What an omen.
My last column of 2010, “The psychology of being scared,” provided several other instances of foreshadowing. One section gave me chills when I read over it a few weeks ago.
“He (Wyatt) always bounces back and tries to stand again. I wonder if I could do the same...I guess I’ll never know until I face a trial that forces me to show what I’m made of.
“Maybe that day will come next year. There’s no guarantee that 2011 will be as good to me as 2010.”
If I were grading the year that was 2011, my first instinct would be to give it a D minus. It actually deserves an F, but that beautiful snow in January earned it some extra credit.
The trial I predicted came three months later in the form of a tornado. Although my final score on that test won’t be known for quite some time, so far I’d rate it between a D and an F as well.
As it turns out, I’m made of equal parts anger and fear and not nearly enough faith as I’d like.
Throw in some selfishness, cynicism, guilt and constant complaining and you have the recipe for Darth Jennifer.
Yet no matter how many times I go over to the dark side or how long I linger there, something always brings me back.
Last month, it was the kindness of a stranger.
Zac and I were at a little hole in the wall called Cafe 100 in Fort Payne. We were starving, the sign said they had a buffet and it was the only thing open downtown on a Sunday afternoon.
I also needed a bathroom break. As soon as I emerged from the back, Zac told me that he was going to walk down the block to an ATM. The cashier couldn’t accept debit cards, and we hadn’t brought any cash.
An older female customer suddenly appeared beside us and offered to pick up our tab. We politely argued with her for several minutes but she insisted.
I asked Zac as we enjoyed our meal if they had been talking while I was in the bathroom. He’s prone to strike up causal conversations with strangers and vice versa. He assured me that they hadn’t said a word to each other.
Whatever the reason for her generosity, I choose to believe that our encounter with her was not an accident.
It’s the perfect bookend to a story I shared in my first column of 2011, “Manic mud hole Monday.”
That was the time I got my car stuck on an old logging road in Berry and was rescued by several strangers.
One month later I attended a former co-worker’s funeral, lost my wallet on a college quad and had it returned to me by a nice professor all in one terrible Thursday.
Maybe I found myself in so many jams last year because I needed to be reminded that happy endings are still possible.
People aren’t perfect, but we often surprise ourselves and each other with our goodness when the chips are down.
I made a lot of mistakes in the past 365 days. I took some literal wrong turns and some figurative ones. I struggled personally and professionally.
Although I would like to have done some things differently, I hesitate to call them regrets because each choice was a lesson I might not have learned otherwise.
There were plenty of things for me to be sad about in 2011, but the year also provided me plenty of opportunities to smile.
I did some stories that I’m really proud of whether anyone else thought they were cool or not.
I had some wacky adventures and meaningful conversations with the handful of folks I call friends.
And of course I am thankful for all the precious memories I made with my chunky monkey and his daddy.
I tend to see the world in stark black or white terms. People and circumstances either get an A or an F in my book.
Life doesn’t work that way, though. Every year contains so much good and bad that the only fair thing to do is grade it on a curve.
So, once again, cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right.
Here’s hoping for plenty of extra credit, too.