Last night the pizza delivery guy showed up around 9:30 just as a sore throat claimed my last coherent moments of December 30, 2017. I walked outside barefoot because old habits die hard and he was wandering in the street like a lost dog looking from the receipt on the bag to the sky like wtf is this place. Yes sir, I feel you.

I’m not going to give a moment, a breath, a keystroke to talking about the person who landed us behind this weird gate in what my friend Katie refers to as ‘trapped in paradise’. Instead I’ll tell you about how the pizza guy blurted out that his house burned down because his “landlord is a rich bitch in Laguna who never fixed a thing in the 7 years and my wife’s dead father who loved her very much but is dead since 2005 must’ve given her a tap to wake her up or I would have come home to find her singed to a crisp. I mean honey, er Miss Carrie, she was pitch black from the smoke when I pulled up. Unrecognizable!” We talked outside for 20 minutes, at one point sitting on the steps because I was too scared to ask him in and end up spoken of in the past tense on a 2018 episode of Dateline, sharing stories. Me mostly listening, him maybe trying to soak me for a bigger tip but that’s okay because I can’t buy him a house (would if I could tho) and most assuredly let him know I only rent this current thing. Thing being the operative word.

He told me about his heart attack and participating in rogue medical studies to earn extra cash. How one of those studies probably caused the heart attack. How I shouldn’t drive for Lyft or Uber because those rich girls just throw up all over in the car and don’t care one bit. How his wife is staying with her mom and he with his brother while they save up for an apartment and sue the hell out of the deadbeat wealthy landlord who seized their smoke-laden furniture refusing to release it because she wants the $2000 security deposit even though this guy and his wife could have perished in her hell hole of faulty wiring.

I told him about my stroke.

About recovery.

How these twats in here wouldn’t let their kids come to our house on Halloween.

That a house is just a house and that’s what I learned this year. Who cares? Owning a home doesn’t make you a decent person. It doesn’t mean you’ve ‘made it’. It’s a roof over your head and as long as you get there, you’re good. You can’t control if the neighbors don’t let their kids come to your house on Halloween because you’re the only renter in the community <with the coolest decorations that put everyone else’s to shame> and they’ve never had one ‘of those’ before so God only knows WHAT kind of insanely magical dangerous renter treats you might pass out from that gigantic plastic cat head on your front porch, filled to the brim with goodies.

You  probably should have controlled eating all those leftover Twix bars and mini packs of Twizzlers and tiny gummy bears for the three weeks after Halloween, but how could you have known it would land you with systemic candida? How could you have foreseen that half your hair would fall out and your skin would itch so bad you’d feel like hopping out of it and one time when you were at the movies it would feel like bugs were racing around on your scalp? How could you have known you’d meet a girl at the health food store who’d recovered from the same thing and knew exactly what you’d need to do to get rid of it, but also help transform your overall health and faith in humanity? Because you’d really started to wonder.

In everything there is a silver lining.

If you care to look for it.

Like how I’ve ended up working with the best boss/human, someone I likely never could have had the same close relationship with had we worked together at the former firm. How that stroke led me to a salt of the earth, kindred spirit it feels I’ve known for years. My soul on so many days, even the tough ones – maybe especially those, has overflowed with gratitude and wonder that I am able to work again – me! – especially for someone I genuinely respect and like who unabashedly speaks his mind, isn’t afraid of an eff bomb (including mine) and got me hooked on cryotherapy.

This year I kept to myself. Mostly because of work but also because there are some things I want to hold close, just for me. In my brain. My functioning brain that is getting stronger every day.

Head down, Carrie, keep your head down.

I almost told you about the 30 mile bike ride I took down Highway 1 in my most precious Big Sur when the road was closed. I’m conflicted even as I type this. It was the highlight of my year. Emerging from the trail in a string of locals carrying groceries and supplies, to a part of the Highway I had driven for years but never seen deserted. I can’t describe how my heart and eyes filled up when a tougher than nails lady who’d befriended me on the trail hopped in a car with her waiting friend and drove by hollering out the window, a huge smile on her face, “Welcome to our world, hope you’ll stay awhile!” Forever if I could lady, forever and a day.

It was a spiritual experience. Taking in all my favorite spots, one by one, nary a soul in sight.

Only the sound of the breeze and the birds.

The ocean.

My quiet sniffles.

The fog rolling in as it got dark, so thick I swear I could hear it swirling, twirling through the air, whooshing around my ears.

Thankful for the cyclist behind me who took a few pictures and sent them to me. Me, on a 30 mile bike ride. Something I never could have done a few years ago. Something that never would have even crossed my mind back then (or frankly ever, prior to falling ill).

I contemplated telling you about how someone I used to work for and admire encouraged me to find a different job, tried to talk me out of the current one that has reinvigorated my life and kind of been my comeback story, because she’s at the end of her tenure and “it would just be great, so helpful if you could find something else to do so a door could open up for me to approach them about your role.”

Huh?

How that resulted in me walking out of dinner in a stupor, into the dark night, only to turn my car around and go back and drink champagne and eat blackbottom banana pie for 2 hours alone by candlelight while a handful of servers I’d never met slowly convened and we all gave a giant “holy hell getting old is a trip let’s send out some Jesus take the wheel vibes to that selfish, injured, terrified, monetarily wealthy yet bankrupt soul who has no sense of right and wrong.”

It could be us someday. Let’s take note of this night and make a pact not to be that person, no matter how scared we might get.

I also don’t wait for a table in that place anymore.

2017 started great, skidded a little and then reminded me not to sweat the small stuff – no matter how big it seems at the time. It was a year of coming to grips with my own mortality, and that of others, again and again. And still not getting there.

I discovered more deeply that aging is hard and I’m not very good at it. Sobering things. In turn trying to give myself grace and acceptance to embrace my life right where it’s at instead of looking ahead to what might be.

Enjoy this very moment, Carrie. You won’t have it again.

If I can keep doing that in 2018, I think I’ll be okay.

You will be, too.