"After that it was all gravy, every minute . . ."
Raymond Carver, "Gravy"
Well then, here we are, the eve of a new year. January is named, of course, for the Roman god Janus, whose two faces looked both forward and backward, and what better way to symbolize turning the corner into a new year? It also happens to be the month of my illustrious birth, which means the cosmic significance of January simply can't be denied. Don't fight it.
When I sat down to reflect on 2011 (because I always sit when I reflect), I quickly realized there were many, many more high points than low, even without holding 2011 up against the glare of the unmitigated disaster that was 2010. It wasn't all good, and this will be an incomplete list because, honestly, it was a jam-packed twelve months, but here are a few observations from my year.
I learned that my daughter loves Henry David Thoreau and The Great Gatsby and that she speaks with impressive eloquence and thoughtfulness about the books she reads. I watched her demonstrate that she's a natural at tap dancing. I gave her my monster iPod for her birthday, complete with some eighteen-thousand songs, and was delighted time and again as she discovered songs and bands I love, and now she loves them too. She's the person I'm fortunate to be able to point to as the reason for all the best things I do, and I can't imagine being luckier than I am.
I rediscovered my words this year. They'd been in absentia for far too long, and I recovered them from a heap of ashes. I wrote a book that still needs work but will, I think, turn out alright. This year has taken me very far from the circumstances that conspired to make up that book, which is good because I can see the stories with new eyes. They need to be funnier. And maybe a little meaner. I'll keep you posted. As for the blog, I give my kid credit for suggesting I dust it off and get it going again, and thanks to all of you who have read and shared your thoughts. I mostly write to get chicks (obviously), but I also write to be read, and it's a great thrill to know you're all out there checking out my work. Last but by no means least, it's been a blast writing for The Nervous Breakdown -- many thanks to Peaches for hooking me up with them. Writing is most definitely work, and sometimes it kicks your ass for what feels like no good reason, but for me it still beats a hell of a lot of other things I might be doing with my time, so I'll take it.
I got a little smarter this year, thanks to, among many others, Tolstoy, Flannery O'Connor, Rabelais, Steinbeck, Michael Chabon, Thomas Paine, Dave Eggers, David Foster Wallace, Bret Easton Ellis, Kurt Vonnegut, Andre Dubus, and of course my favorite living writer, Ron Currie. I read a hell of a lot more than I watched TV (which should be a no-brainer), but I did find myself quite happily absorbed in Louis C.K.'s FX series, Louie. It is wise and brilliant, and I hope you'll all take some time in the new year to check it out.
Lots of outstanding new music came my way in 2011, which was very good news because the ongoing soundtrack was all wrapped up in bleak despair, a natural side-effect of connecting with someone in part over your music collection: your best tunes take on the echoes of that cruel ghost. There were new-to-me bands like Frightened Rabbit, the Mountain Goats, Portugal. The Man, and Wild Sweet Orange, as well as new albums by some of my favorites: Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie and the Twilight Singers. I think I'll roll out a few tasty playlists in 2012 -- it's been a while since I've done that, and I have enough new stuff now to make it worthwhile. Oh, and speaking of music, I saw the Pixies -- easily one of my top five moments of what was a pretty good year.
I pondered somewhat incessantly the statement, "But I didn't mean to," and struggled to understand why anyone would perceive carelessness as a virtue. I continue to ponder this question.
I was reminded that secrets are hard to keep because they are burdens. The more a secret strives to escape your lips, the more determined you should be to keep it because, if it's hard for you to keep, imagine how hard it will be for the next twenty-five people.
I kissed some ladies this year. I liked that a lot, too.
I managed to nothing somebody -- not love or hate, just nothing -- and that ain't no mean feat.
More than anything, I got back to being myself this year, and that's good stuff because, no kidding, I dig me, warts and all. I make my share of mistakes, I stumble over my own feet sometimes, but all things considered, I think I'm a pretty good guy to have around. I admire my better impulses and am relieved to see them back in play. I'll make you laugh, help you move a couch, hold your hand, get your back, and tell you it's all going to turn out fine when you're not able to see that for yourself. I like this version of me a whole lot better than the version that was free-falling into an abyss of his own making. That guy was pretty useless and absolutely no fun.
So raise a glass or whatever you like to do, and here's to 2012: a year of meaningful accomplishments and thoroughly satisfying surprises, of lost puppies and missing children finding their way home, of bad luck turning good and good luck turning great, of windfalls and great sex and minor miracles. A year where no one gets sad or hurt and nobody dies. To 2012: may it be nothing but gravy for us all.