A few nights ago, sitting in a warm room with Christmas lights adorning a pine tree and with several women I only knew casually, the conversation of holidays was discussed for a while. One young woman complained about her “holiday from hell,” as she referred to it. She went with her boyfriend to Nevada and regretted the entire trip. Another woman chimed in about her strained relationship with her mother–they’d argued most of Christmas day. Yet another complained about her siblings and the dysfunction of their families. Eventually we began talking about the ridiculous notion of New Year’s resolutions. Each of these women expressed their anticipation of what was to come, and were pleased to be leaving all the dreaded, God-awful, painful, ridiculous, pathetic, unpredicted stuff they’d gone through behind.
Someone opened a third and last bottle of wine, and we nibbled on veggies with Trader Joe’s spinach dip, all the while whining about the year and how it had kicked our asses. I only knew one person in this group. The others I’d met just an hour or so before. It was by chance–or fate–that I ended up sitting with these women.
This time of year always brings with it–depending on who you are and where you are in your life’s unfolding–a sense of reflection. I’m not really sure why it takes the end of the year to look back and decide how good or bad the year has been. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard whatever happens in between the good or bad. How we choose to look at the year hinges on something gained or lost. Our perception of things is based on sight, or touch. The year generally turns out good if something tangible was attained: meeting that special person; getting a job you’d been grooming yourself for; buying a new home; being better off this year than you were a year ago. So few of us looks back over the year–and no matter what happened–and sees it as a blessing. Even if we have all that we need, somehow it never seems to be enough. Beneath our less than authentic gratitude there’s the facetious-like bemoaning because of something that didn’t happen, or something that did happen but it wasn’t what we wanted. We didn’t see something coming. Believing in the idea of being blessed means “highly favored” to Christians. As far as secular, perhaps it’s the idea of being fortunate. Although “blessed” should never accompany a qualifier, it most often does.
Days later, after sitting with these women, I was able to look back without a few glasses of wine to ever so slightly distort things. Thinking back on it now, it is clear to me that no matter where we are in our lives we still feel a sense of lack. I was the only one amongst this small group of women who, at the end of the year, remained unemployed and with an empty bank account, being threatened by my creditors, relying on the generosity of others so as to have a place to live, and only if the gods decide to work in my favor, be better off in 2016 than I was in 2015. The one person among this group who knew me said, “But you’re a successful author!”
Successful is correlative.
I am not of the belief that money determines success. My sidebar dictionary refers to “successful” as this: having succeeded or being marked by a favorable outcome. I like this definition. I’m not sure that it was what I was thinking a few nights ago when I was encircled with these women who had jobs, lived in safe L.A. neighborhoods, drove cars that alluded to the fact that they earned a bump above livable wages, and had bought several bottles of wine that came to $100. Although I must add, I don’t judge people’s financial status by outward appearance.
These women complained about things that were, in my mind, trivial. And I get it: everything is relative. If you already have everything one naturally needs, human nature begins to lust for something beyond that. Without acquisitions many of us feel empty. In all likelihood, I too was saying some of the same things these women were saying just several short years ago.
A few days later, being able to reflect on their small-mindedness, I understood something I might not have considered had my life circumstances been different: I was not unhappy. I was not sad. I think for the first time in my life–despite 2015 being unquestionably the hardest year of my life!–that I felt genuinely blessed. Blessed that I managed, and against the odds, to get through 2015. There were moments in the last year when I didn’t care what happened to me. I had to find peace within myself, and I had to change the way I view the world, and my life. I had no choice but to sit in quiet, and I made every attempt to be in the moment. Admittedly, I didn’t handle 2015 with grace, yet I managed it with strength and purpose. I felt every disappointment and every elated moment–each one has been visceral. I do believe, for the first time in a very long time, I was fully aware of the nuances, and I lived my year. I didn’t simply live through it.