Friday, December 31, 2010

Ringing in the New Year: What A Difference A Year Can Make

I’m not much of a New Year’s Eve person.  I have friends who can’t wait to party and live it up...but since I’ve never been much for following the rules, I choose more low key holidays to party like a rock star. 

Like Flag Day.

New Year’s Eve has always been pretty quiet for me.  I don’t even like going out.  I’ve always favored ringing in the New Year with my fat ass on my own couch, in my own warm house...rather than freezing my giblets off outside with a bunch of strangers clutching a rum and coke from the local bar that will keep me up all night because it has no rum in it. 

I think my need to just stay home came right about the time that I realized that I was going to have to drive home using the same highway as all of those “revelers.”  And as much as I like the idea of living life to the fullest...dodging them all on the way home like some sort of drunk adult version of “Frogger” has never really sounded that appealing.

So I don’t.

Back in the day, when my husband and I were living in our first house, we were fortunate enough to have neighbors who partied “like it was 1999” whether it was 1994 or 2006.  We could just pop across the street for a fresh beer from the kegerator (I just had to Google that to find out if I spelled it right) and no driving or standing next to drunk strangers, whose gag reflex could introduce itself at any time, was involved.  We could welcome the New Year in a grown up, civilized way...which usually meant t.p.-ing the one neighbor’s house who didn’t show up.

Ahhhh...good times.  And, needless to house never got t.p.-ed.

After we moved into the next house...our neighbors were decidedly more subdued.  So that was when the “fat ass on the couch” phase started and it’s served me pretty well ever since.  It’s also important to note that that’s also when I realized that it doesn’t matter if it’s New Year’s Day and you’ve been up until 2 AM the night before...the kids still get up at the same time.  That tends to slow down the reveling just a bit.

Because my New Year’s Eves since then have pretty much consisted of a bottle of champagne so sweet I don’t even want to finish it, a fire, and a movie I usually regret wasting 2 hours of my life on...they have pretty much run together for me.  There really hasn’t been a whole lot of memory-making going on.

Except for one year.

I know I’m the weird griever of the group...that’s okay...I know it...I own it...but the year my husband died...I couldn’t wait for the New Year.

I still remember being so excited to see 2007 go.  Let’s face hadn’t been much of a friend to me and I was thinking that 2008 had a lot more potential.  And even though, by December 31st, my husband had only been gone for about 5 months...I was looking forward to being able to say, “My husband died last year.”  In my newly formed “widda brain” I was hoping that would be less shocking to people than saying, “My husband died 6 months ago.”

I know it doesn’t make any sense.  But surely by this point you don’t read these blogs because you think I’m going to tell you the way you should do things, do you?

I hated 2007.  That was the year I found out what I wasn’t made of.  That was the year of avoiding breakdowns, fake smiles, and false strength.  That was the year of the last pictures I’ll ever have of my husband, the last “have a good day I love you” I would see for quite awhile, and the end of security as I knew it.

I couldn’t wait to stop writing that year on all of my checks.

So on the evening of December 31st, 2007, I sat alone on my couch, sugary sweet champagne in hand, watching my clock and, waiting for it to turn.  Like a child waiting for Santa to pop down the chimney, New Year’s Day was my big present.  I sat there, utterly sure that 2008 would be so much better.  It had to be, right?  No more husbands dying.  No more telling the kids for the first time that Daddy wasn’t coming home.  No more funerals where I was the one everyone was looking at.

I think the main thing that I seemed to have forgotten was the fact that in 2008...I would still be widowed.  I looked at the beginning of that year as the beginning of a new life, a new outlook, a new me. 

I had forgotten that in order to make that happen...the old me still had to come along for the ride.

Now, I didn’t go to bed that night expecting to be completely transformed the next day.  But I did expect something.  And since I’m a little slow on the up-take, it was around February 1st when I realized that a new life doesn’t just appear because you want it to.  I mean, don’t get me wrong...wanting it is a pretty damn good start.  But it was a good month later when I realized that in order to make that happen I was actually going to have to work at it.  And I really didn’t think I had it in me to make it happen.

And so...I started crying.

I mean...come on.  I had slid out of 2007, gripping hope and a bottle of chardonnay...and now I have to figure things out in 2008?  What kind of crap is that???

I cried the entire month of February.  After months of looking forward to a “new beginning” in the new year...I suddenly realized that if that was what I wouldn’t just happen by changing calendars.  I had to change along with it.

Since my husband has been gone, I can almost give titles to the years.  The year 2008 was the “Year of Change.”  I tested myself and who I was.  I took chances so that I could figure out what I really wanted.  I stopped diving into things without thinking what would happen next.   I proactively went out and met new people who would know me as me...not just an extension of “us.”  It really was a turning point in my life.

It led to 2009 which was “The Year I Started Remembering The Day Before” and instead of living my life in a complete blur, I seemed to be able to recall what had happened even the week before. 

Believe me...that was a huge milestone.

The year 2010 will forever be “The Year I Started Getting My Kids To School On Time.”  I actually remembered back-to-school night and seemed to acquire organizational skills that had abandoned me the 2 years before.  For the first time that year, I didn’t get 20 texts from different friends saying, “You know the kids don’t have school tomorrow, right?”  I could, with confidence say, “I think I have that marked on the calendar." what?  2011.  Old habits die hard and I find myself, today, anticipating what will happen tomorrow.  I refuse to wish for the “best year ever” because...where’s the fun in that?  I would hate to say when I’m 80 that my best year was when I was 34.  But once again, on New Year’s Eve, I feel like I’m on the verge of a change.  That 2011 will bring unexpected joys and (hopefully) minimal sorrows.  That maybe, the site that I worked so hard on in 2010, will finally start helping people and making a difference in 2011.  Who knows who I’ll meet, what I’ll do, and how I’ll grow.

I know I constantly confuse you all with my pessimistic optimism, but today all I can say is...

...there is a lot to be said for the anticipation of a fresh start.

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© Catherine Tidd 2010


  1. My 2005 was your 2007. I did the same thing that New Year. 2006 was a very good year. 2007 was fantastic. The rest are purely simply, happy days with a wonderful new man who allows me to talk about my husband a lot and feels like he knows him and told me he's honored that I would be with him after a man like Rich. Happy New Year!

  2. Thank you for this post. Simply put and so true. You are right--there is "a lot to be said for the anticipation of a fresh start."
    How to go about a fresh start incorporating who we are and who we are becoming it isn't easy. My best to you in the coming year to dream again and to have dreams come true!

  3. 2010 is going out in a Blizzard.. literaly and I am sure the wind will blow some sort of new life into me. I still have no idea who I want to be (this is an ongoing theme) I have only one Memorable New Years eve. Dec 1991! Chuck decided we should spend it in Paris (we were living in Germany) It was odd since he hated big crowds, but off we went. Glad I can stay home with the dogs this year and drink .... tea!
    Have a "good" eventful 2011

  4. So ...

    I was looking forward to 2011 for pretty much all the reasons you listed.

    Maybe I will just plan on skipping over it entirely and look for myself to pull it together in 2012. At least you saved me from buying a 2011 puppy calendar.