Starting A New Year

It’s 12:34 a.m. on my birthday. I spent my last full day as a 43 year old person getting the gray washed out of my hair as the jingle told us, going on a failed adventure and watching undertakers carry my aunt’s lifeless body from her home.

I need my new year to be better than this.

I tend to get more philosophical around my birthday, thinking about what I have learned in the last year and what I think the next one should look like.

If I am to be completely honest with you and myself, I don’t really have it in me to do all that today. For the last few weeks, death and dying have been more prominent themes in my family than life and living.

That’s the season my family is in. It’s natural and that’s ok. That doesn’t mean we have to like it but that’s the thing about life – we don’t always have to like it but we do have to muddle through the best we can until conditions improve.

If anything, this time has been a superb reminder of why we should never complain about growing older.

After all, not everyone gets to do it.

Even with Covid limitations and even with family issues, over this last year I have managed to find enjoyment at home, to get out on adventures and to have some special experiences both near and far.

While hibernating at home this winter, I binged on I Love Lucy. I had bought the complete series and watched it in order- some episodes more than once. When conditions allowed, I visited her hometown and soaked in the recreated TV sets and had a few beautiful days wandering around western New York State.

I have walked hundreds of miles through parks and museums, wearing out shoes as I set out to see as much of the world as I can. This year found me exploring historic sites as well as natural places like a gorgeous sunflower field. I learned about Annie Oakley’s triumphant rise to fame from humble beginnings in Ohio. This year taught me that Buffalo Bill believed in equal pay and equal opportunities for women and Native Americans at a time that people still believed a woman’s place was at home and that Native Americans had no place in this country at all.

This year I cruised down highways in the Nerdmobile, floated down the Ohio and Muskingum rivers atop a paddle boat and soared high above the earth in a biplane.

The mountainside community of Thomas, West Virginia is where I learned about how immigrants of numerous nationalities lived and worked peacefully. Despite cultural and language barriers they were united by patriotism for their new home and the opportunities afforded to them in America.

This is where I saw the most stunning fall foliage of my lifetime.

I followed signs down country roads to find a working mill in Virginia, had a chance encounter with an artist and slammed on the brakes for many a roadside attraction or pretty scene.

I finally found a home for my pulpit, a family heirloom that I had been keeping safe until the right person came along and needed it for a church. When I couldn’t travel, I had books to keep my mind busy and I finally created a real office space for my work from home lifestyle with new furniture and decor.

When I did travel, I had the cutest little cat to come home to at night. Everyone should have someone in their life who gets this excited simply because they came home.

No, I didn’t leap from airplanes or fly off to exotic places. I flew to Denver and road tripped as much as possible. I daydreamed about all the places I still want to go and chided myself for not winning the lottery yet as that’s what it will take to fund the adventures I wish to take. Of course, I don’t actually play…..

For the last couple of months, I have spent more time getting to know my aunt and listening to her stories. Wednesday was my night to visit and to take something special for our dinner and dessert. It was far more fun and rewarding than I first expected.

As we have been bracing ourselves for the loss of this important person, we welcomed three small souls who have brought much joy and laughter to our lives. One of the most rewarding things you can do is to extend kindness to someone who has nothing to offer but their companionship.

This year has taught me to look more closely at what’s in my own area and that it’s ok to not plan, to just wander and make the best of things as they are. I have perfected the art of wandering this earth safely and appreciating whatever fun I’m able to find.

Friday’s adventure was a bust. I went with a friend to a hot air balloon festival where the balloons were grounded for weather, a detail event organizers didn’t mention until after we had paid for non-refundable admission. But we met a nice elderly man there and had a great dinner at Boston’s Restaurant upon his recommendation. We laughed a lot at the ridiculousness of our day and also got to see a gorgeous sky after sunset, a true gift at the end of a challenging week.

We had another chance encounter with a kind human when we experienced some trouble late in the day. I want to tell you about that experience but not today.

The moral of the story is that life is filled with sunrises and sunsets, with great fun and some disappointments. As my aunt slipped the bonds of this earth, somewhere else a child was born. As my trip around the sun comes to a close and another starts, there is both bitterness and sweetness.

If not for these things, life simply wouldn’t be life. What does the song say? We all want happiness but we can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.