Monday, September 14, 2015
A year is a long time.
A year is a long time. Sucking my front teeth, trying to think of something to say about the Jewish New Year, I called up last year's post, and read with fresh interest, as if someone else had both lived and written it. The War in Gaza had just ended, and Jews were jumpy, nervous at being cast as the International Bad Guys, a familiar role, once forced upon us when our only crimes were holding jobs and occupying space and living in a particular place while claiming to belong where we were born, offenses that grew even more severe when it was our own homeland we were trying to hold onto, against the claims of whoever else decided they wanted it instead.
Now the spectrum of international horrors eclipse the woes of the Palestinians. It's kind of hard to paint Israel as the Source of All Evil when ISIS is raping and beheading people and blowing up archeological treasures, while the Syrian chaos is sending millions fleeing around the world. Must be frustrating for them.
Not the highest standard to hold Israel to—better than ISIS—but also a reminder that, on the scale of Actual Horrors, the plight of Gaza and the West Bank are way down there, and millions of Syrians would no doubt be happy to swap places with them.
When I contemplated the upcoming year — 5776, for those keeping track — my first thought was a dismissive, "What's so happy about it? What's there to look forward to?" Nationwide, a farce campaign trail trod by a parade of idiots. A world gone mad — or, to be more accurate, continuing to manifest its inherent madness in fresh and alarming ways. On the home front: boys gone, leaving an echoing void that I never anticipated until I found myself in it and started running my disbelieving fingers over its dark, cold, damp confines. The newspaper hurtling forward through dense fog toward its rendezvous with an uncertain future that some days looks very much like a mountainside. The whole growing old thing, which you're not even allowed to complain about, because bitching about growing old is one of its worst qualities.
Good to bear in mind: few woes get any better by grousing about them. Complaint is not a success strategy, though it can take an act of will to shake it off, peer into the murk and ascertain something positive to look forward to, in this new year they're forcing on us, again, like a large and marginal appliance that you can't take back and have to make room for.
Well, what then?
There's got to be something ... we have a week's vacation in October, a bar mitzvah in Boston and a wedding in Philadelphia, with new towns to explore and parks to hike in between. That could be fun. The following month is Thanksgiving, with stuffing to make and family to welcome and news to share. Then in February, Pomona for Parents Weekend. The frequent pleasures of writing stuff, which may bite and become dreary at certain times, like right fucking now, but usually is pleasurable. The book creeping toward publication. By April we'll have galleys, with hard copies in July and it'll be published in the fall—the tail end of 5776, the same year that began last night. And while as my eighth book, I can't scrape together much sincere conviction this'll be the one that shakes the earth, I do harbor irrational hopes of success, and will rouse in my stall as I always do when the firebell rings, and go charging out into the night, snorting smoke in the cold air, chasing after the will-o-the-wisp, as I always do.
Quite a lot really. Or enough. Or it'll have to be enough, and who knows what else might develop. A reminder not to gloss over all the good just because a few challenges crowd the stage at the moment, doing their dance macabre. You have to be patient. Even a day is a long time, and if you only had one -- and you never know which one is your last, so it could be today — you could pack a lot into it, and nobody would hand back the most troublesome day in favor of the icy dark void that awaits.
A day is a long time, and when you realize the weeks and months and, if you're lucky, and we tend to be, years you have on top of that, well, it is a considerable bounty, a treasure trove.
Sure, not all is enjoyable. A lot of routine, of work. Stuff to clean, to fix, in this 110-year-old tottering ruin we call home. Plus I seem to have boxed myself into a life where I have to write continuously—all together now: "Every goddamn day!" — and while that is, in the main, enjoyable, as the great James Thurber said, "Even the most pleasurable of imaginable occupations, that of batting baseballs through the windows of the R.C.A. Building, would pall a little as the days ran on."
The key, I believe, is to realize that the weariness will pass, and energy and hope will flare to life again. Just keep blowing on the embers because, really, what choice is there? There will be room for all sorts of good, and little bad to make you appreciate the good more. A year is a long time, but still, we only get so many of them, and you don't want to waste one, or even part of one, not even a day, not if you can avoid it. Happy New Year, where applicable.