Tonight is New Year’s Eve, and I’ve barely finished trimming my Christmas tree. Don’t tell me, I know—other folks are already taking theirs down, and a couple of days ago, I spied one of our town’s yellow highway department trucks cruising the neighborhood with one of those giant vacuum and chipper combinations, the kind they use to suck up autumn leaves and pulverize stray branches that diligent homeowners drag out to the roadside in the fall. The sight of the truck reminded me of one of this year’s more grizzly local news stories: his first day on the job with a tree trimming service, a young man was pulled arm-first into the chipper, thereby meeting an instantaneous and gruesome end.
The newspaper and the TV crews refrained from describing the grisly details; they simply interviewed some of his coworkers, who said the accident was the worst thing they’d ever seen. I wondered what kind of on-the-job training and orientation he’d received, if any, and whether the company got sued, but legal issues aside, it was a tragedy that conjured up images I’d rather not contemplate. That’s why I tend to avoid horror movies and chain saws. Even so, I’m flashing back to an otherwise forgettable film that featured bloody red slush spewing from a snow blower.
Looking back on what in many ways was an abominable year, I can think of a certain individual I’d love to see to see fed through a wood chipper. Or perhaps that would be too speedy, too kind a fate. Enduring the final terrifying days and hours of a doomed steer headed for market might be more appropriate—the death train, the feedlot, the slaughter house. . .
But never fear, dear reader, I won’t take you there. True, I kill people off in my suspense novels, but even my murderers treat their victims with relative compassion—there’s no outright sadism or torture. And I wouldn’t wish such a ghastly end on any of my friends or acquaintances, not even on the few people I genuinely detest.
Over the past year, and especially since the election, it’s been all too easy to get swallowed up and sucked down into a cesspool of negativity. I’m far from blameless in this respect, as you can see by perusing the paragraphs above. By and large I try to focus on the positive, but lately that’s been hard to do without adopting the mentality of an ostrich and burying my head in the sand. I limit my daily ration of news, but my Facebook feed is full of dire predictions of impending doom and urgent pleas to support worthy causes. Move On, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club—those and so many other worthwhile organizations are in dire need of my financial support, but as a senior on a fixed income, I can’t afford to shell out the cash.
So add guilt to the witch’s brew of toxic emotions—anger, fear, frustration, despair over the fate of this country we’re bequeathing to our children and grandchildren. Mix with a generous helping of salty grey road sludge from the wimpy storm system that failed to deliver a satisfying blanket of the white stuff. Factor in the meagre hours of cloudy daylight, the frigid winds, the pressure of last-minute shopping and spending, and you have the perfect recipe for sickness—sickness of the mind, body and soul.
And that brings me back full-circle to the day before Christmas, and the reason the tree didn’t get trimmed in time. Obligations and priorities—some self-imposed, others imposed by others—conspired to keep me away from trimming the beautiful Frasier fir that had been sitting forlornly in the driveway for a week. All afternoon, I felt my tension and anger building, my blood pressure rocketing skyward, and lo and behold, by the time I’d finished singing in the choir for the Christmas Eve service, I’d pulled in a full-blown cold, maybe even flu. Once home, I festooned the tree with a couple of strings of lights, then fell into bed and let an enormous glass of eggnog with lots of brandy lull me to sleep.
In the end, everything turned out fine. Christmas in Woodstock with my family was wonderful, and a couple of lazy days in bed have set me on the road to recovery. But the mind-body connection definitely laid me low. I’m a firm believer in the powerful impact negative emotions and over-the-top stress can have on the body. Research shows that heart attacks are more frequent on Monday mornings than any other time of the week, and the holidays show a spike in cardiac events as well.
So for the New Year, I resolve not to let negativity take control and jerk me around. I vow to keep those trusty old rules in mind:
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
2. It’s all small stuff.
I’ve been wondering whether to publish this post because of all the negativity, but what the hell, here goes. If nothing else, it’s a good example of the unfettered creative process—segueing from an untrimmed Christmas tree to a town truck trolling the neighborhood with a wood chipping machine to a gruesome local wood chipper fatality to the pleasure I’d take in pulverizing Donald Trump. If you’ve hung in there with me this far, dear reader, I congratulate you.
Believe it or not, I’m actually feeling happy and optimistic, and I hope you are too. Any resolutions or random thoughts you’d care to share? I’d love to hear them. Here’s wishing everyone the happiest of New Years. Let’s keep in touch!