That’s a wrap

One of the best products my camera churned out in 2015.

We’re back baby.

Before I get into my New Year’s wrap, I owe you all an explanation for my extended absence this month.

Following my last post, my work for the newspaper really started to ramp up with a few stories I’m working on and a few things came to a head all at once, which all required my full attention. This meant no blog writing and definitely no fiction writing as all spare minutes were spent soaking up sleep.

This went on for two weeks, and during that time, I was battling a cold, fairly successfully I’ll add. My mind was so set on the work I was doing that I think my brain and body just kept the sickness in the background. Then, when my holidays hit on the 23rd, so did the sinus infection.

I was out of commission for several days with a head that felt like a swollen balloon full of mucus and barbed wire and a body that ached all over.

By Christmas I was a few days out from being on the mend, but I was able to enjoy some Christmas spirit and cigars with family, which probably didn’t help things and prolonged my healing process, but I wasn’t going to let a cold ruin my holidays.

I’ve taken it easy since then and started to finally feel like myself again, in energy levels and work ethic as well as health.

For that reason, you’ve got quite the novel to read today because my stir-crazy hands are ready to get back to work.

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Speaking of New Year’s…

It’s hard to know where to start when trying to write about an entire year.

365 days.

Each of those days is broken down into hours, minutes, seconds, during which any single moment can have a staggering impact on how you look back on your year.

It may not seem like a big moment at the time. Answering (or not answering) a text message, taking the bus to work, or staying in that one night your friends invited you to hit the bar.

By answering that text message you could be fuelling the fire that is soon about to burst into a four-alarm full-relationship. By taking the bus to work that day instead of taking the car, you could spot a newspaper sitting on the seat beside you and find a new job in the classifieds page.

That’s the thing about moments, they’re like a starting poker hand. The dealer has only given you your two starting cards. Sometimes, they look nice, sometimes they don’t, but everything changes once The Flop hits.

Everything looks different, and there’s still The Turn and The River.

But life isn’t a poker game and there are countless cards always falling onto the table, life is one endless poker hand.

I write this because it’s one of the reasons I think New Years Eve is egregiously overrated.

Everyone exuberantly markets the night like it’s one champagne-infused, confetti-ridden opportunity to start over. As if those countless camera flashes when the ball drops are able to stab their daggers of light into everyone’s lives and erase all the mistakes from the past year. Because, of course, nobody wants to forget about the good stuff right?

It’s bullshit.

Going back to my analogy before, the game is still on, and there are countless hands still going with cards still about to fall.

Now, I’ve probably got a few, “new year, new me” subscribers in a frenzy, but just keep your yoga pants on and let me finish.

I have absolutely no problem with making resolutions, or with taking stock of how things have gone over the past year, but I tend to do this on a monthly basis, not a yearly one.

That’s right, it’s not like I’m sitting in my basement apartment with bottles of champagne and party hats, screaming, “Whoo! (Insert month here) 2016! We made it!”

No. Stop.

It’s only a matter of continually monitoring how your goals are progressing and making small adjustments to your daily routine, perhaps saving a little more money, or shaving off more time in a day to write, but it’s these small things that add up to the winning hand. Persistence. You keep hitting the dealer for more cards, eventually you’re going to hit the Royal Flush. The odds are only 650,000 to 1.

With that being said, I want to take a look back at some of the past year’s poker hands that actually did eventually pay out, and some that I’m still feeling the affects of despite the last cards falling (or maybe not) the year before.

Accomplishment

Whenever someone finds out I’ve written a novel, their first question is, where can I read it? When I tell them it’s not published, the second question is, will you try?

I don’t know the answer to that question yet, but the experience of writing this book was not only healing for me in an extremely cathartic way, but was the epitome of something I’ve been thinking about for years.

Every writer, when they first set pen to page or finger to keys, think about writing a novel. I did for the first time back in my second year of university.

I was sitting in my room, the master bedroom of a house I shared with two friends. I was at my glass desk, a cheap, Zellers hunk of scrap metal I got rid of the second I left school, my headphones were in and I was working on my first short story, “They Always Find Out” it was called. A horror rag that will never see the light of day, but it was during that time that I thought about turning that story into a novel.

The idea seem both exciting and laughable.

Exciting in that I would have hundreds and hundreds of pages to tell the story of these characters, give them deep backstory, give them rich descriptions, meaningful actions, and create their world so vividly, the reader could picture the scene down to the last yellowing leaf clinging to the windowsill.

Laughable because I had no idea where to start. In the writing-world, my training wheels were still firmly attached, and if I took the jump that was a novel, it would only lead me through a brief period of airborne bliss before I slammed back into the pavement of reality and scrapped the pile of pages.

I’m no savant. I know this. Everyone wishes they were, but I think realizing your limitations is a serious strength, because then you can work on strengthening what you do have.

I’m not the world’s best writer, wasn’t back then and I’m not now, but I’ve worked every day at that dream first hatched in my mind nearly eight years ago, and it came to fruition in 2015.

For that reason, 2015 was a beauty.

Growth

I try to think about how long I’ve been single for and it always takes me time to figure it out.

It’s like a small part of me is still clinging to the idea that it’s not really true, and if we don’t pay much attention to it, the reality will just fade away like a bad dream.

That part of me was a lot stronger at the beginning of 2015, but I’ve grown since then, and that part has been pushed out.

