Doug Gray

Doug Gray

True confession. I’ve started this column a half dozen times. I usually don’t have trouble finding something to say. Stringing a few words together has never been that great a chore. But today is different. The end of a year always does that to me. It always carries with it the burden of trying to put things right. Make them add up. I have this tendency see life like a balance sheet, and when I reach this time of year, it can get confusing. Not to mention that I had to take Accounting twice to pass. The first time, I simply stopped going to class to maintain my sanity. It was the whole “debit” and “credit” phenomenon. And those of you blessed with that set of skills realize that if you can’t get past that basic concept, you’re mincemeat. Listen, I still don’t get it today.  The accounting world apparently expects a literal person such as me to accept that a debit (sure looks a lot like the word “debt”) always adds a positive number, and a credit always adds a negative number. (I suppose that’s why I’ll never be able to give accountants credit where credit’s due.)

Even after all these years, stuff like that drives me to distraction.

Back to my point. Most of the time, 2021 felt like a continuation of 2020.  You remember 2020, don’t you? The confetti had barely been swept from the floor, the champagne flutes washed and resettled in the china cabinet, and Christmas decorations stuffed back into the storage shed when we were hit with a hundred-year pandemic.

But I don’t want to talk about that. I don’t even want to call it by its given name.  Don’t get me wrong. It has my attention. My wife and I are vaccinated and boosted. If you see us out, you will only recognize us from the bridge of our nose up. And if they produce a booster for the booster, we’ll be near the front of the line. Though I may write about it one day, it’s not this day. Not when I’m struggling just to get 2021 summed up, its bags packed, and on the road.

Then it hit me. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about trying to bring sense and reason to a year that’s on its last legs. Just let 2021 limp away, licking its wounds, headed to the Home for Years Gone By. Instead, close that door and concentrate on 2022, all fresh and bouncy, fat cheeks, bright-eyed, wobbling in on fat, little legs and so excited to be here it has a full diaper. And while I’m at it, practice a little of that accounting I suck at.

So, let’s look at some numbers. Like it or not, we are fast approaching 8 billion people on this old globe, all of us scrunched onto the paltry 29% of the portion we can’t drink or drown in. On January 1, we will all be on the same annual trip, think of it as a cruise with no ports of call, confined with one another for the 584-million-mile trip around our sun, just one star out of 100 thousand million in the Milky Way, which is only one of what may be two trillion galaxies in the universe. For 12 months, we will be hurtling through deep, dark space at the clip of 66,627 miles an hour. While, I might add, spinning like a top at 1000 miles per hour. Dizzy yet?

It’s gets better, 2022 gives us 12 fresh flips of the calendar.12 full moons beginning with the Wolf Moon in January all the way to the Cold Moon in December. 12 fresh opportunities to dance or howl or simply sit with someone you care about and enjoy the evening. Back by popular demand, there will be 52 weeks at your disposal.  Each week will give you a renewed chance to do what you intended to do the week before. Call that friend you never meant to ignore. Make good on that promise that’s beginning to rust from neglect. Float a river, learn a language, write a song. 

And the hours, 8760 of those little devils. Those units of time that can drag by in such an excruciatingly slow rate, you want to pull out your fingernails. Or that zoom by so quickly that you’re certain you must have fallen asleep. But here’s the thing. Those slippery little packets of time that we sometimes claim there’s never enough of in a day? They are yours. To embrace or waste or any combination thereof. You own them. Every single one.

Our 2022 cruise around the sun will last 525,600 minutes, and in those minutes, there will be 31.5 million seconds. So that’s right at 32 million beats of the human heart. And maybe that’s where the epiphany kicks in. Where the math, the whole debit and credit thing, finally adds up. Emily Dickinson tells us that the heart wants what the heart wants. Could that be where the accounting of life takes place? In our choices?  If each year is a balance sheet, we start with a blank page every January. And we hold the pen. Our columns to populate, our numerals to record, our choices to make. Our debits to enjoy and our credits to…well, our credits to do whatever you’re supposed to do with credits. And any negative balance you have left over from the prior year? Forget it. That page is turned. That journal is closed. Move on.

There is a quote: “Let us enjoy the fugitive hour. Man has no harbor; time has no shore; it rushes on and carries us with it.” To all my fellow travelers at the beginning of this fresh dash through space atop our little blue marble, I wish you a bon voyage and a happy New Year.  May your debits be many and your credits few. And may you always have an easier time than me understanding the difference. 

Doug Gray is a freelance writer and Times columnist from Fayetteville.