A new year. What does it offer? A fresh start. A clean slate. A do-over.
Why does it seem like every year, especially at December's end, I am desperately in need of the renewal that a new year promises? Last week life was good -- the stressful pace of the school year was on hiatus; I could sleep in (as much as the mother of two young boys is allowed); I didn't have to pack lunches and snacks or find $2.75 x 2 and put each in separate labeled envelopes to buy both school lunches; I had some downtime, some alone time that is the lifeblood of any true-blue only child like myself; there was no snow to shovel or plowing bill to pay; following a week-long nail-biter, my mammogram and ultrasound came back negative; we had fun plans with friends on Christmas night and enough playdates to keep my boys satisfied; arrangements had been made for my younger son to take ski lessons; and Santa brought a second Nintendo DSi XL accompanied by riveting games. (That Santa sure is smart!) Then not long after returning from a thrilling movie with another family on New Year's Eve day, it all fell apart.
As we passed by in our car en route to the movie family's home, a child we know emerged from his house. I called out: "Hey, X, what are you doing?" Innocent query. I expected to hear, "We're going swimming at the Y," or "We're going to a friend's house from my new school." Not "We're going to Z's New Year's Eve party."
Say WHAT? My son is probably Z's best friend, and my OTHER son IS Z's brother's best friend. What party? I hadn't heard about a party. Wow, we weren't invited. What a way to kill a fine day, week, and New Year's Eve all in one fell swoop! It would have been bad enough if it had happened another time. But the biggest night of the year?
Oh, please rub some more salt into this wound!
Sure enough, insult was added to injury further up the street. Stopping off at the movie family's house to drop off a bag of the mother's and our holiday newsletter, I was met by her and her son rushing out the front door. "Are you going somewhere?" I asked. "Yes," she responded cheerfully. "To Z's party?" Dangerous follow-up question. I shouldn't have probed, but it came flying out of my mouth before I had a chance to censor myself. "YES!" she nearly shouted, no doubt expecting me to say that we were, too.
When we got home, my sons ran to the mailbox. Surely there must be an invitation stuck to the bottom. There wasn't. How about one waiting at the front door? Nothing. Inside the house, I headed for the kitchen. Perhaps an eleventh-hour invite would come across my landline voicemail. It didn't. Last try: my iPhone. Since I hadn't yet set up voicemail on the new device, I didn't believe I could receive a message. However, I certainly could read a text and would recognize Z's mother's number if she called. The results of both investigations -- like the mammogram and ultrasound -- were negative, but the bad kind of negative not the good kind of negative.
The boys were unhappy, to say the least. Why had their friends not invited them to their party? I couldn't answer as I was just as mystified as they were. They turned on a cartoon to deaden their pain while I retreated downstairs to the privacy of my bedroom to have a good cry. The silence of the house engulfed me, making me increasingly paranoid.
I remembered that two days earlier I'd read on my Facebook page that one of my friends -- the one in treatment for breast cancer -- had been rear-ended in her car coming home from work. I was the first to post a comment. "Here's to a great 2012!" I wrote. In other words, better things will be coming your way once we tear down this old, tattered calendar and replace it with a new, shiny one.
Then I began to apply my thinking about my Facebook friend to myself. At least we had been blown off at the tired tail end of a year instead of the ripe-with-possibilities beginning of a new one. That's the silver lining to this story because on New Year's Eve I felt joyless as I listened to my older son, the sensitive one, cry himself to sleep.
A new year allows us to erase the negativity of the passing year like a baptism, enabling us to once again experience life from a fresh perspective.
Do you believe in the restorative power of a new year?