Here it is, December 31st, the eve of a new year. About this time we usually look back at the year with nostalgia (or with a shudder and a prayer of thanks that it's over). Often, it's a time to make resolutions. Today, I'd like to look back, but way back...all the way to Christmas of 1995 and another time-honored tradition: visiting the mall for a picture with Santa.
A wee bit of context here. My son, Billy (who prefers Bill or William now, but at the time was definitely Billy) generally loved having his picture taken and was quite photogenic. On this particular day, he was not, shall we say, agreeable to sitting on a strange man's lap and looking happy about it. I watched as Santa tried to charm him, bouncing him on his knee and never dropping his jolly facade. I, however, was far from jolly. I was mortified. I wanted to explain to Santa and anyone watching that my son really wasn't a little monster, he was just having a bad day.
When the ordeal of sitting for the picture was over, we moved down the line to pick up the proof sheets, which they printed on the spot. The result wasn't good so I had no desire to purchase a package of pics to share with family and friends. But I wasn't going to leave empty handed, so I bought the proof sheets.
It's fair to say, I considered the day a failure. My son was miserable, we had not brightened Santa's day, and there was nothing jolly about the outing. But a funny thing happened. The following year, I came across the proof sheets. When I looked at them, I felt none of the negative emotions from that day. Instead, I burst out laughing. Not a snicker or a chuckle, but a full out, fall over sideways, tears of joy kind of laughter. To this day, I cannot look at those pictures without laughing. What I saw as a disaster when it was happening has now become a great source of joy.
To wrap this up with a pretty bow and show why this should matter to all you writers, let me say this: There are times during life (in general) and writing (in particular) when it feels like everything is going wrong. Those times stink, no doubt about it. But it's just possible that, somewhere down the road, you'll look back on those times and burst out laughing. At the very least, you may smile knowingly, aware of the growth and strength that came from the perceived failure.
So, as we say, "Later, baby!" to 2016 and greet the new year, I have one simple resolution: To find joy in unlikely places. Care to join me?