When I was little, our unsophisticated New Year’s toasts “Health” or for reasons unknown to me “Chinchin” were raised to another level by visiting relatives. I assume they were from Venezuela, because we did them in Spanish forever more.
And you’ll forgive me because I can’t write in Spanish, and it’s be so long I might not remember the right words, but I think it was “Salud, Dinero y amor.”
Health, wealth and love.
I used to think older people were strange and stodgy because when you asked them what they wanted in the new year, they said “health.” Even as a very sickly child, I didn’t understand the point of that. Okay, a part of it is that I didn’t understand why anyone would ask for health. It either came or it didn’t and in my case it seemed a hopeless business. But more importantly, ill-health didn’t affect anything. Sure, I had horrible nights (which I only started having recently, like within the last six months) of lying in the dark, struggling for breath afraid of dying while everyone slept. (Why is it that breathing always gets easier with the light of day? Seems weird. At least now I have a kindle to distract me.) Sure I had weeks of being confined to bed, away from my playmates, and unable to do anything but make lego cities and tell myself stories (Portuguese treatment of illness hadn’t yet adapted to the existence of antibiotics, so the main thing was isolation.) But those long and often boring days (why I learned to read Disney comics in self defense) were not interrupting anything.
Now I get what older people meant. I’m old enough to be counting down the years I have (G-d willing, going by family history, probably 30) and fretting I won’t get to do everything I want to do, because the years just fly by and I spend so much time being sick. And you know, I have books to write.
Wealth… Well, I wouldn’t block my door to it. My definition of wealth at this point would be “can do what I want and end the month with money in the bank.” Until both boys are off the payroll that seems an unattainable dream, but I’m going to do what I can, if I’m granted that health thing.
Now if I were to win the lottery tomorrow, I wouldn’t scream and tell it to go away. But it would take getting used to. We found out when we made about double what we do now for a couple of years that wealth has its own price. You have to evaluate your time in relation to other things you need to do: like husband the wealth. So you end up spending a lot more money, in trade for that time.
Wealth, if it were dropped on my lap should be lottery-sized. Though you know, from a prudential point of view, that would allow me to get a house cleaner and an assistant, both of which I desperately need. And stop older son neuroting (He’s a nervibore) about his student loans.
Love… What else is there? My kid-self wondered with some shock at all these OLD (like forties) people wishing for love. I mean they were married. And besides, ew…..
Sure, romantic love adds a lot to life, and I wish everyone I love a happy marriage. The load is lighter when you pull in tandem.
But love is so much more than romantic love. It is your circle of friends. It’s the kids you’re watching grow up (yours or not). It is the stuff you do. It is the things you enjoy.
In my case, it is of course, my husband. I feel stupid mentioning him because it’s like saying “oh, yeah, I also have legs.” He is a part of me. One of our kids (ah) has accused us of fighting like two cats in a sack over the stupidest things, and we do, but they’re not REALLY fights, just arguing and raised voices. The relationship, where it counts, does seem to get better every year. He is, simply, a part of me. My sons: they worry me because I care so much about their futures, but they’ve also turned out much better/more interesting/stronger than I expected. It’s the idiot cats. This year we had a scare with Greebo, and I know the time is coming to say goodbye to Euclid, who is not approaching eighteen, and we’re not sure at the rate each of them takes a piece of our heart to the rainbow bridge if there will be any more. But we’ll enjoy them while we can.
It is my country, my state. It’s a little diner on Colfax avenue. It is friends — too many to mention and most far away alas — I talk to regularly or whom I visit (the near ones.) It is books I revisit every year (I think I’ll start the year with Heinlein audios).
It is other stupid things, like crochet on the sofa while watching a movie while the snow falls outside. It is special exhibits at the Natural History Museum. Walks in city park at twilight in summer when the lights come on. It’s the botanic gardens in spring. It’s the zoo on rainy fall days when we’re the only ones there and can talk.
It’s writing a novel when everything comes together and I suddenly see the end. It’s researching a novel and finding JUST the right thing.
All of this is love. Different kinds of love, but love.
There is a house clearing method in which you’re only supposed to keep “that which brings joy.” No, I’ve never tried it, because I need tons of things that bring no joy whatsoever, like litter box scoops and tax documents.
But love, at various levels is “that which brings joy.” I’ve been hypothyroidal enough that nothing brought joy. It was all “same old, same old.” Like living in a bell jar or seeing the world through a dim film.
I don’t wish that to anyone.
So in the end, I do also wish for love. I wish for “that which brings joy” and time with the people I love, too. And I wish for the wisdom to put work away, now and then, and enjoy life and love.
And for you too, I wish to health, wealth and love. All of which should leave you free and capable of doing what you feel you are called to do.
We have work to do in the new year. A lot of it. Let us have those three basics, so we can do it.
That’s all I ask.