“What a long strange trip it's been.” And just in case it wasn't strange enough, we present SOCK PUPPETS (albeit with a mild content warning)!
This is the occasion for us to look back upon a year that has passed. In the case of this year, we are called upon to look back upon a decade. In my case, I realize how much difference there is between being forty-five and fifty-five.
I began this century living in a basement studio apartment, bitter over my exile in a region of cold-hearted self-important souls, with barely the time of day for themselves, never mind anyone else. My career only beginning to show signs of life after a long, cold winter, I was resigned to joining those with "lives of quiet desperation." Mine was a lonely existence, and I lived for the three or four times a year I would return to Cincinnati, to live vicariously through those whom I had left behind. In the interim, I would go to another city along the eastern seaboard, as far from the Beltway as I could get without taking time off.
It helped me to avoid the pain of estrangement from my son, who was getting into trouble, the kind of trouble that is inevitable for a boy without the guidance of his father. He didn't want to see me, and his mother's only concern with the custody agreement was my financial obligation. Even my own family was warning me of the prospect, that I may have to write him off.
Deo gratias! That never happened.
But somewhere, something did happen. I got involved in the world around me, or at least found the venue where I could. At the decade's beginning, there was a group outside of Baltimore running a zydeco dance class, and it sort of went from there. That social scene lasted about two years, which in my experience, is an acceptable shelf life. People come and go, they drift from one thing to another, and this was no exception. But it was enough of a catalyst for me to have a life again, a life in my own back yard. Then my son emerged from a rehab program asking for me to be in his life again.
I had always said that by the time I was fifty, things should be right about where I wanted them to be. To some extent, that actually happened.
With the management at work improving more in my favor, they agreed to send me to school part-time for a diploma in web design. After at least two revisions to the curriculum in five years, and two department heads coming and going, the interim head informed me that I had completed my coursework. I will submit a portfolio in the spring or summer. Maybe they won't change the requirements again, but the faculty is mighty self-assured for a group of people who can't seem to get their own act together. And they wonder why some students have no respect for them.
But events often take on a life of their own. The management needed another person with experience in video editing. I convinced the division director that I had the aptitude, that all I needed was the training. With tongue in cheek and fingers crossed, he relented. The result was my best annual evaluation in well over a decade, a most favorable assessment by the new political leadership of my agency, and the prospect of a renewed career -- if I could only keep up with it.
Outside the office, things were changing as well. In 2004, I once again put on the uniform of Boy Scouting, after a hiatus of three and a half decades. As a Scout Commissioner, my task is to function as a liaison between individual Scout units under my care, and the parent organization. The role of the commissioner is often one of debate among adult volunteers in Scoutiing, many of whom see it as an intrusion into unit life, an unnecessary appendage. But while the history of Scouting does not bear this out, they are resistant to interference, real or imagined. Even among my fellow-commissioners, I have yet to find my proper niche. But I'm still in the game.
Three years ago, when it appeared that the traditional form of the Roman Mass would lose restrictions on its normative use, I entered conversations with a local pastor who intended to introduce it to his parish, about the prospect of being his Master of Ceremonies. In October of 2007, I began assisting the priest in this manner nearly every Sunday. The chance to work with some great priests, as well as an exceptional group of young men, has been a source of great satisfaction for me, to say nothing of being so close to the altar of God.
I bought a townhouse in September of 2005, in a neighborhood of other townhouses built in the early 1940s just west of the Pentagon. It is a wonderful place to live. Looking around at a pile of books, of all manner of subjects, I realize that the time is overdue to get the house in order. The goal for the coming year is to have a housewarming, however overdue.
Tonight, "Sal" and I will head to a Latin dance nightclub down the street. Together with people we barely know, we will welcome the new year, and the promise of new life emerging from darkness.
What can I say? Fiat voluntas tua!