Saturday, December 30, 2023
I gave myself permission to take the last week of the year off.
Off from everything. Cleaning, organizing, working, exercising, checking off boxes, filling in calendar dates.
When I cleaned the house for last week’s birthday party dinner, I shoved everything that was in the way into the bedroom. Then I showered and spewed clothes and towels and toiletries everywhere in a mad rush to get to the cornbread. Afterwards, pants and socks went sprawling as I collapsed into bed.
The next day it felt like waking up at the bottom of a Goodwill dumpster. Ralph surveyed the disaster, blinked a few times, and said… I’ll do laundry.
I kicked a towel aside and told him not to bother, just clear a path to the bathroom and leave it until January.
And that’s basically what we did.
Since I have neither left the house nor looked up from my couch crater for very long, there isn’t much to say, and surely you don’t want to hear about another missing sock or bent pan.
But since my brain continues to whiz, I thought I’d share some thoughts as I look back over the last year and try to figure out what it was about and how the heck we got to another one.
And so, on this penultimate day of the year and the Word Project, I bring you: the retrospective.
As it so often happens when you reach the end of something, you wonder Where did it go?
Unless it’s the construction at the golf course, which is seemingly interminable and when that finally ends you can be sure it won’t be soon enough.
But usually things in life whip by, no matter how you think you’re paying attention. There and gone. Days, years, decades. Wasn’t I just wearing leg warmers and giant hoop earrings? How did this wrinkled blob get into my bed?
This year was no different, but I can’t say I wanted it to stick around any longer, either. It was marked by a certain malaise. Hope unrealized. The bar of expectations lowered very, very far.
2023 was defined by a few things that I’d just as soon forget. The noise, for one. I promise I won’t beat that dead horse again, but until you have spent an entire year listening to surround sound beeping starting at 4am until well into the evening, with church bells clanged hourly on top of it, and Guy With Weed Whacker blowing each individual leaf from one end of the parking lot to the other, then it’s impossible to imagine the amount of violence that makes one want to commit.
Every tic, twitch, and gray hair on my head is a direct result of listening to that for the last year.
2023 was defined by being cooped up for the vast majority of the year. I did not go for a single walk in the park. Not one. I might have become a vampire.
They are doing construction over there, too, and if you have to blast something in your noise-cancelling headphones to cancel out the noise while you walk around the orange cones between you and the walking path, it sort of defeats the purpose.
I didn’t have much opportunity to sit on my balcony, either. Between the noise, the wasps, and the stink bugs, it was impossible to enjoy a relaxing moment.
We didn’t even get to go to the zoo this year, and that is supposed to be my birthday thing. The zoo is under construction, too.
We got exceedingly busy with some work stuff, so we didn’t take half a day on Friday to go to the Cork & Cow as much as we would have liked to. We hardly even went to the movies, which used to be our Friday afternoon thing. And when there was time, we were too tired to care.
Worst of all, we did not get to take another east coast trip. It was always something. Sometimes a valid something. Sometimes a something that felt more like inertia than a good reason.
The theme of 2023 was inertia. I’m not sure why, but getting through it felt like swimming through a bucket of molasses. Which is a total waste, because you could have made some really good gingerbread cookies with that.
But 2023 wasn’t all about aggravation and disappointment, either.
My bar came out of it, which may not seem like a big thing but it makes me happy so it counts.
I had fun making up cocktails and collecting new bourbons and liquors. I enjoyed experimenting with bitters.
And the bar itself is the only actually interesting thing in the entire apartment. The colorful bottles, Alice, Alice Clone, Alice 3, Alice IV, and Alice Again all adorning the shelves, pretty green vines winding around sparkling bottles of pink Nonino and Green Chartreuse. Hello Kitties overseeing it all.
Our 2023 routine was defined by Friday night Destiny games, during which I mixed up the cocktails and Ralph slayed the dragons and I occasionally got on the headphones to share my recipe with whoever would listen.
The games always started at 8:30 and sometimes lasted until 2 in the morning, which was all the better to try another recipe.
We also did some fun things this year. We went to the opera, for one. That was pretty great. We joined the Whiskey Society and that was even better.
We went to Kentucky for some fun distillery tours and fabulous food.
We spent a week in New Orleans which was pretty spectacular, drinking Sazeracs and eating beignets. Working out of cigar shops and our absurdly amazing suite.
There was Pilgrimage and the Main Street Festival, Dickens and Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band. Those involved food trucks, which is always a good thing, especially the pizza truck with the hot honey arugula ricotta pizza that I’d run over an old lady in a parking lot to get if there was only one slice left.
I picked up paper and pencil again, did some puzzles, practiced my Photoshop skills in a way that will come in handy for my next As Yet Unannounced new project.
So there were definitely positives. They were sometimes hard to tease out, and they often liked to come wrapped in a cloud of black dust, but if you looked really hard and squinted a lot, you could usually find something good.
2023 was also marked quite often by Other People’s Problems. The problem with Other People’s Problems is that sometimes they are worse than your own. And it is a lot easier to worry about yourself than to worry about someone else.
You can look at your own angst and malaise and beat yourself about the head a bit. But when you look at other people’s angst and malaise, you fret and wring your hands, and spend long sleepless hours trying to figure out how to help and beating yourself about the head a bit for failing. You can tolerate your own aches and pains but when you look at someone else’s aches and pains they somehow hurt more. This was a year of a lot of Other People’s Aches And Pains.
It was sort of a running joke between me and pretty much everyone I know that nobody was allowed to have any more Bad Things.
2023 proved that there is no end to the number of stupid, annoying things that can go wrong in day. The number of things that can go wrong in a day is comical.
If you can drop one thing, you can drop everything. If you can drop something once, you can drop it repeatedly.
If you can drop something and the smoke detector goes off and customer service tells you to unplug the filter right after you told them you unplugged the filter and the GPS fails the minute you need it to get to the opera that you are already late for, that is more like a normal day.
2023 proved that there are no depths to which technology will not fail and make your life miserable.
Good days could be measured in negatives.
Well, the ice didn’t go flying across the floor and under the pantry door again.
At least it’s cold enough that there are no more wasps.
The construction trucks didn’t start until 8am today, and since I was whanged out of bed by church bells anyway, it hardly matters.
And I haven’t even gotten to anything actually important.
2023 felt muted. If I had to draw a picture of it, it would be a muddy rut in a long road through the middle of nowhere.
2023 felt like a waiting room.
But it’s coming to an end anyway. Everything does. I will take the good things and the good memories into 2024 and tie a brick around the rest and dump it into the river. I invite you to join me, with gratitude for the things that keep us going, and a little sniff with a cocktail in one hand to brush off the rest.
Photo: 2023 in a nutshell. I think we’re done here.