For most everyone else on the planet, today is not the beginning of a new year.
According to a recent estimate, there are 40 different calendars used in the world today, with most modern countries using the Gregorian calendar.
In other words, there are a lot of ways to track the days and weeks and months in a given year.
That said, no matter what type of calendar you use, be it solar, lunar or seasonally based, there is no amount of sun, moon or periodic activity that’s going to make August 31st the start of the New Year on any calendar anywhere.
Except for me.
August 31, 2011
Seven years ago, on August 31, 2011, I was going to end my life by jumping off the 730-foot-high Foresthill Bridge.
Seven years ago, I believed with all my heart, mind and soul that in leaping, not only would the soul-wrenching agony of clinical depression finally end, but more importantly, the lives of those closest to me would become far better in the wake of my death and the relief of my burdensome existence.
At least, that’s what the monster of depression had me believe.
I had planned on August 31, 2011, being my last day on earth. But, Life had other plans for me, and as it turns out, there was more for me to do.
There were people I was supposed to serve and support and help. There were new friends to be made and old relationships to deepen. There was a new mission to embrace and a new purpose to act on, and all of it required me being alive, not dead.
And so, Life, or God with skin on, took me off that tall bridge and then to an emergency room and next to a psych hospital.
As a result, instead of August 31st being my last day, it became day 1 of me stepping away from mental “hellness” and walking towards mental wellness.
The Monster Is A Liar
It also turns out that depression lies.
The truth is, I am more loved than I could have possibly imagined. I’ve also discovered that I’m not broken or defective, far from it. I am instead, in the words of my beloved brother, Tom, a quality human being. And, it seems that had I died I would have been missed, a lot, by a great many people.
Standing on that bridge seven years ago, I didn’t know any of this. But in the 2,555 days since, I’ve come to know the truth of who I am, what I mean to others, and the fallibility of depression.
I’ve also come to know that my condition is not my identity, nor is it a death sentence and that the monster is very finite and in no way invincible.
In the last 84 months, I’ve also learned it is connection that creates hope, and hope, in turn, which enables me to manage and even silence the dreaded bastard.
A Different Calendar
August 31st is indeed my New Year’s Day, but it wasn’t always this way.
Until two years ago, it had been a day I dreaded. The last day of August had been a date I circled on the calendar; a day to remember and a day to forget.
But, thanks to a single greeting card that arrived at the perfect moment, my relationship with this day completely shifted.
Two years ago, my amazing friend, Gregg, sent me a handwritten note. It was a store-bought greeting card, not flashy in any way, and actually rather typical and quite ordinary looking.
But, my friend is sneaky that way. This is the same man who since then has sent me other cards and used his mother-in-law’s return address labels to mask his moves.
I therefore know Gregg purposely picked a somewhat bland card, one that gave no clue as to the enormity of the gift held inside.
And, to top it off and add the final touch to his selfless magic, my friend took steps to make sure the card arrived on the very day, the 31st.
Gregg wanted maximum impact, and my God did he score a direct hit.
A Life-Changing Message
I clearly remember retrieving the card from the mailbox, seeing Gregg’s name and return address (this was before he became a master of misdirection), and smiling at the thought I would find some positive, “keep your chin up” message inside.
Oh, me of little faith.
I was walking up the street from the mailbox when I tore open the envelop and in turn, opened the card.
In an instant, I stopped, and tears began to fall as I read.
There on the inside, Gregg had written, in large, orange-colored, capital letters:
“Hey, just a note to remind you that you are an extraordinary person with so much to give so many others. You are a tremendous source of healing just by your personable presence. This is not only my sentiment, so many others also believe in you.
Believe in yourself!
Reject the lies!
I love you!"
Back To The Bridge To Celebrate
I went back to the bridge this very morning, as I now do every August 31st. This return to the roots of my revival is the centerpiece of my New Year’s celebration.
Standing at the mid-point of the bridge deck this morning, the view, facing east, looking up the north fork of the American River, was spectacular.
Unlike my downward focus of seven years ago, today my eyes were looking ahead of me, peering forward at the many days of the many years I have left, all of which are in front of me, not below me.
New Year’s Day
Today begins another year of living, learning and loving.
Today is the first of 365 days of waking up and being connected to the people, places, and things that are sacred to me.
Today is the first day of 365 days of opportunity, possibility, mistakes, miscues, challenges, small wins, huge triumphs, WTF, WTH, and OMG!
Today is the first of 365 days of feeling the sun on my skin, of great food, deep conversations, connection on steroids, adventure, discovery, growth, happiness, curiosity, understanding, tears and laughter.
Lots and lots and lots of laughter.
Today is the first day of 365 for being continually grateful for the souls who saved my life then and continue to move my life forward now.
These are the people who will love me on the days I feel unlovable and cheer me on the days I feel mighty. These are the people who stand by, with, alongside, for and behind me. And, knowing them as I do, this will be their tendency for the rest of my days, in all the years to come.
They are annoying in their consistency, fabulously and spectacularly steadfast.
Today is the first of 365 days of being the best person I can be, of being inclusive, kind and of service to those in need. It’s all about aligning with Thomas Paine’s passionate belief, “the world is my country, mankind is my brethren an to do good is my religion.”
Today is the first day of the rest of my life.
Today is New Year’s Day.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!