THE CALENDAR OF FOOLS

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Photo: Lisa Haney http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-night-to-bid-good-riddance-to-the-worst-year-ever-1482869972

Welcome, 2017.

As December moved along this year, similar messages and wishes kept appearing on Facebook. They can be summed up like this: Good Riddance 2016!

It’s a sentiment I understand. To anyone who doesn’t live in a cave or isn’t completely cut off from mainstream media, this year felt like one endless storm. At sea or on land, it makes no difference. We’ve still felt battered and unmoored.

Brexit, Trump, Putin, neo-fascism rebranded as “white nationalism” and the “alt-right”; climate change news that becomes more and more alarming as it’s downplayed by those who have a stake in doing so; the agony of the Syrians and Iraqis and their desperate calls for help. Black and indigenous lives which do not matter enough. And, more recently, strong media reactions to the deaths of so many writers, poets, actors, musicians and artists this year— the very best among us—the people of light whose art we’ve never needed more.

Welcome 2017, as long as you’re vastly different, is what we mean. Welcome, as long as things change for the better and we stop feeling like we’re stuck in a lesser Star Wars movie, living in the constant pall of a phantom menace.

It all resonates with me. It all feels legit. How good it would feel to peel back all of the darkness that covers us (or really, that as a species we have covered ourselves with). To press RESET. To figure out how to find our way through the desperately complex, interconnected and interdependent systems that paradoxically also separate us from one another so painfully.

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Reaching the end of the Advent calendar

This Christmas, my family received three 2017 wall calendars: one is for me, from the Reading Woman series, and the other’s a Shakespeare calendar for my son Christian. Both were gifts from my mum.  The third I received as part of a Kickstarter campaign that I funded a while ago. Looking at it brings me joy every day.

I don’t do very well with agendas (paper or smart phone) and pocket calendars. Time mostly slips through my fingers like a slick eel. But wall calendars help. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re fixed to something (though not a wall: my calendars are hanging on the side of the pantry and on a door). It may also be because they’re graphically more imposing; they’re bigger and even from a distance, I can really see time all sectioned off into squares and see the hand- scribbled entries we’ve made.

Every time I replace the old wall calendar with the new one, I feel a pang: there goes another year of my life. This small action causes me to pause. I sit and leaf through each month. My eyes rest first on the images that I’m unlikely to see again. But then, as I turn over the thick glossy pages, my eyes rest one last time on all of the annotations. What I see is the life of my family in all its banality and beauty, separated into tiny pockets of time.

img_4593All of the appointments to the doctor’s, for x-rays and physiotherapy and even an MRI that are the signposts of my husband’s year of recovery from back problems.

Annotations meant to remind me of the birthdays of everyone we love (but especially those who fly below Facebook’s radar).

All of the comings and goings: the arrival and departure dates of those among us who travelled or came to visit; my movements all over the island of Montreal where I was sent to evaluate prospective students. There’s my ever-changing work schedule too.

 

I can track the evolution of Christian’s career as an actor: the rehearsal and show dates of Macbeth; his call dates on a movie shoot; his scheduled days at the McGill Simulation Centre and his meetings with a new agent.

The impressions made by the lives of my sons and grandchildren are everywhere: concert dates, supper at The Keg and the pub, family gatherings, Penelope and Graeme’s birthdays, a visit to the Biodome and the movie premières that we always see together.

img_4592There’s also the hospital phone and room numbers of a beloved relative who endured frightening bypass surgery. The birthweight of baby Scarlett.

From car maintenance to meetings with our financial advisor, everything is there.

It wasn’t all work, and it wasn’t all bad. Some years seem cursed when you’re living through them. 2012 was like that for us, but it also marked the birth of miraculous Penelope. Experiencing that meant living through all of the rest.

Though so much of this year conspired to make us all paranoid and pessimistic, this Christmas season was one of the most sincerely kind and joyous I’ve experienced in years.

On my husband’s side of the family, almost thirty of us packed into my sister-in-law’s small bungalow and talked and played games and caught up with each other’s lives. On my side, three families came together at my son Jeremy’s and laughed and talked and were one.

Goodbye 2016. Hello 2017. I’m grateful to be alive.

Tomorrow is only found in the calendar of fools.

—Og Mandino

 

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