As one year transitions into the next, you can’t help but reflect on the joys and sorrows of the last twelve months; challenges faced or feared, goals met or missed, love gained or lost.
It is equally inviting to focus on the untold potential of the year ahead and resolve to change or improve, either personally or professionally. Everywhere we turn, we are enticed to contemplate conversion, be it physical, mental, spiritual or financial.
Sadly, this annual metamorphosis moment is lost on me.
And it’s all Tom Hanks’ fault. Tom Hanks and his stupid, gross, disgusting band-aid.
For more than a decade, my New Years’ reflection can be summed up in two words: emotional paralysis. And the finger of blame points directly to Tom Hanks’ pointer finger.
One year (I can’t remember which one) on the eve of New Year’s Eve, we went to the movies to see the critically acclaimed Cast Away featuring Tom Hanks, and my life has never been the same in two specific ways: (1) how I approach air travel and (2) how I will forever cross the threshold into January 1.
A horrific plane crash takes place very early in the film. It is violently realistic and incorporates my lifelong fear of being trapped underwater with the added depiction of a giant airplane careening out of control from a darkened sky.
Up until that moment in time, my mind’s eye had not conjured up a visual of such an event. But now it is there, and it’s never leaving. As a result, (see point 1 above) in planning any voyage by air, my first phone call is now to the pharmacist rather than to Delta. Let’s just say that if Xanax opened a travel agency, it would mean one-stop shopping for this girl.
But just prior to this ghastly scene unfolding before our eyes, Tom Hanks saunters into the tiny airplane bathroom. I remember some foreshadowing of things to come—like radar showed bad weather ahead and the co-pilot had lost radio contact—but Tom Hanks felt safe enough to pop into the bathroom to splash a little water on his face.
And that’s when he sees it…the band-aid. It’s on his pointer finger. In my memory it’s on his left hand. He slowly and carefully pulls the band-aid off to inspect the tiny little cut on his…BAM!
He gets sucked out of the bathroom door, and all hell breaks loose.
The band-aid scene is an insignificant part of the movie, but it haunts me. I have watched it only once, but I’ve contemplated it thousands of times.
It’s led me to classify specific moments in my life, and moments in the lives of those I love, as band-aid moments… defined by the activity you were engaged in just prior to the split second when your life would never again be the same.
I’m six months pregnant, getting ready for bed having just left a bachelorette party when the phone rings.
I’m riding down an escalator after a Marquette basketball game when my husband hangs up his phone and says with a furrowed brow, “There’s been an accident.”
I finish a chapter of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when a nervous and somber looking doctor, who appears to be our same age, enters the room.
But not all band-aid moments are bad ones. I have huge number of good ones in my life.
Enjoying dinner at Joe Muer’s on Gratiot when Pat suddenly stands next to me on bended knee.
Standing in the hallway, giggling uncontrollably outside a closed bathroom door for exactly three minutes as the box instructed, and then slowly opening the door together to see…. a plus sign.
Every single milestone our children have experienced.
BAM…to the Nth power.
My annual emotional paralysis is unavoidable when I reflect on my past and consider my future. What band-aid moments will define this year? Is this one right now?
I have had so much good in my life. And I have had my share of challenges. Each New Year, I contemplate what is to be. And I pray for strength to handle whatever comes next.
Someone who I respect and admire and has experienced a disproportionate amount of band-aid moments has said, “Each day, I am faced with a choice. I can be better, or I can be bitter. I choose better.”
And it is as simple, and as difficult, as that.
In 2015…choose better. Not bitter.
My kids can’t leave our house without passing by a plaque that declares my philosophy of life.
I wish it were something venerable and principled like a selfless Bible passage or the musing of a Greek philosopher. Instead my philosophy of life was purchased from the Ballard Design catalog.
It says, “We tend to seek happiness when happiness is actually a choice.”
I don’t know what band-aid moments await me.
And even though fear renders me emotionally paralyzed today, I am confident in all future band-aid moments –good, bad and indifferent–I will resolve to choose happiness.
And happy new year.