Monday, January 15, 2018

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Elise and I don't really do New Years. Even before we had kids, neither of us were really interested in staying up that late and didn't feel as though we were really missing out on anything anyway.

Most times, when I come to the end of a year, I don't feel anything momentous. I don't feel as though I am closing a book or starting a new chapter. Most years, the year ends on a Tuesday, and the new year starts on a Wednesday. That's about as much of a milestone as I am willing to acknowledge. I don't feel any great sense of achievement in completing a year. As I don't feel any sense of open possibilities or fresh starts in the beginning of a year.

But 2017 was different.

What immediately comes to mind is the first line in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

The sentence goes on for a full paragraph, ending with the less famous, but more elegant phrase, "the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

I won't pretend to know what all of that means. I don't think of come much further in understanding Dickens than I did when I first read this book in middle school. But if you read it over and over again, a glimmer of comprehension might start to shine from between the words, like a small animals peeking their heads out of burrows in the springtime.

It should be painfully evident why I would think 2017 was the worst of times. My mother's passing notwithstanding.

What may be more elusive to understand is why I would think of 2017 as the best of times. Because -- let's face it -- it was a rough year by any yardstick. But despite everything that happened in 2017, I came out the other end feeling...


...and happy.

Some emotions come and go quickly. You can experience several emotions acutely in the span of any given day. You burn the eggs. You're pissed. You spill coffee on your shirt and you're disappointed. The Seahawks win. You're pumped. These spikes and dips can tug you like the tides, ebbing and flowing.

But to be content is not something I think you ever consciously feel. You may know it is there like a sweater that itches or a feeling you get from too much sun, but don't know quite what -- if anything -- you should do about it.

It hit me walking home from work the other day. My commute is all of a ten minute walk. I have never had a commute this good before. Nor, is it likely, I will ever have a commute this good again. There's not a pub on the way home, but there is the best Indian restaurant in town. So, there is that. I was struck with the realization that -- through everything we had come through in the last year -- I was happy.

It's not always rainbows and sunbeams. Those are the spikes. The ebbs and flows. This is the glacial tracking of a floe, moving with the surety of time.

And I have no preconceptions that 2018 will be all rainbows and sunbeams. More likely than nought -- and perhaps, one hopes -- it will be just another year. Not the best of times or the worst of times or the season of light or the season of darkness, but just another year. That ends on a Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Volcano Book

Elise's First Climb

This past weekend, we headed to the local climbing gym, Climbat, in Amman for Peter's birthday. While the boys and I had climbed before, this was Elise and Clementine's first climbs ever!

Peter had made huge strides since the last time he climbed. Which hadn't been since we left D.C. He made it to the top on all but one of this three times up the wall!

Clementine with her kindergarten classmate and BFF, Avy. 

Elise making sure her harness is on right.

She made it!!

Her hard work in the gym paid off and she had no problems making it up the wall on all but one of her climbs, too. On the last climb, she hit a tricky spot and had to come down. I went up behind her and can attest that it was a real tough patch of wall. Otherwise, she was a champ and can't wait for her next climb. Next up: we're going to sign up for the belay class, so we can belay each other. I told Elise that I believe her life insurance becomes null and void if I let her fall off the wall! :)