Around mid-December it starts and then it just goes nonstop for what feels like eons.
The year-end wrap-up. It’s everywhere. It’s unavoidable. It’s in newspapers, magazines, television, websites. It’s even on Facebook. And of course there are the holiday cards, each one with a family smiling so hard as if this picture is the only way they can prove that they’re happy.
This can be fun or annoying or eye-roll-worthy in a regular year. But when you’ve had a bad year, all of these year-end recaps do not help anything.
Gee, thanks for telling me what a great year Taylor Swift had. I’m sure Taylor will be excited to know just how sucky mine was.
There is not much room this time of year for stuff that sucks even though there are many people out there who will be more than happy to see this year end.
After a few straight sucky years, you don’t bother with writing your family letter, you don’t bother to dress up your awful and try to smile through it, and you don’t dare to hope that the next year will be better. You know it will be eventually, but it’s entirely possible that next year won’t be the one.
For me, the key to dealing with this and not getting too swept up in the suck is to be honest. No happy recaps that recount every good thing that happened as if that will make the bad stuff go away. But on the other hand, a list of every single awful thing won’t do much, either.
Our tendency to sugar-coat life at this time of year isn’t best fought by going the opposite direction. Instead it’s just about saying things just as they are.
This year sucked. But even though it sucked as a whole, it was filled with things that were delightful. There was plenty of terrible, a good amount of mediocre, a sizable portion of okay, and some really lovely sprinkled in. And that is the full truth of it and that makes it easier to bear.
I got a job that I enjoy. I got dumped. I put on Listen to Your Mother Boston with a wonderful team. Tessa got an Autism diagnosis. My divorce was finalized. I didn’t have the money or the time off to visit my family. I didn’t meet most of my writing goals. I did start to make some money from freelance writing. I settled into joint custody single parenting. I didn’t spiral into debt. I worked too much and struggled financially. I got my maiden name back. I did a great job taking pictures of my kids. I needed more than I got, and I took from others more than I helped them.
I can recognize that this year sucked in a different way than 2013. I felt completely unmoored a year ago. Now I have different problems, but at least I have moved past the ones I had. I cannot say whether 2014 was worse or better than 2013, which has been the case for several years now. It’s not necessarily better or worse, but at least it’s different. And that is some kind of progress.
Last year I laid out my hopes because that felt like the only thing I could do. They were meager, but they were something. This year I feel more able to see what I want even if I don’t feel terribly confident that any of it will come to pass in the next year or two or three. I have direction and that is something.
And when I see all of these celebrations for a year that was truly good to others, well, at least I have a fair assessment of my year. At least I know what there was that was good. I’ve done my honest assessment and I may not be at peace with it, but I know it is what it is.
I’ve been around the block enough to know that 2015 is not the answer to my problems, that watching the date change will not signal a fresh new start. But I’ve also been around enough to know that it will be different. That things will change, some for better and some for worse, and that is enough.