It's a New Year

We were in Oklahoma City visiting my family over the holiday. And what a strange few days it was. One ER visit, one urgent care visit, one minivan stuck at two different mechanics. Don’t worry - everyone and everything is or will be fine. Thank goodness.

But it’s got me thinking. About the absurdity of treating the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve as so very significant. So transformative. So profound. When in fact, most years as we switch from one year to the next, we are utterly the same from 11:59 pm to 12:01 am.

And in fact there are many other moments where our lives change in an instant. This is what I’m thinking after our ER visit, our urgent care visit, our car trouble. All manner of unexpected occurrences could change our lives in an instant.

How many other moments - besides the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve - have you lived through that changed your life course in a split second? That phone call? That text? That pregnancy test? That diagnosis? That all clear? That very first “I love you.”

Those are the endings and the beginnings that we think about on this one day of the year - this one threshold - but the truth is they happen all the time. Or, they can.

I usually call those moments - those thresholds - “kerchunk” moments. It’s from my favorite line from a Haruki Murakami story which goes “the gears of life had moved ahead a notch with a loud kerchunk and Junpie knew they’d never turn back again.”

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There have been so many moments when life went kerchunk for me. And so few of them happened on January 1. Though, ironically, there were a couple.

For instance, 16 years ago on New Year’s Day, Sergio and I got married. So I suppose that was a transformative moment. But to be honest, so was the moment we were walking down the street and I said to him ‘let’s get married on New Year’s Day.’ Or better yet, so was the unremarkable day years before when Sergio and I were perfect strangers in the same intro to fine arts class and our professor said, ‘I have an idea, why don’t you work together and write your final papers on the same topic.’ Ker-chunk.

I am also remembering how it was New Year’s Day one year ago - when Sergio and I were out celebrating our anniversary - that I came up with the name “The Beginning of Your Life Book Club.” It was an a-ha! moment that set in motion the process of solidifying the nebulous idea that had been brewing for a while. Another ker-chunk.

Even though I said it was absurd to treat the New Year as so profound - don’t get me wrong. I make New Year's resolutions and I revere the first day of the year as an important starting point. I love looking back and I love looking forward. But I also like looking around at the here and now and acknowledging that there are a lot of split seconds in between that can change everything.

In the car on the way home I asked Julia what her favorite part of our visit to OKC was. She said, “I know this will sound strange but … it was Honey hurting her hand.” Honey is my mom and the injury she sustained was not pleasant at all so I asked Julia why she would pick that. And she quoted John Lennon saying “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans,” and then she said something about how she was glad not to have to stick to plans. It felt like a strange bit of insight that encouraged me to keep focused on whatever is at hand - rather than fixating too much on grand plans. (Oh. Maybe “at hand” isn’t the right phrase to use. Sorry, Mom.)

And so … I’m heading into 2019 with some plans for the new year. But also keeping an eye out for those split second moments when plans change and life happens some other way but we make it turn out okay. Here’s to new beginnings whenever they come.