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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 12 31 21 – Singing in the New Year as 2021 Sinks Out of Sight

New Year's Raven by Julie Miller at HaggisVitae Studios

“If this life is a shipwreck, we must rescue as many as we can, and not forget to sing in the lifeboats” – Voltaire

The last day of 2021. It was a bear. Similar to 2020, but with some extra twists. There was a lot of ugliness this year. Humans are an odd species; we are capable of wonderful things as well as heinous and ignorant behavior all in the same breath. Some may fault me for being hopeful, but I do think that in times like we are in now, surrounded by evidence of the worst of what we are capable of, rests the seeds of our better selves. Not only is an improved reality possible, but from my perspective as a person in recovery, it is my very life experience. While I could fill the page with what I would like to have gone differently in 2021, it would not be helpful. Yet it is also a good time to take stock in how such challenging times teach each of us about our internal coping skills and, the importance of our friends and families and that we can and do get through tough times, often with the help of each other.

This year in comparison to 2020: I did get to spend more time with people I loved as social isolation eased. I had the opportunity to volunteer at a vaccine clinic and be an active participant in helping my community rather than sitting at home watching bad news on the TV. I grew professionally, despite a lot of challenges thrown at me. We had people over for dinner on a few occasions to share amazing meals prepared by Julie, who is an artist in her third-floor art studio and also in the kitchen. We got to go to Maine and have a modest vacation. We went out to the movies a few times and ate in a few restaurants. I kept a few commitments I had made to myself, including to write more regularly and spend more time in nature. I read more books and improved my photography skills.

A simple list. Most of the things in the paragraph above were not things I was able to do for much of 2020. Many of the things I held dearest in 2021 were things I entirely took for granted in 2019. I suspect I am not alone in that. It is also true that there is not one single facet of my life that seemed within my grasp in my early life when addiction had its grip on me. All of my life today is the equivalent to a lottery win from the perspective of my life in addiction. Using that yardstick, 2021 starts to look like a banner year.

The above is a life lesson at the tip of my nose but not always visible to me. The Voltaire quote in the heading is a favorite. It means to me that despite our challenges, we must sing the joys of the moment, as grim as that moment may seem at times. The truth is that singing in the lifeboats keeps the morale up. People are less likely to hit each other with the oars or push each other off the boat. We are capable of pulling each other up or pushing each other off, or even capsizing our little boat, in which case we are all likely to drown. I would prefer to sing and save others than to knock people off the boat. The truth about our collective survival is that if everyone only focused on self-preservation, survival for everyone is reduced. We tend to forget that in the self-absorbed world we live in in this era.

We shall watch the ball drop-in Times Square and the count down to that moment and go to bed. One place I have no desire to ever be at on NYE is Times Square, where the first ball drop occurred 115 years ago. According to the article, “as part of the 1907-1908 festivities, waiters in the fabled "lobster palaces" and other deluxe eateries in hotels surrounding Times Square were supplied with battery-powered top hats emblazoned with the numbers "1908" fashioned of tiny light bulbs. At the stroke of midnight, they all "flipped their lids" and the year on their foreheads lit up in conjunction with the numbers "1908" on the parapet of the Times Tower lighting up to signal the arrival of the new year.” That sounds like a lot more fun than the current tradition from my vantage point in the living room. To me, it looks like a long time to stand in the cold crammed in with intoxicated people who all need to pee. None of these things are on my top ten list, but I am glad that this tradition has carried on for so long.

New Year’s Eve has never been one of my favorite holidays, it seems anticlimactic in a lot of ways, but it is time to celebrate the year we prevailed though and new opportunities and challenges ahead. I will hug Julie a little harder tonight as it has been a rough year, one we got through together. 2022 will be our 29th year married, something to celebrate in and of itself.

I am grateful for a whole lot of people out there who helped me to get through this year. People who believe in and support me even as I do the same for others. I suspect we are much closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning, and yet have a lot of work to do to help each other heal and rebuild. Grateful to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.

What were you grateful for today, what are you grateful for this year?

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