59. I Love You
The Year Of Paying Attention
I’m writing this epilogue a few years after concluding The Year of Paying Attention, otherwise known as 2017 (plus the end of 2016, to be finicky.) Between then and now, I spent a couple of years revisiting what I’d written, not changing it so much as trying to eliminate the tedious bits.
There is nothing earth-shattering to share with you from the process, but I know this much: trying to have a good time is a great way to not have a good time; being curious and open and noticing what’s going on is useful; and trying to stay out of the results business is smart.
I don’t mean to say it’s a mistake to plan, or pursue goals and dreams, but needing things to go a particular way has two possible results: they do go your way, and then you mistake that result as something you created, or they don’t go your way, and then you feel like you failed. Good results are lucky. Bad results are bad-lucky. Doing what you want is a good idea, and believing you can force things to go your way is foolishness. I forget this all the time, but just now I remember that it’s true.
The calendar year has an end, but life continues, until that too stops, as it did for my cousin Michael, and my college roommate Jack. My yoga buddy Ellyn had her knee replaced, so I was seeing her for coffee some mornings instead of trying to keep myself from falling over next to her at yoga class. Then something terrible happened: Ellyn was hit by a truck crossing the street, and she died a few days later in the hospital. Our yoga teacher Hugh gave me the terrible news. Most of the yoga class was at Ellyn’s memorial service.
My older daughter Ellen did move to San Francisco, as she said she might. Then she and her beau moved to Chicago. We FaceTime a lot. My younger daughter Lizzie and I have made our way to our best relationship ever; I don’t know how, honestly. She’s still the funniest person I know, and now she lives two hours away, upstate, in a cute little town where other escapees from Brooklyn have migrated.
The Chinese food-fueled Christmas tree decorating has become an established tradition at my ex-wife’s apartment, although the latest wave of pandemic disruption put the kibosh on those plans for another year.
My former roommate Don went to prison. I talk to him, and I talk to JC, who’s doing well enough. Don and I worry about how JC’s physical recovery is going. JC and I talk about how Don continues to find a way of staying engaged with his life in a Louisiana prison. I’ve become a prison abolitionist, as you would, I’m sure, if you really thought about what the prison system is, what incarceration actually accomplishes, and why there must be a better way (and how there is a better way in many countries around the world).
I’m some years closer to the end of my life than I was when I started this, and I am still in no hurry to wrap it up, not at all. I still feel old, which is to say, not old old — I gave up on the Spanish, and started Italian. I’ve been back to Knoxville for two more Big Ears festivals, and Nashville for the Americana Music Festival. I want to spend more time in New Orleans, but all travel plans are on hold — Covid 19.
Billy’s still coaching, Dean’s still writing, Peter has new artist’s books in the works, Sean is writing poems and working to save the planet, and we continue to talk about being parents, partners, aging citizens. Investing your time in friendship is better than anything.
The transition group is no longer meeting regularly, but we’re in touch, and everyone’s in a more hopeful place now — better jobs, finished projects, new love interests, new ideas for the future. It’s probably just dumb luck but it’s nice to pretend we all had some agency in improving our collective levels of satisfaction.
Sarah and Tim ended things, four years after The Year Of Paying Attention. It was unexpected, and terribly sad. Of course, a broken heart is nothing unusual. I think a great love is unusual. I wouldn’t skip one to avoid the other.
Writing it all down for a year really helped me see more clearly what I have to be grateful for, and happy about, and the value of reducing time spent fretting about stupid shit. I love my family, and my friends, and I love you, for reading this. I really do.
The Year Of Paying Attention is the record of a year (and a month) in the life of someone we’re calling Tim Warfield, 2017 more or less, told in weekly increments, all of which started here.