Another Year Come and Gone
Busy as we are — and, of necessity, reluctant to sign up for long-term contracts, as for oil — we found ourselves today on the verge of an empty oil tank, with a delivery already scheduled for tomorrow. As one might expect, few of the oil companies that we called answered, others could not come out for days, and a couple told us that they don’t make emergency calls until the tank is entirely empty.
The kind woman at Heritage Oil, however, informed me of something that I’m surprised not to have known: That diesel fuel will work in a pinch. She even made sure that I was aware that I’d need virgin gas cans that had never been used for regular gasoline. So, off to Walmart, where the cashier wished me a happy new year. “It can’t be worse than the last,” she said.
Well, I don’t know about that.
The first half of 2008 was a hopeful, if stressful, time for me. I was advancing quickly in the construction field, and whole new career paths were coming into view. I was able to meet my bills well in advance, and things looked likely only to improve.
The year has gone out on a decidedly down note, though, with a return to my usual state of being — by which I mean a return to paycheck-to-paycheck survival. I’ve even trimmed personal luxuries, such as flavored beverages with lunch, from my lifestyle.
Some of you will know how difficult it can be to live on the financial edge. A distracted glitch in one’s financial system brings a wave of unaffordable fees, because no buffer exists. The considerations that must be kept always in view — such as home heating oil — emerge as more numerous than seems to be the case when resources tie up loose ends before they are truly severed. The minor inconveniences mount until their aggregate effect is dispiriting: a broken car door handle, a toilet that flushes only every other time, an old electrical system that often trips in the middle of microwave cooking, a basement sink pump that fills and expunges at a glacial rate. These things are all easily fixed with a minor application of time and money, but both are in short supply.
And then there’s illness and injury. A broken bone in an active child can make a paycheck disappear without warning. Flus and coughs can cost in time and motivation. I spent much of Christmas Day returning to bed and sleeping on the couch. The daily schedule by which I feel life to be advancing has come up against the motivation-sapping effects of the worst illness I can remember since college, over the past couple of weeks.
Yet, things could be much worse, and there’s always reason to remind one’s self that they can get much better quickly. What will the new year bring? Probably good and bad. That’s all that it’s reasonable to say. We define our goals, develop our strategies, and do our best to build a structure by which to capitalize on the drifts of luck and blessing that ultimately determine our fortunes.
I hope you are entering the new year with determination and optimism. It would be naive to declare that it can’t be worse, but it would be unnecessarily pessimistic to forget that it truly could be better, often in ways unexpected. And behind all the comforts and travails of life, a divine infinity transforms it all to bliss.