Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year

I don't remember very much about the first few days of 2011. I guess it started much like other years, with the carryover monotony from the previous December continuing unabated. I recall feeling that the New Year brought with it a few glimmers of hope, mostly due to what few freelance assignments that crossed my path... but overall, I think it's safe to say that my mood and mindset were defined by a definite sense of ennui.

That changed in February, for both better and worse. To the latter point, I lost my beloved Grammie on February 3rd. Her death hit me especially hard because I'd sworn -- I'd promised -- that I would make it up to visit her sometime soon. Both time and my promises ran out at 3 pm that day.

Her loss seemed particularly cruel, because in the week prior I'd received two happy bits of news. One, I had been promoted to a management position at DMC; and, secondly, I was accepted as a regular freelance writer for a major aviation advocacy group. The promotion didn't work out - I had immediately realized the importance of the Peter Principle as it applies to courier companies - but the latter certainly did. Thanks to freelancing, this will go down as by far my most financially and professionally successful year to-date.

So, despite the sad beginning, overall this was a very good year - one that I am happily celebrating here in Atlanta, with my good friend and mentor Pete Combs and his wife, Karen, in their beautiful new home. Tonight I plan to raise a glass to fate, in overall thanks and gratitude to whatever forces control it. I've resolved to expand my nascent "flightwriting" career in 2012, while also promising myself this will be the year I regain (and maintain) currency on the Sport Pilot certificate. Heady challenges, both, but I feel confident I'll be able to take them on.

Still... the sadness remains, for 2011 also brought a harsh postscript. Four days ago, I went to the home of one of our drivers, who hadn't been at work since Christmas Eve. His year hadn't been so kind... and he had decided, sometime over the holiday, that he did not wish to suffer anymore.

While I understand and accept his decision - at the end of the day, I strongly believe we should have such control over our lives, and the decision to end them if we see fit - it was also a sight I wouldn't wish on anyone. I only wish he would have considered the impact to those around him.

That image is what will drive me in 2012, and beyond. Live your life as well as you are able, and appreciate the good times... because often they are all-too-fleeting. Darkness always lurks, looking for the opportunity to strike.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Seconds of December

A time comes for everyone when they realize that they're pretty much the person they will always be for the rest of their life. Their mindset has been determined, their preferences and prejudices largely etched in stone, when they realize they're no longer particularly eager to have their mind changed about anything, and they're unlikely to let anyone new get too close to the life they've created for themselves.

I came to that realization this year, at the relatively tender age of 36. I think I'm okay with that, because I'm reasonably and thankfully content with who I am today. I've had some professional successes this year, that helped me realize some personal goals as well. I endeavor for more - better health, less weight, greater recognition - but I also appreciate that all victories are fleeting, so I'm trying to hold onto what I've been able to muster for as long as I can.

I also realize I've also cast off valuable and important aspects of who I once was along the way. I used to have a much greater sense of whimsy than I do now. I used to have much more faith and compassion for other people than I do today. Make no mistake, I fight vehemently and passionately to defend and care for those closest to me... but that circle has grown far smaller than it once was, with past friends and even some family members cast out. My requirements for access to that circle are far more stringent and jaded than they once were.

It wasn't always like that. There was a time when I gladly -- eagerly -- wore my heart on my sleeve, and believed in the overall decency and competence of others at first blush. This was an incredibly naive world view, as is typical when you're fresh out of high school... and I was fortunate to find someone who was very eager to recognize those qualities, and who embraced them and loved them with all of her might.

Today's her birthday.

You still feel her hand on your cheek as you said those words for the first time
And you still feel the pain from the first realization you'd lied
She was gentle when you wanted rough; so inviting but still not enough
Before too long you gave into your demons and cast the angel aside

I wrote those ridiculously overwrought, post-teen-angst-y sentences around 15 years ago, after I realized it still pained me a bit too much to look at the calendar in early December. I've written here about her before; I'm also pretty sure it was her that I saw in a Dillard's ad while thumbing absent-mindedly through the Dallas Morning News one day in 2006.

Facebook is nothing less than the modern-day equivalent of the biblical Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As it was in Genesis, its apples are far too easy to pick; all it takes is a simple word search. For whatever reason, a few months ago I decided to reach out for the forbidden fruit.

Maiden name... no hits. 

Wait. What was the name of the guy she was seeing? Try that...

Oh. Wow.

Married. One son, and another child on the way.

And... a flight attendant for Southwest. I admit that I smiled a bit at that; it would appear she found her calling among the clouds, too. For some reason, that made me very happy.

I briefly considered sending her a message on Facebook. It would have been purely a casual thing, a "hey, I see you're on here, too!" sort of note, the kind of breezy greeting one might send a former classmate. I thought about it... but of course, that would have been a terrible idea. Our moment together was fleeting; her life today is her own, and I have no right or place whatsoever to intrude upon that.

I'm genuinely glad that she appears happy, as well. Everything turned out the way it was destined to... but, there's also a part of my consciousness that recognizes I'm really not as okay with all of this as I should be, 18 years later.

You're sure she's doing well now and you're hardly a thought in the air
Just a midsummer's fling that lasted through spring and time passes when you're not aware
Still you know that you live in her shadow, and you're forever cursed to care
And count all the seconds of December that she's not there