Auld Lang Syne

I am not clairvoyant and have never claimed to be. Even in situations where I have convinced myself of the outcome (e.g., sales presentation, first date, sporting event), I turn out to be wrong as often as I am right, which is no better than a coin toss. Sure, those odds are better than anything you’ll find in Vegas, but better still would be knowing when I am wrong and when I am right. I could take that to the bank. Well, I could if banks were open, but they aren’t, not in any practical sense, but that’s best left for another post.

Even though I don’t have what you might call “intellectual clairvoyance,” I exhibit characteristics of “emotional clairvoyance.” I feel a tremendous sense of foreboding whenever something monumental is about to occur in my life. I can recall two such times when I felt uneasy for weeks before life-changing events occurred in my marriage and job. This is more than intuition, because the unease runs deep. For months prior to the 9/11 attacks, I dreamt of jets crashing through my bedroom window, although I had no idea why. I just thought it was bizarre or like Scrooge’s “undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese.”

Last December I posted Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop, which described a feeling I had of “something ominous” about to take place in 2020. The post didn’t deal with geopolitics or macro-economics. It simply referred to my feeling of impending doom. Why did I have the feeling? I don’t know, but I was so certain of calamity in the new year that I compared it to waiting for the guy in the apartment upstairs to drop his second shoe as he got into bed. Each night I would lie in my own bed and wait for the other shoe to drop. I had that same feeling then about 2020.

And, of course, it came to pass. This year has been nearly biblical in its spread of pestilence, urban violence, and death. The only missing horseman of the apocalypse is famine, except that if you look beyond the United States to China, you’ll find that famine has struck there to such an extent that they may have to import rice, which would be comical if it weren’t so devastating. How did this happen? Floods and earthquakes. But there is more to come as the Chinese economy flirts with a housing crisis similar to 2008 and the population ages, eventually turning an export economy into an import one.

Back in the United States, some have mocked the President for drawing attention to the psychological effects of lockdown and the curtailment of civil liberties. Others criticize the appeal to Constitutional rights in the face of Covid. But now that we have had the better part of a year to assess restrictive policies, it is clear that in many cases the cure has proven worse than the disease. Horrific stories of family violence abound. It turns out that people can’t handle isolation and confinement. What harms the spirit cannot benefit the body.

There are glad tidings through all of this, however. Those tidings include the fact that I have not felt the same uneasiness about 2021. I haven’t experienced any anxiety, which could mean that we won’t see new, mutant strains of Covid. The virus won’t have as many sequels as Planet of the Apes, despite the latest fears in Britain. The lack of anxiety also could mean that predictions of political, economic, and environmental disasters will not come to pass.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get your house in order. In fact, this is the perfect time to reconnect with friends, reassess goals, and reflect on “what I have done and what I have failed to do,” in the words of the Confiteor. And while it is true that certain relationships ought not to be renewed, it is also true that we carry the past with us. If we don’t want it to eat away at us, we have to reconcile ourselves with it and move on.

So, one year later, I am not lying in bed, waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is no apartment above me, no planes crashing through my window. But I still dream of the past–people, jobs, events. Maybe that’s what awaits all of us in 2021. It will be a year of auld lang syne.

Image credits: Shoe by Erik Mclean on Unsplash. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”


  1. Robert,

    Thank you for this year-end post. I have always been a “just suck it up” kind of guy, but the events of 2020 have simply overwhelmed me, as they have for others.

    I could go into specifics around the virus, social unrest and election year politics, but your readers are already painfully aware of all that detail.

    Let me just say that I believe in the wisdom of the American people writ large. Now that we have seen our leaders respond (well or poorly) to actual crises, my hope is that we will make more informed selections in all elections, at all levels of government.

    My wishes to you and your other readers for a peaceful, healthy and serene New Year. (For the 73rd year in a row, I will. to be in Times Square to watch the ball drop!).

    1. Cheers, Robert!
      Cheers for the home cooked meals, the homemade bread, the good wine, and the warm care and fellowship:)

      Cheers for your exercise routine that allows you to enjoy all the rest!

      I remember your posts that described your routine of packing for trips. You usually mentioned two items that were never forgotten: your jump rope and your rosary. Good companions both, but I like thinking of the first you described.

  2. Thank you, Robert. In these times, I thank you for providing these weekly spaces for coming together and reflection. Frightening times, these, particularly for those just holding on in the best of times. Thank you, Robert, for being here, showing up.

    Each day, we walk the tightrope, this, wondering whether there is enough rope to walk upon. A shout out to all those caregivers of elderly or ill family members at home. Along with my brothers and sisters involved in this work, I say that caring for loved ones without medical guidance, in effect, being the doctor, making the night and day decisions related to medications, and the meanings of symptoms, pain, and what to do can be incredibly frightening.

    Which is to say, again, the best and sometimes the only remedy is our presence with each other. You have provided the place and hospitality, Robert. Once more, here we are together. Much appreciation, Robert.

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