I’m writing this post on a cold early Arizona morning just before Christmas. The lights on the tree the only illumination in the room, a hot cup of cocoa to fortify the sleepless bones sitting beside me, Christmas music playing softly in the next room, and the rabbits are happily working their way through the red leaf lettuce and Italian parsley breakfast they’ve been given.
And I’m thinking: life feels very good indeed right now.
I’m not sure – actually, I doubt very much – I could have written these words on the same date last year. Spritually, I had bottomed out from several years of decreasing church attendence resulting from my own past experiences with the Episcopal Church and a growing weariness over the whole goings-on in the church I had once felt such a strong calling to the priesthood in. The whole implosion of that calling had come so fast five years before that, that I had never really come to terms with it; that seemed at the root of just a lot of dissatisfaction I felt about everything. Outside the spiritual realm, my workplace office was closing and I wasn’t sure how I’d like working from home on a permanent basis, we were awash in credit card debt, my golf game was a mess, and life in Goodboys Nation was unsettled due to some, shall we say, unpleasantness, left over from a malcontent who had departed shortly after the 2006 weekend event had ended.
In short, I wasn’t feeling good about a lot of things in my heart and my spirit.
So what has changed, you might ask? Well, in some cases a lot, in others not so much. But if there’s one thing 2007 will be known for, it will be that I began to find myself again, if you will, amidst a bittersweet year filled with some new experiences (mostly good) and a repeat of some not-so-pleasant things. Since it feels right to close the year on a pleasant note, let’s start with those events that comprise the “bitter”.
More than anything else, we’ll remember this year as the one in which we lost our long-time (and Tracey’s much-cherished) rabbit, Marble. Because he was the only rabbit who ever had the full run of the house, and because his personality matched his size (at 16 lbs. he was truly a “big bull bun”), not having him around this Christmas makes the house feel (and sound) emptier than in years past. While he always kept pretty much to his area in our bedroom, you never knew when he was going to pop out and spread his cheer around in search of some loving and a handout from the refrigerator.
Two months after losing Marble, we lost another rabbit, The Big Nipper, suddenly. One moment he was full of life munching on some treats, the next moment he was not. I guess we should all be so lucky in our own passings. We kinda think TBN was a lot older than what the pet store had let on, and I don’t think prior coming into our home he had had a very good life, but it’s a comfort to know he enjoyed some sense of security and a lot of love over the last 10 months of his life in our care. Their passings makes it three years in a row we have lost at least one pet, which just shows you the transition still going on between generations of family pets. Farewell old friends, you are missed.
Of course, with the passings of old friends come new ones, and it has been a joy to welcome into our home Cosmo (short for Cosmopolitan), who has taken up The Big Nipper’s old place of residence and has begun making it his own. He’s a character, for sure.
I suppose you can also say that our credit card debt remains a sore point in the Richard household, but given that for the first time in our lives Tracey and I are committed to eliminating it and are on track to pay it all off by the 3rd quarter of 2008 (God willing!), it doesn’t feel as much like a strangehold on us as it has the past few years. I mean, at some point you just get sick of it and have to grow up and face the results of your actions. So in that regard, if it doesn’t feel good, I can at least say it feels better than it has.
On to the good things about this year. First of all, I’ve come to enjoy the experience of working from home far more than I thought I would. If there’s any negative to it, it’s that you end up working a heck of a lot more hours doing so than you would if you commuted to an office every day. But that simply requires some discipline and the good sense to know when to close up shop and call it a day. I know one thing – if at all possible, I hope never to have to work out of an office full-time ever again!
On the Goodboys Nation front, this year’s golf weekend was one of, if not the, best events we’ve ever had. And this was simply a result of several long-time Goodboys recognizing the importance of wanting to keep things going, even if it meant the departure of one of our long-time companions and changing the way things were done. While it’s sad to have seen one of my once-close friendships cool considerably as a result, as you get older you just begin to realize that everything – times, places, relationships – has its moment in time, and then everyone moves on. Hopefully that doesn’t happen a lot, but sometimes you just have to choose between what’s important to you and what’s not.
One of my favorite memories of this year was during my visit back to Massachusetts in July for the Goodboys event. Here in AZ, we were in the middle of a stretch of incredibly hot weather (over 110), and, needing some time by myself to work on my golf game, was pleasantly surprised to have a chance to do so on an unseasonably cool afternoon when gray clouds hung low and spat rain off and on. Delighted at the change of weather, I felt inspired to work hard and make some necessary changes to my iron and short game I had been putting off for years. And boy, did that work pay off! My partner Killer and I won this year’s event, but more importantly, the chance to play better with a reunited bunch of Goodboys friends made everything that much more enjoyable.
2007 was also a year of the past becoming present, at least when it came to my circle of friends. For this was the year that my brother Mark and I were reunited with our former Top Priority bandmates Jerry “Keys” Palma and Ken “The Cat” McDougal more than 30 years after we had all gone our separate ways. To be able to know their friendship once again is a gift, and a highlight of the year. As it turned out, the Top Priority reunion became a gift that kept on giving, as it was a direct result of my posting about that at this website that I heard from another old friend from a few years before even that, Bob Noftle, and I look forward to seeing him when I’m back in Massachusetts between the holidays. How could anyone have expected such a turn of events all in one year?
More than anything else, however, this year has been a turning point for me spiritually. I suppose it all started back in March with a bonafide “religious experience” at which I was given the gift of finally understanding what my calling actually was during those 8+ years while I was pursuing the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. The experience left me with a sense of being able to start over, and it was shortly thereafter I committed myself to finding a church I could feel comfortable attending once again. After trying out several, I think I’ve – at least for now – settled on a Roman Catholic church only minutes away from our house. Once more, attending church has become enjoyable again, and the effect on the non-spiritual aspects of my life has been noticeable. For 2008, my hope is that I might get back into rebuilding my daily prayer life, but for now, after all I’ve been through, the little steps I’ve been taking are encouragement enough.
So there you have it, The Great White Shank’s year in review. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to put this crazy year behind me, even if it means looking ahead to the uncertainty a new year always brings with it. Since 2008 is a presidential election year, I’m sure the political landscape will take precedent over most things, but it will also be a watershed year for the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, both of which I have little doubt will split along philosophical and theological lines over the issue of homosexuality. How it all will end up is still anyone’s guess, but it won’t be pretty. While I’ll be watching (and commenting) with interest, I also plan on avoiding it like the plague.
While these kinds of things may seem momentous in their own right, I think it’s more important to keep things in perspective and focus on truly important things in life – you know, like being grateful for having a roof over one’s head, gainful employment, food on the table, the love of family and friends, and the health and well-being of same.
May all who frequent this outpost in the blogsphere on occasion find such blessings for you and those you hold most near and dear in your hearts in the coming year!