Happy New Years?

I am sick of saying “Happy New Year.”

Why is this something that we feel compelled to say to one another?

It is an empty gesture. We are all saying it to each other because it is the methadone to ween us off of saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.

Nobody says “Happy New Year” after January first.

Why?

Because it is meaningless. When does the year stop being new? January second? So, you are just a prick who is hoping that I make it home with out getting killed by a drunk driver but nothing more? I mean, thanks for not wanting me to die and all but…

While we are at it. Let’s talk about how shitty New Years Eve is.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not want it to be removed as a national holiday (day off) but, all of this Happy New Year stuff makes people think that New Years Eve should be a special and cathartic night of reflection and hope.

I am not saying that it can’t be.

But…

Most of the time it isn’t. Most of the time we are left feeling like we are missing out.

The reason for this is simple.

We spend all day in anticipation. Planning our night. Drinking, dancing, having fun.

All of this alone should make the evening special. But, too often, it doesn’t.

We spend all night watching the clock, asking “how long until midnight?”

We spend all night watching a re-run of something that has already happened, pretending that it is actually live.

We watch celebrities tell us what they are looking forward to in their amazing live’s in the upcoming year which makes us feel shitty about the fact that the next big thing we are looking forward to is the new season of Game of Thrones.

We watch terrible, lip-synced musical performances and flip the channel for this year’s Red Bull stunt (which is always underwhelming because turns out they use professionals that know their physics better than your average redneck with a dirt bike).

We drink way too much, too fast, and realize too late that we need to pace ourselves if we plan to make it to midnight.

“Ten minutes left!”

The anticipation grows. As we stare at the glass of champagne in our hand that could be cheap or expensive because we can’t tell the difference and think anyone who thinks they can is full of shit.

“Five minutes!”

The saliva starts to pool in our mouths as we hope we can make it at least a couple of hours into the new year without throwing up due to intoxication (we are a little old for that aren’t we?).

We gather around as the ball with an absurd number of crystals begins its’ descent to the bottom of the pole on which it sits.

Now is when we take a little time to think about the year and plan what we are going to do different in the year ahead (but won’t). We count our blessings and feel optimistic (for once) about the direction things are heading.

“Ten, nine, eight…”(etcetera, etcetera).

If we are lucky, someone special is along side of us waiting for the strike of midnight for the traditional kiss. Worrying along with us about how long the kiss should be.

How long is everybody else going to kiss for? Is it going to be just a simple kiss or one of the French persuasion? I don’t want to be the first one done kissing because it will be weird watching everyone else kiss… but I don’t want to be last either because it will be weird for everybody else… Oh shit, time to kiss…

“Happy New Year!” is shouted in unison.

Next comes the song that we all recognize but only know the first couple of lines. You know the “auld sang line” one. We don’t know what it means but the tune is so catchy.

For the record, it is Auld Lang Syne and it means: times long past.

Yes, after we toast and wish each other a happy new year, we play a song that is reminiscing about times long past. It’s a big “never mind!” to the fact the calendar just turned over to a new year yet again.

What’s next?

Nothing. Nothing is next. We all just got the payout and it was less than thrilling. New Years Eve is Christmas Eve with no payout. Well, except for when we throw up like a slot machine paying out a jackpot.

We spend the first day of the new year hungover, cursing champagne and wishing that we had the foresight to buy food that would cure said hangover since every store is closed.

We don’t feel good enough to start that new exercise regimen.

We’ll start that tomorrow… we’ve got all year!

Our brains are too foggy to learn that new thing that we always have wanted to do.

If we’re going to learn something new we should at least start out mentally sharp.

We want to spend more time with our family in the new year, but we are way too hungover to head over to our parent’s house.

We wouldn’t be pleasant with this hangover anyways and getting off the couch is not happening.

We want to drink less in the new year.

Off to a great start! We are definitely not drinking today… But, a Bloody Mary may not be such a bad idea…

Ultimately, we know that it is that moment of reflection and hope that keeps us coming back. The feeling, even if it is just for a moment, of unadulterated optimism before we are jarred by the dramatic snap back to reality.

And, in 358 days we will adjust our e-mail valedictions and we will force a smile as we say to every friend, acquaintance and stranger we see…

“Happy New Year”

Cheers.

