When I was 9 years old, I can vividly remember the excitement of getting to stay up to greet and usher in the new year at midnight. This was our first year in the new house that my father built and we were celebrating. We had black-eyed peas for dinner, a dish that is supposed to bring good luck to the coming year. And we played games as we waited for the magic hour. The black and white TV played in the background during part of that time, though I didn’t pay it much attention. I was more excited about staying up late and enjoying the rare upbeat mood of my parents and grandparents. At some point during the long evening, it slowly dawned on me that saying hello to a new year meant saying goodbye to the old one. And that meant the old year was gone forever. Permanently. Never to return. It was slipping away as we sat waiting with anticipation for the next year to come. With this strange realization, I was overwhelmed by a crushing sadness. I remember going to the bathroom to hide my tears because I didn’t want anyone to know I was crying. I didn’t want to have to explain. I knew they wouldn’t understand tears on such a festive occasion from their strange, overly-sensitive, contemplative child. Honestly, I didn’t really understand what I was feeling. I didn’t have words for depression back then. This was the first time in my young life I had a clear revelation of the passage of time and how finite it was. How the seconds we wasted as we waited for tomorrow were gone and could never be retrieved. I felt the movement of time and the loss of those seconds. And it was incredibly painful. Though there have been years that passed without this acute angst since that time long ago, as I get older and closer to the moment when my time runs out, the painfulness of the experience becomes more deeply disturbing and difficult to manage. I know, at some not so distant point in the future, I will get off the merry-go-round, but the merry-go-round will not stop turning. It will go on without me. Generations will be born and will die after I depart. Time will march on. Leaving me behind. I will no longer mark the seconds, the hours, the days, the years. I will not welcome another fresh year, like unmarked snow, hopeful of what it might hold. I will not receive another opportunity to see my world turned around and the quality of my life improved. I will not be given another chance to fully, joyously live life…finally, if that is even possible for one as broken as I seem to be. All of that will be behind me. Over and done. Finished. The story of Robin will have been written in total. No chapters will remain to be explored. Hope will expire as I take my last breath. But the world will continue to turn and others will come behind me, never knowing I existed, never caring about what I suffered or how I struggled. I will not leave even a tiny mark in the snow.
All of this is unbearably sad. Because when I was a young child, I dreamed of leaving something worthwhile behind. Of making a difference. Yet though I have tried diligently for decades, I can’t even make a difference in my own life. My dreams are as broken as I am.
Depression weighs me down, crushing me beneath the devastating, unrelenting burden of hopelessness. I continue to long for a better tomorrow, but even as I spend my time hoping, I am wasting today. I don’t know how to capture the goodness of the moment, if indeed such goodness exists. I can’t find meaning in “now” and meaning doesn’t come with the next day. I don’t know how to break out of my prison so as to change what is to come. I can’t seem to make the next moment different from the current one. I feel powerless. And fate doesn’t come to my rescue. Nor does Lady Luck. Or God. I desperately need help, but it seems I am supposed to help and save myself. And I can’t figure out how to do that so as to make my world different. So the moments continue to spin away, from darkness, into darkness, the pain so intense, I can’t bear it.
I sit now on the cusp of another year. I will not sit in this place again because the river of time will sweep the moment away and it will be lost forever. I will not have many more opportunities to greet a new year because that river will eventually run dry for me…though it will continue to flow for those who come after. I want to have hope…that this year will be better. That this will be the year I find love, write a book, get out of debt (oh, God, please!), overcome depression (is that even possible?). I want to believe that it is possible for me to truly, deeply, fully experience this place where I am, this world in which I live, that others call a treasure. I want to know what it is like to wake up and feel joy because I have been given another day. And, God help me, I want to share what little journey I have left with another. Someone I can connect with in a meaningful way. Someone who will treasure and protect my heart.
I look at the unmarked, perfect snow and hold my breath. I am forced to take a step because the seconds propel me forward. The days will come and go. The sun will rise and set. Time continues and my footsteps in the new year will soon be too many to count. I pray some of those footsteps are in new directions, along paths of goodness and that they will lead to a blessing or two. I hope I can find a way to change my destiny, even as the snow mixes with mud, even as it melts and my days upon the face of this earth dwindle.
May we all find much to treasure and may we even find a miracle or two as we walk into this new year. May hope be realized and a few of those crushed dreams be revived from sure death. Before time runs out. Leaving us without breath or hope; facing fresh, unmarked snow our footprints will never mar.