The end of 2013 was such a shit show that my only resolution for 2014 was to be able to hockey stop. It was simple, accessible, difficult, and mastering it meant I had “leveled up” to a new skating experience.
So now I can hockey stop. And like most other individual personal goals, the acquisition of such a coveted skill just leaves one hungry for more. It’s a cold, empty technical skill.
In 2014, I was a pretty terrible friend. Or, I feel like I was a pretty terrible friend. So many people I loved dearly had so many milestones this year that I barely remember experiencing. In an effort to escape my own grief, I fixated on incredibly tiny mistakes in others (when not focused on myself.). I became (what I considered) petty and focused on the insignificant. More importantly maybe, I never really reached out to anyone to just say, holy crap you guys, my guts feel like they’re hanging out and being stomped on every day, how do I even deal with life? And then the add-on thing about depression and grief (at least for me) is I know I’m not being very considerate of anyone else and then a feeling of guilt and shame starts to gnaw at me. Distances start to grow between people. The distances aren’t real. In fact, the distances are probably all in my head, or a result of just feeling sorry for myself.
I guess I felt that at no point in my life was I ever allowed to just feel sorry for myself and, man, the person who I thought was my best friend, the person I really cried to when boys broke up with me, the person who had always shown me so much kindness in so many terrible moments. That person I grew up with and cherished and loved. That person became a drug addict who told me I ruined his life and that he hated me and just like that he was gone and I didn’t know where he was and the days turned into weeks into months and I felt really sorry for myself.
2014: THE YEAR I REALLY FELT SORRY FOR MYSELF.
(Because, also, survivor’s guilt is a thing.)
However, feeling sorry for yourself is the worst. It’s also boring. So many times I wanted to have all these awesome adventures except that I felt too sorry for myself. But, then my dad died.
My dad’s death did not affect me much emotionally. At least in the way that most people experience their parents’ death. My parents weren’t real parents so the experience is a bit different. I mourned the loss of something ambiguously defined as father, but I had already resolved to never see my father as long as I live. I meant it, too. I have zero guilt about it. He was abusive and horrible and charming to everyone he met, and I knew that any reconciliation would only bring untold catastrophes into my life. But my older brother – who my father had left homeless when he was 19 with a wife and a baby, who had to painfully abandon his baby sister and baby brother in order to forge a new life from scratch, who never once attempted to contact my father – he was so disheartened to realize he would never get an apology.
My grandmother seemed so saddened that he never tried to make amends.
And my mother – well, I can’t really imagine.
Everyone in his life just seemed to feel such deep sadness over finally realizing that, yes, people like Old Man Marcus do exist and they do die and they never make amends and they never apologize for the pain. It’s the kind of knowledge that changes one’s outlook on relationships. Surely, at some point, my father was going to realize that he rampaged through his life burning and destroying everyone he contacted and he was going to apologize. Nope.
But then I thought about my dad at the end of his life also. I imagine that he must have been truly terrified. He spent 30 years writing and rewriting a Faustian adaptation of Melmoth, the Wanderer. He drank his own urine in the 1960s after reading a book claiming longevity. He opened one of the first health food stores and restaurants in Southern California – predating Follow Your Heart by 10 or 15 years. He didn’t smoke. He didn’t condone smoking. He drank exactly 1.5 glasses of wine per night and ate home cooked meals from scratch every day. He believed that the mind was an instrument that constantly needed tuning and you are never too old to do anything. And if they tell you you’re too old, just change your birth certificate, lie, or get a doctor to lie for you. Have bold ideas, borrow other people’s money, and then make them a reality and run away with the money. His first language was Yiddish, but he converted to Christianity, became a minister, became a Jew for Jesus, and then just decided to celebrate every religion that celebrated God. One of them would give him eternal life, he reckoned.
In the end, he died. Mostly by himself. Grateful, no doubt, for the few family members who only cared for him at his most neutered and vulnerable. I can imagine the confusion he felt wondering why I wasn’t there. Why Nat wasn’t there? Where were all his children? Or even a sense of bewilderment about death itself. Death was never going to come for him. He was always so vibrant. So young. Didn’t he even drink he own urine in the 1960s? In those last moments, I don’t think he ever thought, “I wish I had been kinder.”
People matter. They really, really do. And I have been hit in the past few years by a few experiences that have made me feel like I don’t matter and it has turned me into the shell of a person I used to be.
So my resolution for 2015 is to learn to be a good friend again. Because, in the end, people and the relationships you cultivate and the experiences you share are the only things you can take with you anywhere and everywhere.
And thank you (y’all know who you are) for putting up with me this year and still loving me anyways. I can’t even think about how to “even life” without you.