(by Susan) Happy New Year! Ten years ago, I was newly married, writing my dissertation, and had absolutely no idea what would befall us in the decade to come. I remember that we went out early to celebrate with a glass of champagne and plate of pasta at our favorite Italian restaurant on the Hill, and then trekked back through the snow to our little (rented) two-bedroom house, hugged our dog, Watson, and stayed up late talking about our dissertations and planning what we would do when we both defended and went off to start our professional lives.
We were so confident that night. We were prepared, after all. We had stockpiled canned food, printed out our dissertations, and relied more on each other than our electronics. There was not a single Y2K problem that would derail our careful planning.
Those were the days when you could plan your way out of anything.
But now, two kids, two cancers, two jobs, two grants, and too much later to even imagine, our life is a little less certain, a little less planned, and a lot more unpredictable. On any given day, the two-year-old could derail plans as simple as metroing downtown to the museum, the five-year-old could come down with a fever, daddy’s colleagues across the ocean could call him into work, or mommy — well, we all know what happened to Mommy this decade.
And so, we start this decade differently.
This time around, we know that we are lucky. We know that we are living on time that we don’t deserve, and that each moment is precious. We don’t rely on our own plans as much as we emphasize the joy that is possible in each day, starting and ending the day with kisses and a hug, and perhaps an extra I LOVE YOU enthusiastically started and returned by our own little boy choir and their parents. We are still focused on our work, but we temper that with the joy, and live each day in a way that when we go to sleep at night, we sleep well.
We have learned that you don’t survive a decade by preparing for your own survival.
You survive — a decade, a day, a moment at a time — by reaching out to others, by celebrating the joy that waits to be discovered, and by being content in the togetherness that we are granted.
My husband has a saying that he recalls when we’re stuck in D.C. traffic, delayed, in the car when we’d much rather be someplace else. Instead of being frustrated that we’re not already at dinner, at the party, at the museum, or at Grandma’s, he turns to us and says, “Oh, well, at least we’re all together.” The first time he said it, it caught me off guard. After all, I had planned the perfect day for us, and now traffic was ruining our plans. But now I understand. Being together is not a consolation — it is the whole damn point — and we can enjoy each other from car seats or stadium seats, in fancy pants or in diapers, and in sickness and in health.
As we celebrated New Year’s Eve last night with some of our favorite friends-who-blog, I looked around and was so, so grateful for the night, for the friends, and for the wonderful families who had joined together to join in the fun. We had dinner, we had ice cream, we had noisemakers, we had everything to make the party perfect. But with these friends, we could have been stuck in the car and it would have been fine. We were together.
Happy New Year, friends. I start this decade much less sure of the future than I was on 1/1/01, but I am confident that we will prevail — and enjoy — the years to come. After all, we’re in this together.
Cross-posted on Toddler Planet.