December 31, 2021

NYE 21

It’s funny, looking back a year at all the sentiments from last New Year’s Eve, a recurring theme seems to be “At least this time next year, everything will be better and this pandemic will be over.” Ha ha, weren’t we all funny? Yeah, my message to the future, on NYE 2022? I hope you’re still alive and civilization hasn’t crumbled. Here’s hoping we’re not all eating bugs by then. 

2021 was a hard year, but for me, it was also one full of notable and indeed wonderful things. Let’s stick with those for the moment. Three big things will define 2021 for me. 

First and very much foremost, I married my dream girl. The one that got away turned out not to have gotten away after all. (I’m all about the long game, apparently.) I dreamed about this life and this relationship, but compared with the reality, it turns out I was dreaming small. 

Secondly, I got a job working with the kids I’ve spent the past twenty years advocating for, and I made some wonderful friends in the process. I’ve learned a lot and grown as a human being, despite my curmudgeonly disinclination to do either.

Thirdly, we got a pug. And this little monster has made us happier than we ever could have imagined. We love you, Sugarbarf. 

As the new year begins, there’s a lot to be wary of. COVID is turning up the anxiety meter once again, especially for those of us returning to school on Monday. I have some toxicity in my life that’s not easily excised or even managed. And I’m a year older, which never feels like a positive development, although I suppose it beats the alternative on most days. 

The thing about finding your happiness, especially later in life, is that it’s not actually something you find. It’s not sitting there on the sidewalk or hiding under a tree. You don’t say “Oh, look. Happiness! I’ll just pick this up and put it in my pocket!”

Happiness is something you search for, in hard-to-reach places. Happiness is a thing atop a mountain, and it’s hard work to get there. The rocks on the way up are sharp. Your hands will be bleeding by the time you reach it. 

Most of all, happiness is a thing you have to fight for, and take care of. Happiness, and above all LOVE. I know that now.

The future is full of hard work and few guarantees. But for now, sitting on the couch next to my wife (!!!!!!) and our snorting pugloaf, my beloved daughter returning to me in two weeks, and all the indescribable fountains of happiness in this life of mine, I’m going to have some optimism, cautious though it might be, that “2022” isn’t going to be “2020, too”.

I’m going to choose to believe that things are going to be alright. Maybe even extraordinary. 

Maddie the Smudge, aka Snarf Snarf Sugarbarf

December 11, 2021

The Price of Things

Tomorrow I do the thing I hate doing the most. I say goodbye to Schuyler again.

We've done this before. We've been doing this for the past year. More than a year, actually. Schuyler lives here in Virginia with me, and then she returns to her mother in Michigan. It started out as an even split, but as Schuyler has continued job training in preparation for reentering the workforce, Virginia has become more of a permanent home for her. After she returns to us, she'll begin actual employment, and her residency in Virginia will be mostly full-time.

In other words, I have no cause for complaint. And furthermore, I actually have no complaint.

This time, however, the rotation contains a little more bite, because for the first time in her almost twenty-two years, she will not be spending Christmas with me--or her birthday, for that matter. And again, this is fair and equitable, and I have no complaint.

The lesson for Schuyler in all this is also the lesson for me. You can strive for anything you want, but not everything. You can make choices, and some of them are audacious and bold, but they all come with a price. You can set out for a happier, more authentic life, but you'll pay with the detritus you leave behind. You can marry the most wonderful person of your dreams, but they might have their own detritus from their previous marriage, and now you own part of that scene, too. You can move across the country to something better but then find yourself employed in a field about which you have much to learn and won't necessarily get paid sufficiently. You can make big changes and not regret them for a moment, but you also have to pay the price of those things.

Most of all, you, or rather I, because let's not pretend I'm talking about anyone else, but yes, I can bring Schuyler along with me, I can begin this adventure and this happier, more authentic life with my loyal and loving daughter at my side. But not all the time. I do the thing that is hardest for me; I say goodbye and put her on a plane. I feel most acutely the empty space in my soul until the day comes when I return to the airport and await her epic, bone-cracking hug and feel whole again.

The irony is that I moved here to be with Adrienne because I needed her in my life to feel whole again, and to hopefully help her finally feel complete again as well. To make that happen and still be a fair person and not a monster, I pay by sending Schuyler away so that the other person who depends on her love and her loyalty does not wither away from my selfishness.

The price of things is not a bargain, and sometimes it is steep, but in this case it's fair. As we move into the holiday season and I continue to try to find myself in this grand but still fragile new life, I need to be okay with the price of things. I need to be at peace with it.

I'm trying. I promise, I really am.