmas. One gut punch after another.
A few others–not quite so traumatic for me, but just as meaningful to families, friends, and loved ones.
December was particularly difficult. I lost both Auntie Pat and Xena, but I chose the word “celebration” to represent it because–the weekend of December 10–I hosted a Ricochet meetup on the farm, and it was one of the most enjoyable, and–for many reasons–salvific events of my life. (The post about it is here.)
I think that’s what we human beings do: we suffer, we cry, we grieve, and then we look for the good in life, and we struggle on.
We can give up. We can “rage against the dying of the light,” we can pretend that we are–somehow–living in Hell here on earth, we can lose ourselves in a vortex of fear and misery, sure that no-one else can possibly understand our despair, and wallowing in it forever.
Or we can summon a smile, stand up straight, face the world, clean our rooms, and keep on going.
I choose to keep on going.
In that vein, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts (there aren’t many) yesterday. It’s London Calling, hosted by James Delingpole, and with Toby Young. In the midst of relating both their families’ sometimes-hilarious 2022 Christmas disasters, James–something of a catastrophist himself–recollected Phillipians 4, and St. Paul’s injunction to think on good things, rather than dwelling on the disappointments and frustrations of life. I think he must have been thinking of this verse:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things–Philippians 4:8
And thus, for 2023, on a more secular level, I’ll be channeling the English comedienne Joyce Grenfell (I’ve mentioned her before) who, when contemplating her own death, wrote the following excellent little poem:
If I should die before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone,
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must, Parting is hell,
But Life goes on, So sing as well.
Happy 2023, everyone. I hope all your wishes come true.
And, should the worst happen on my own account, should life’s karmic balancing act suddenly and unexpectedly disfavor me in some way, I hope you’ll take the advice suggested above, and that you remember me with a song.
I’d like that.
While I’m still this side of the turf, though, there are few things that gladden my heart more than seeing the joy of others. Herewith, a sight that fills my heart with joy. Even when I contemplate the filth the two of them subsequently brought into the house. Totally worth it, just for this:
“But what a joy it was to see him sweat!”–Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canon Yeoman’s Prologue