2008, as far as years ago, was a pretty shitty one.
I lost my mother rather swiftly and unsuspectingly and I was behind the wheel of our car with my husband and 10 month old son when we were in a near fatal crash on the highway. Everything felt catastrophic and awful.
That New Year’s Eve, I huddled inside my home with my still new little family. We had a few candles lit, and just about two minutes before midnight I said something to the effect of, “Fuck this. I’m done with you 2008.”
Because there was 90 seconds left in the year, it seemed we were past most of the garbage. At 11:59, I bent over to blow out the candles. And at 11:59 and 30 seconds, with about 30 seconds left of 2008, a strand of my hair slipped forward, fell into a candle, and caught on fire.
And here is what I learned.
1. Candles can be dangerous. Safety first.
2. It ain’t over till it’s over.
3. Bad stuff can happen at any time to anyone. It doesn’t come in threes and you don’t get a pass because you’ve already had a taste of bad stuff. Some of us get more of it than others, and mostly because if you read the fine print when you were born none of any of this came with a fairness clause or guarantee.
I spent an unfortunate amount of time in 2009 trying to make sense of 2008. To understand it, to right the wrongs, to justify some of the nonsense, to exact revenge. None of it, not one shred of it made anything about that shit year any better. You would think that when you get dumped on quite a bit, it sort of gives you some sort of karmic pass for the near future. But it didn’t then and it never does. 2009 brought some more insanely craptastic moments. It also brought some amazing ones. And so this is what I learned then, and I guess this is what I’m remembering now. It’s always all of it. It’s always some good or a lot bad and some sort of combination of random chance and stuff that’s within our control that makes up our days.
The other night was just one of those nights. You know the kind. We’ve reached that point in winter vacation when the common theme is not school break or winter but discord and the children are united in their purpose to start and end each day with the goal of destroying each other’s lives and my humanity. On this particular night, we managed to fight about the Hanukkah candles. Even though there are four menorahs and three children still, there was reason to fight. Later when the house was still awash in the bitter tears of Hanukkah night 5, I angrily peeled out of the driveway with the unknown goal of accomplishing some made up task that really just gave me an excuse to get out. To get away.
And as I sat in the driveway and looked at my family from the outside in, all of it seemed actually quite beautiful. It always is this way really, when you step back (and dear God when you can’t hear them). When you can just see bright shimmering candles glowing in the windows, and still joyful feet running around in a living room decorated mostly by torn wrapping paper and Thomas the train. And this is what today is I suppose. Today is the day where we stand on the outside and look in. Look in at ourselves, our families, and our year. Today amidst all of the noise of 2016, I urge you to look back and find the beauty. I promise you that somehow, even in the darkest parts of it, it was there.
This year, among the many celebrity deaths we lost Leonard Cohen, acclaimed singer, poet and songwriter. One of my most favorite quotes of all time was written by Cohen, when he said: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” And so on this last night of 2016, of Hanukkah, of a year full of twists and glass ceilings that almost cracked and plenty of hearts that did, I wish you the chance to let all of it go. Make space to look for the good and be the good.
It’s a new year. Let’s be the light that gets in.