 

Do You Believe?

Can you remember the time when you truly believed in Santa Claus?

When you knew beyond a doubt that the stories were true, that he actually flew from house to house delivering presents?

I know I can.

Growing up, Santa always came on Christmas Eve. There was no sleeping and waiting for Christmas morning. No waking up and running down stairs to see if he came again that year.

Wait. Before you start to judge, or think that I didn’t get to experience the magic…

I will argue that I experienced more magic than most.

Most of my Christmas Eve’s run together, as they do for most of us. But I have one. One night that, to this day, makes me stop and wonder for just a moment if Santa could actually be real.

I must have been about 5 years old. Come to think of it, it’s probably the first Christmas that I remember.

When I look back, there was every reason for me to have the veil lifted on the entire Santa Claus “thing.” Because not only am I the baby in my family… I am also a mistake. Sorry, my mom hates that… I was an unplanned surprise that happened to turn out as the most funny, gifted, handsome, and tallest son in my family.

Anyway, my siblings must have had every opportunity to spoil the magic. But, they didn’t. For that, I am grateful.

(Side note: my siblings are awesome, I have always felt included despite being a decade behind.)

On this particular Christmas Eve, we were at another family’s home overlooking the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York.

I don’t remember the evening or what we had for dinner. I don’t remember what I did to keep myself occupied without another person my age in the house.

What I do remember is it being late. I remember the snow making the night a little brighter. I remember everyone happy and laughing. And,  I remember the sleigh bells.

Out of no where there were sleigh bells. Faint, but there they were. Outside the house (on the roof?), the undeniable sound of sleigh bells.

It’s really him!

Before we know the truth, there is always a piece of us that is skeptical. The story is far fetched, that is obvious even to a five year-old. But, we search for every excuse to believe. We choose to believe in the unbelievable because it is much more exciting than knowing your parents bought, wrapped, and placed your presents under the tree.

Remember, this is before the all of the Santa tracker apps and websites. Sleigh bells outside were my tracker. Sleigh bells outside.

He is here. He is actually here delivering presents!

Of course, everybody at the party took the opportunity to feed into my excitement.

“Do you hear that, Timmy?”

“It sounds like he is headed for your house.”

“If you hurry home, maybe you can catch him.”

We got in the Aerostar van and started our way home. I can’t imagine I was tolerable. The van could not go fast enough.

We finally got home.

I ran to the front door. I ran through the house to the living room.What I found was nothing short of a miracle to my young eyes.

Four neat piles were set up in different areas of the living room. One for my sister, two for each of my brothers and, most importantly, one for me.

I can’t remember any of my presents, except for one. It was a Gonzo timtalksgonzostuffed animal from The Muppets (I must have liked him?). He was sitting on the arm of the black sofa, placed so deliberately… so carefully that I knew it could only have been Santa that placed my toys in that pile.

But, it wasn’t about the presents. Not that night.

Leading away from the fireplace were snowy, wet boot prints.

On the coffee table sat a half drank mug of milk and an empty plate that was previously adorned with cookies.

Proof.

I had proof beyond a reasonable doubt that not only was Santa real, but he had visited my house and delivered my presents.

Obviously, one of my parents had left the party early to put on this ruse but that was lost on me.

I believed.

As I write this, I can feel a part of me that still believes (thanks to this 4th glass of red wine). There is a part of me that still isn’t quite convinced that it wasn’t Santa.

I love that feeling.

We all love that feeling.

With all of the non-sense that clouds up our lives on a day to day basis, I think it is important that we all remember these simple pleasures.

Yes, there are terrorists in the world that want to kill us.

Yes, Donald Trump exists.

Yes, we have issues that we believe in and want to convince the rest of the world that our opinion is the right one.

Yes, we (most of us) go to jobs that drive us crazy and make us want to give up.

But, in sixteen short days it will be Christmas Eve. And, for millions of kids around the world, the magic is starting to build as they wait and hope for Santa’s visit.

Yes, that is amazing.

Yes, we should all do what we can to encourage that belief in magic.

And, no, of course Santa isn’t real.

Of course, he doesn’t have flying reindeer.

