I have never been an especially religious person. Sure, I spent fourteen years in Catholic schools, but the potent combination of a series of pivotal life experiences and a deep, deep well of virulent cynicism has largely prevented me from investing very seriously in the practice of faith. I still genuinely believe in a lot of the tenets of Catholicism (i.e. try not to be a total shit to people, don’t kill anybody, etc.), but largely refrain from adhering to any specific dogma. My blasphemous bluster aside, I am still duly plagued with a tenacious strain of guilt.
But put me under pressure, and you may indeed find me petitioning the skies with prayer, because … you know … why not? My last couple of years were fraught with multiple deaths in the family, some serious ongoing illnesses for certain loved ones and an arduous bout of sudden job-loss that slammed into me like a torpedo when I was at my most vulnerable. During those crises, I did indeed find myself appealing to the mercies of a higher power, literally begging for the strength and the insight to move forward past the obstacles. At the end of my rope, at my wits' end, at sixes and sevens, all at sea … call it what you want, but I was truly lost and in need of help.
But the things I asked for not to occur still took place. The people I prayed not to be taken from me were still taken. The hurt I earnestly asked for not to happen to individuals I dearly love was still inflicted. The wisdom and the answers I sought didn’t arrive.
Suffice it to say, the last couple of years haven’t really changed my perspective. If anything, they’ve reinforced it.
2015, by and large, was difficult. Still clawing out of the events detailed above, much of the year was marked by worry and frustration. My endeavor to get re-situated in the work force plowed through many hills and valleys, and took much, much longer than I had ever conceived that it would. As a result, you will never hear me give anyone around my age and/or circumstances looking for work the slightest amount of grief. Until it happens to you — AND IT PROBABLY FUCKING WILL! — you don’t know how hard it is. I don’t wish it on anyone. I really don’t.
But, I got lucky. I stuck to my guns and held out for the right position. I even turned a gig down (and that after 13 months on the street), because I knew it wasn’t right for me. In the end, after a long, iffy, protracted dance with a specific outlet, I landed the job I wanted. Granted, I’ve only been at said outlet now for a month, but I am immeasurably grateful for the opportunity. It was a deeply humbling experience, but I came out on the other side. You might think, for a moment, that that experience might get me to change my tune.
Here’s the thing: Just when you think things are looking up, and when you think your luck is finally changing — THAT’S when you should expect your next curve ball.
And at the risk of being insufferably cryptic, we just weathered another hit. We are going to get through it, but right when I'm thinking that 2015 was the year I was going to look back on as the one when everything turned better and brighter, I am forcibly reminded that it just doesn’t work that way. Count your blessings and be thankful for everything you’ve got and everyone you love, but take nothing and no one for granted. And when you least expect it — EXPECT IT.
Here’s this year’s answers to that same ol' year-end poll.
1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
Since my preamble above is rather doomy gloomy, I’m going to keep this answer light and submit that I sailed on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls.
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t believe I made any, because they never stick — but I am flirting with the idea of doing a “Dry January,” but we’ll see.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My good friend Tod and his wife Selin had a little girl.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Mercifully, not this year.
5. What countries did you visit?
I went to Canada.
6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
An end to the fucking curve balls.
7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory?
There are a few indelible ones, but I’m going to concentrate on the positive and cite Friday, November 6, which was the day I fielded the offer from the job I now hold.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Landing that job offer and getting back to work.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I spent the previous sixteen months feeling like an abject failure, so it’s hard to know where to start.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, but someone very close to me continues to.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
For being the love of my life, I bought my beautiful, patient and supportive wife a lovely pair of earrings that I believe that she truly adores.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
See answer above, as well as my two indescribably dear children, Charlotte and Oliver.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
That which passes for the Republican Party in 2015. MAKE SURE YOU VOTE WITH YOUR BRAIN AND YOUR CONSCIENCE IN 2016!!!
14. Where did most of your money go?
COBRA and tuition.
15. What did you get really, really excited about?
In a good way? The prospect and fruition of my new job. In a bad way? I cannot say right now.
16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Probably “She Does it Right” by Dr. Feelgood
17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
If you’d asked me a couple of days ago, I’d have said ‘happier.’ But at the moment, I’m a little shaky.
18. Thinner or fatter?
About the same, I believe. Still have a beer gut to get rid of.
19. Richer or poorer?
Poorer, but poised to improve my station, now that I’m earning again.
20. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Working and earning
21. What do you wish you'd done less of?
22. How did you spend Christmas?
With my family.
23. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
No idea. Probably the wife.
24. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Yes, with my wife all over again.
25. How many one night stands in this last year?
None. I am very happily married.
26. What was your favorite TV program?
This year, I’d probably have to go with “The Affair,” despite the awfulness of so many of the characters. I also abhor Fiona Apple's theme song to same, but the show is great.
27. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I pretty much genuinely hated a certain trio of people last year. This year, I can’t say I’m especially fond of them, but it’s over and I’ve moved on to greener pastures. I don’t necessarily wish them well, but I don’t wish them ill anymore. Move forward.
28. What was the best book you read?
2015 was actually a great year for reading. Hard to say, really, but I’d probably have to go with “Your Band Sucks” by Jon Fine.
29. What was your greatest musical discovery?
They’re not new by any stretch, but in terms of discovery — Dr. Feelgood, without a doubt.
30. What did you want and get?
A JOB I ACTUALLLY LIKE
31. What did you want and not get?
Piece of mind and an actionable solution to that ongoing problem I can’t talk about.
32. What were your favorite films of this year?
“Mad Max: Fury Road” and “AMY.” No, I still haven’t seen the new “Star Wars” yet.
33. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I spent it with my wife and children and I turned 48. Hard to get excited about that number.
34. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A clean bill of health for a certain someone.
35. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Well, being the jobless son of a bitch that I was for most of it, I spent most of 2015 dressed like a roadie for the Butthole Surfers. Now gainfully employed at an upstanding and respectable outlet, I’m endeavoring to walk my wardrobe upstairs a bit.
36. What kept you sane?
Once again, who said anything about being sane? There were moments this year when my grip on rational thought felt genuinely tenuous. My love for my wife and children and my obligation to achieve a better situation for them kept me focussed.
37. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
If you waste your time fancying celebrities and public figures, please fuck right off this blog and get a life.
38. What political issue stirred you the most?
I am aghast that individuals like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and — good grief — Donald Trump are serious contenders. And if you’re a proud member of the N.R.A., please go strenuously fuck yourself.
39. Who did you miss?
The family members we lost in the previous two years.
40. Who was the best new person you met?
I’ve just met a number of great new folks at my new job that I’m looking forward to getting to know better. Also, I’d like to give a big, robust shout-out to my friend Jonathan Tessler, who fought in the same trenches as myself this year. He deserves the same luck I’ve experienced. He’s a good man.
41. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015
Again, if I was asked this question a week ago, the answer would be vastly different. I’ll say this: Be thankful for what you have and those you love. Stay focussed. Act on your instincts.
42. Song lyric that sums up 2015:
There is some contention as to where the turn of phrase originates, but I know where I first heard it. From “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon (a touching ode by a deeply flawed father to his innocent, little boy): “Life is What Happens to You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans.”