I’ve found myself in one of those cycles where everything seems to be going wrong- and in expensive ways, which just ratchets up the stress levels: the dog got hurt and was touch and go for awhile. The heat/hot water were out for days. Car problems. Sickness. Rough holidays. The hurricane-force blizzard that was Grayson.

But in the middle of all of this, my beloved New Orleans Saints kept marching along toward the playoffs. Perversely I was getting more miserable the closer they came. As soon as I allowed myself to acknowledge this contradiction it became perfectly clear that I’ve been not just homesick but timesick.

This is the time of year when things really kick into high gear back at home. Twelfth Night was yesterday and kicks off Carnival season- with a few parades, of course. King Cakes everywhere! Parties, friends, food, things warming back up…and I am missing it.

But it was nine years ago that Superbowl fever really took over the city.

Looking through that rearview mirror those were among the best, most fun months of my life- I have the pictures to prove it!

It’s these days that I find the hardest- the ones where you can pinpoint where you were and what amazing thing you were doing at a precise moment- in contrast to today, where you, say, had to get the car jumped three times (really) standing in sub-zero temps. And photographic evidence of how wonderful it was can drive that knife home when everything seems bleak.

And yet…

2009 was also only a year after the stock market/housing collapse. Things were in free fall and we’d lost just about everything, although Mr. Pixel tried to shield me from the worst of it. He’d fallen into a deep, deep depression. He did come out to see the games and got out of himself for those few hours, but refused to attend a single parade or party. We fought. A lot. It was also the year I closed my business, which was a difficult decision and process. I’d started a “regular” job where I’d meet some of my best friends, but also worked for a boss who had a whole subscription’s worth of issues. And hell, Superbowl Sunday both my daughter and good friend ended up in urgent care- daughter taken by her roommate, friend by me. Both missed the big day, both were very worrying…and yet, in my memory, the clearest part of that was the “fun” of having to dodge through the parades to get to the doctor with my shivering, feverish, very sick patient.

Looking at the past through that rose-colored rear view mirror is dangerous, because its focus is so narrow. It cuts off everything on the periphery until the memory so occluded it has little relationship to reality.

Yes, it was a good time, but possibly it seems like such a bright, shining star because there was also quite a bit of darkness around, too.

Just as, dark as these few weeks have been, if I breathe and let myself see it, there was a lot of light, too. A coworker did an mindbogglingly kind deed, sending her plumber out in the middle of the night to deal with my furnace/water heater, despite knowing I could not pay because of the emergency vet bills. He refused to even give me a bill. Words cannot describe my gratitude, and even astonishment that she would do that for someone she doesn’t even know very well. The dog is improving, and getting back to his feisty self. Hubby holds steady, and is getting ready for a second knee surgery that should restore much of his mobility. I might’ve found (or rather, been found by) a potential new friend who’s going to show me why this “is the most gorgeous part of the world” come this spring.

Last but not least, I start a new job in two weeks- one with much less physical labor and much better pay that should take some of the pressure off. For the first time in several years, I feel that this New Year has potential.

And, hey, so do the Saints! There’s a pot of roast beef on the stove for po boys/disco fries and cold beer in the fridge. So maybe we won’t be watching the game in a theater with a couple hundred fans, or heading to the French Quarter afterward. It’s enough- more than enough- if I remember to keep facing forward, through a windshield that’s maybe a little dirty and dim, but has that potential we all need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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Naval Gazing