And no, it’s not possible for him to visit kids all over the world.

But… Maybe, just maybe…

Cheers to believing.

Why am I So Awkward? 2: Return of the Awkward

People really seem to enjoy hearing about my awkward adventures back in May, so I decided it may be a good idea to delve a little deeper into this issue. For your laughs and for my own self discovery.

I can’t explain where these… let’s call them tics, come from. I live most of my life doing everything I can to accommodate everybody that I come in contact with, and, everything I can to accommodate these people with out being an inconvenience to everyone else in the world.

It’s exhausting.

Just thinking about this makes my chest tighten.

My brain forms associations quickly when I am experiencing all of the symptoms of what I consider to be an awkward situation. I have become so familiar with the symptoms, that I am like a idiot superhero trying to save the world from them.

This is what I have decided anyway…

Let’s go through some examples, shall we? Continue reading

Huddled Masses

Hate.

Hate is what has been left in the wake of the tragedy that happened in Paris last week. After all of the #prayforParis and people changing their profile picture to be colored in the likeness of France’s flag. Hate comes forth in the end.

We are a country that was formed by immigrants. Thrived because of immigrants. Became the greatest country in the world because of immigrants.

The terrorists are winning.

Interesting that a sonnet “The New Colossus”by Emma Lazarus is bronzed on the Statue of Liberty (a gift given to us by the French) but the words that adorn this plaque seem long forgotten.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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Today, we shut off the lamp and we turn our backs.

Why? Continue reading

The Seven-Year Itch

They call it the “seven-year itch.”

The idea that after seven years of marriage the happiness of the relationship begins to decline.

This is an interesting concept, but obviously there is not a timer that starts when you get married or start dating someone.

So what is it? What causes people to lose the spark that they once had?

Simple, as humans we analyze and process what is in front of us. Most of the time when we see other couples, we are seeing them with their best couple hats on. They are friendly to each other, maybe even affectionate. They sit next to each other. They hold hands. They hug. They kiss. They laugh. They love. What we are seeing is happiness and harmony.

This is our framing of other couples. The information that the brain is processing on other relationships is largely positive.

This is where we have to be careful.

It is a shame that we aren’t given an instruction manual on how to use the thing that rattles around in our skull, because it would sure be helpful.

We need to remind our brains, periodically, that what we are seeing of other couples is about 5% of the real story. That is not to say that we should assume that when other couples are on their own that they are unhappy, rather, we need to simply remind our brain that we are not getting all of the information.

They fight. They hurt. They cry.

It is the same reason that movies can be so effective. We see perfect couples and happy endings on the big screen and it is no wonder that our brains are searching for that exact thing, because we know it will bring us pleasure and happiness. We can all have that thing, we just need to understand that nobody’s relationship is happy at all times.

We are constantly processing the sensory information that is put before us and when we are all exposed to everybody’s best, we start to try to figure out why we fight and argue so much in our own relationship. Or, why our significant other made us sad or hurt and, suddenly, we are thinking that our relationship is inferior and that we need to move on find that the perfect thing we see everywhere else in the world. And since we have spent so much time with our partner, we must need a new one.

It is the same reason that slot machines are profitable. Our brains are always subconsciously trying to solve problems in front of us.

The problem?

Well, as we know, slot machines are random but when we win our brain makes the association that we have done something to achieve the reward and wants to duplicate it. First step? Insert another coin.

What does this have to do with relationships?

Your brain is going to seek out the perfect relationship that you see everywhere else. But, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship, at least in a universal sense. What you need to remind your brain of, is that you are searching for your own perfect. Your perfect is not the same as anybody else’s perfect, which, makes it more perfect.

It’s an original perfect. It is beautiful and you should embrace your perfect. And, you will only know when you know it. Do not let anyone tell you what your perfect should look and feel like. Tell your brain that you are going to design your own perfect and let other people have their perfect.

This weekend, my wife and I celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. I adore everything about her. But, despite what you may see when we are in public…

We fight. We cry. We hurt. We laugh. We love.

All by ourselves, with nobody else to see.

And as I look back over the 7 years of our marriage I realize something great…

We have found our perfect. And it is just… well… perfect.

Cheers.