Christmas and the end of the year always bring about a lot of introspection for me. Have I done all that I set out to do? Did I grow personally? Did I make a difference in anyone’s life? Has anyone made a difference in mine?

In January the partial remains of my uncle were found about a mile from his home — he had been missing for about 5 months.  In our hearts, we knew this would be his end.  He had pretty bad psychological/psychiatric problems and had no inkling to get help for his drinking issues and how it related to his psychotropic meds.  Some weeks later, DNA tests revealed what we already knew.

Having had occasion to attend his memorial service and observe the “family” interactions, I contemplated the whole situation with my own family — good, bad, or indifferent.  I think that I found a new peace in where I am with my family and I know, in my heart, that I have accepted what I own but have not taken ownership of THEIR issues.

In February (Valentine’s Day) we had a huge storm and I appeared in traffic court.  I got off with a $10 fine (and, of course, a $35 surcharge).  We also finally got the family room painted, including the ceiling which had gotten terribly discolored and *disgusting* from the greasy, sooty smoke emitted from the fireplace and kerosene heaters we had used over the years.  This was a huge undertaking and the transformation was so amazing, I’m still in awe of it ten months later.

In March we got our new mattress and our lives changed dramatically.  Or, at least our hips did.  No more waking up with pain.  We sleep better these days, which dramatically improved the way we viewed life as a whole.

I lost one of my staff members at work (to retirement) and we began the temporary revolving door.  At some point during this time I realized that I really just don’t give a shit any more.  I still do my job but I don’t get real cranked up about a whole lot.  If I get no support and no interest from those who oversee me and my operation, why should I really give much of a shit?  I began counting the days until retirement.

In April I helped see my aunt through breast cancer.  Fortunately, she had to have only a lumpectomy and, while she’s still having residual problems from the cancer, we’re grateful that the spectre of cancer has been evicted.  She continues to have to take a medication that stops estrogen production so she’s going through a form of menopause — at 65 (having already been there, done that) and is weepy, emotional, and severely depressed.  But she’s still upbeat and smart enough to know that taking meds (for the depression) isn’t enough so she’s getting counseling as well.

April also saw the Virginia Tech shootings which brought up all the controversy over guns and gun control again.  I continue to advocate for some form of gun control — stricter laws, greater restrictions, longer wait periods, background investigations, psychiatric evaluations, mental health background checks, stuff like that.  Call me anti-American but I think we need it.

In May I went off the Prozac.  It was what I wanted, but I was really scared — I no longer had my crutch and feared I would regress back to a screaming raging bitch.  What I realized about the Prozac was that, while it DID help to balance the chemistry in my brain, it also helped me to develop better coping mechanisms so that, when I went off it, I wasn’t any different than when I was on it.

Except, of course, when Jerry Falwell died.  God forgive me, I thrust my arms in the air, much like you would if your favorite team had just won the championship game.  One less hatemonger.

June saw the full-time launch of our company, and Lisa’s “firing” of her boss.  We’ve had to live for the second half of the year without a second paycheck and, while it has been stressful financially we have, for the most part, gotten through it pretty much unscathed.  All of Lisa’s work this past year went to pay company expenses (and, of course, the company “helped” pay some of the bills in the house).  The past 2 or 3 months of her having NO work has been a challenge, but one we rose to by working part-time at the post office during the Christmas season.

Lisa’s grandmother passed away in July and Lisa spent a large amount of time down in PA with her family.  It was a separation that taught us something about our relationship with each other, but also about our relationships with our families.

An MRI done of the brain and cervical spinal cord in late summer revealed that the MS (diagnosed in 1990) remains in remission (since 1991).  This gave me reason to stop and consider how lucky I am, and where I COULD be as opposed to where I am.  Take nothing for granted.  Tomorrow could be a whole lot different.

Lisa turned 40 in September.  We had a big party and had a great time.  But, I think if the truth was known, turning 40 may have bothered her a little bit.  Strangely enough, I now feel that, since she’s 40, it doesn’t look like I robbed the cradle any more.  Funny the difference a year makes, eh?

This year saw sensational news stories about Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Vick, O.J. Simpson (again),Jerry Falwell, Larry Craig, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears.

I think these people epitomize the old adage that money can’t buy happiness.  I suppose, though, it could buy better deals with the DA.

My younger daughter and her husband and kids were able to come home for Thanksgiving.  I cannot even begin to tell you how precious that time was.  We’ve come a long way, this daughter and I.  I can say this, though — when they start having kids of their own, they start to “get it,” too.  If you’re struggling with teens, take heart.  You ARE getting through — they just don’t want to let on that you are.

Our appeal was heard and we think we will have a positive ruling, that our Canadian marriage must be legally recognized  by my employer and, with that, it will have to be recognized under the principles of comity by the state as well.  Groundbreaking stuff, potentially.  What that means to other gays and lesbians in New York remains to be seen.

In all — it wasn’t a bad year.  It wasn’t a banner year that I’ll remember years from now, but it wasn’t a bad one at all.  All in all, I learned a few things about me.  And about my relationships with those I love.

How about you?  What was the single-most important thing you learned this year?