I’ve been a serial monogamist since the ninth grade, that would have been about 2003, and before the summer of 2014, I had not been single for longer than a few months at a time.

A girlfriend had always been a part of my life and learning to live on your own, without that support system, has been like learning to live with a missing limb.

You no longer have that listening ear when you want to talk, or those welcoming arms when you have too many worries. You no longer have someone to spend time with just for the sake of being with another human being, you don’t have someone to go out with, to cook with, to sleep with, to kiss, to hold.

And it’s not only that, but you miss that feeling of being needed as well. Being the crying shoulder or the welcoming arms or the listening ear gives you a feeling of accomplishment, of self-worth.

That’s the key.

Up until the summer of 2015, I’d say about 90 per cent of my self-worth was ascribed to my success in a relationship. “I’m a kick-ass boyfriend, so that means I’m a great person.”

It was practically my mantra, and when the boyfriend title was taken off my life’s business card, there was nothing else there.

Or so I thought.

It took some time for me to get over the break-up first.

Healing a broken heart is dangerous and harmful work.

Your heart is a mirror, smashed into millions of tiny shards in the middle of a dark forest. Now, you’re blindfolded and you have to roam around and try and put the pieces back together.

A few shards still cling to the frame, they are what keep you moving and operating on a somewhat normal basis during the day, but the only way you find the remaining pieces is when you step on one.

And once you pry that piece from the soft meat of yourself, you need to deal with it, manipulate it in a way that it will reform your heart in some conceivable way, some conceivable way that doesn’t involve her in the center.

I’m at the tail-end of that journey, my feet are pretty scarred, but I’m a better person for it, I know this, and I’ve found a lot more to add to my life’s business card.

The Boyfriend title still hasn’t resurfaced, and you know what, I’m perfectly fine with that.

For that reason, 2015 was a little painful, but still a beauty.

Happiness

The word is so overused that it’s practically cliched. Every time I write the word I want to delete it and try and think of a better one, but for my purposes here, it’s the best one I’ve got.

I’ve heard it countless times around New Years Eve in years past. Whether it’s over heard during conversations at the coffeeshop, or standing at a stoplight, or perhaps at the pub.

“So, any new year’s resolutions?”

“I want to be happy.”

Happiness, everyone wants it. The amount of people that want it, or talk about wanting it, makes it hard to believe that anyone actually has it, or feels it.

It’s not true though, we have it, we just don’t realize it.

I feel like happiness is only one of those things that you realize you had it, after it’s already gone.

In the same way you don’t consciously think about how you’re breathing until you’re choking, or how healthy you feel until you’re sick (a recent realization for me).

The emotion is like Boo in the Mario games. It follows behind you slowly, glaring at your back, but when you turn around to look at it, it hides it’s true face.

It’s elusive, this happiness. That’s why I think people should resolve not to “be happy” but to “know when I’m happy”.

Taking that single moment to realize it, to say to yourself, wow, this is it. I’ve got it.

This will save you time at the end of the year, instead of trying to figure out all those times that you were happy, these constant realizations will blend together and before you know it, you wont have to think about the happy moments because you’ll just feel it.

This is harder than it seems.

I think back on past relationships and think, yeah I was happy then, or when I went to Europe for the second time, yeah I was happy then too.

That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t help now, does it.

Thinking this way, about all those past moments of happiness, will become an addiction.

For me, I’ve always felt the happiest when I’m travelling, and throughout this year, I felt like I left my happiness emotion at the airport in Danmark.

For this reason, throughout 2015 I was constantly searching for opportunities, constantly wanting to drop everything here in Ontario and take off somewhere aboard, constantly pricing flights in my spare time, and constantly daring myself to book the flight, just do it.

I never did.

But it’s this constant obsessing over getting away, getting overseas that has made me miserable here.

But I think this realization is the first step to finding happiness here and not on the other end of a plane ticket.

Goals

2015 was a busy one for me.

It started off with some winter weekends in MacGregor Point, then travelled to Quebec to cover the Memorial Cup in the spring, and took a couple weeks on the west coast in the summer.

While these experiences were great for me, and great fuel for the writing fire burning inside my head, it was the time spent alone in my apartment that had the largest impact on me this year.

Countless hours rolled out in one long movie montage, would show me moving slowly between the kitchen table, my desk, the bed, laptop in hand.

I think I’ve probably spent more time staring at a computer screen this year than anything else, which, while probably not being the healthiest thing in life, has lead to me getting a fucking ton of work done.

And laying plans.

By experiencing all of those things I just explained above, it’s made me realize exactly what I want to do with myself in the coming years, and those hours spent in my apartment alone, are when I made the blueprint for that plan.

It’s a rough sketch at this point, nothing more than a few crayon lines on a child’s piece of construction paper taped to the back of my head, but it’s a direction.

And that direction has acted like a focusing beam for the arrow that is my energy and determination.

That direction may change, shit, it most definitely will change in 2016, because like I said, there’s a lot of cards that have yet to fall, and let’s be honest, there are hundreds of hands I haven’t even be dealt yet.

But it’s still a plan, and for that reason, 2015 was a beauty.

I wish you all the happiest of new years and for making this year so amazing. 2,200 plus people viewed my writing on this blog in 2015, and without your support I would be one lonely scribe, so for that reason, you’re all beauties, and I hope your 2015 was just as beautiful as mine.

See you in 2016, and for the last time this year, thanks for reading,

-J.J.W.