To Happy Endings
A Year of Nightmares
No matter how many times life surprises you, you never get used to the shock. A year ago I couldn't have pictured all that has come to pass in my world in 2008: my mother's death, the end of my second marriage, and a raft of other heartaches big and small, almost all of them documented in this column.
Similarly, I can't know what awaits me in the year ahead. It could be more trouble -- that's always possible, isn't it? No matter how much we feel we've paid our dues or had our share of bad karma, we can never be certain that the worst is behind us.
But I do know one thing from experience -- there is nothing more invigorating in life than knowing you have overcome major setbacks. I'm familiar with the comeback process because I've already had a lot of heartache to come back from. My first baby was full-term stillborn, I was widowed in my early 30s, and in the years that followed I learned more than I wanted to about living with the suffering created by terminal illness, bereavement, even domestic violence. I know it sounds bad, but on the other hand, I've never gone hungry, I've never lived in a war zone, and I've never been sexually assaulted. Believe me, I'm knocking on wood right now.
There have been two practices that have helped me live through and get past all the bad stuff. The first is continuing to believe in the healing power of fun and laughter, and the second, continuing to dream dreams, then trying my best to make them come true.
Fun? Am I kidding? How the heck do you have fun in the middle of a nightmare? Well, my theory is that, just as vampires abhor sunlight, nightmares don't like fun -- it makes them disappear, at least for a while. And this is why, amid all the pain of 2008, with the cast of characters of my life departing in ever-sadder ways, I threw a big party for my 50th birthday. I surrounded myself with my children, many of my best and oldest friends, a strawberry shortcake, a case of sparkling wine, and a deejay playing classic soul music. Held in the courtyard of a small hotel in my former hometown of Austin, Texas, it was a beautiful celebration, especially considering the alternative (like sitting home crying and checking my e-mail). It was very much fun, and the brightness and warmth it generated did not slip away at the end of the party. They are with me still.