I broke up with fantasy football in 2015.
Such a silly thing, fantasy football. Why call it a "break-up"? Why not phrase it a new way: "I rediscovered huge swaths of time I had been bleeding out in daily and weekly chunks to a meaningless competitive endeavor amongst coworkers"?
Because it felt like a break-up is why.
There were colleagues I don't see often -- even though we work mere dozens of yards from one another daily, even though we regularly share the same lunch room -- whose relevance to my life was suddenly cut, the tether between us frayed. When I broke up with fantasy football, I broke up with half of these people, too.
I didn't break up with playing poker in 2015, but we're sort of seeing other people. We meet once a month or so to catch up on one another's life, see how things are panning out, but we're not as close as we used to be.
I used to stay up late nights with poker. We'd ring in the midnight hour, secretly, quietly in my computer room, hoping the sounds of chips clinking on the screen wouldn't wake the sleeping beings in my home. I'd visit poker once or twice a year in various casinos in Tunica, New Orleans, or even the mountains of North Carolina. I wouldn't leave her side for 10, 14, 17 hours at a stretch except to scarf down a quick meal or take a potty break.
It's not over, but I wonder if I can ever quite grow to love her like I once did, with a sort of ecstatic enthusiasm that comes from the cashier handing over hundreds of dollars more than you originally brought to the table, be it a real table or an online one.
I didn't break up with Bottom of the Glass in 2015, but I found myself increasingly asking where we're going with our relationship. Does anyone know we're even seeing one another, or care? Has watching our readers dwindle to a quarter of what it was in our peak crippled my drive? Do good writers allow such a petty thing to hinder them?
Finally, I broke up with Patty Griffin in 2015. Her latest, "Servant of Love," is the first album Patty has recorded, since I was handed the gift of her debut, "Living With Ghosts," that I didn't buy within days of its release.
Holy crap if you knew how hot our love sizzled for a decade, Patty and me, you'd appreciate what this breakup means, the kind of cold hole in the earth of my gut where once a small sun's worth of molten lava burned. When I'd get one of her albums, the day of its release, I would have the look of Ralphie ripping open his long-awaited Red Rider BB gun, my tongue licking all over my lips in excitement and lust, as if I could devour the notes as they emerged from my speakers.
I found myself listening to "Servant of Love" on Spotify several times, and telling Patty as it played, as I failed to work up my excitement, "It's not you, Patty my love. It's me. Something here doesn't work for me anymore."
The critics still love her. I still love what she has meant to me. And I respect, completely, that she doesn't owe me one more pleasing note the rest of her life. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people still love her with some slight one-off imitation of the love I had for her. I'm glad she's still making brilliant music. I'm sad it isn't making my heart melt like it once did. I know it's not her fault.
That's why it's a break-up. Because when something ends, but it doesn't end quite smoothly enough, things feel broken inside us.
And when things don't quite end, but they don't quite have the fire they once did, you keep looking around, hoping someone else will tell you when it's over, hoping the cardio device will show a flatline so the doctor can call the time and declare time of death and begin to mourn what is, at last, utterly and irretrievably lost.
What scares me about where I am in my life, in my middle age, is that I now spend more time watching things end than watching them begin. This isn't a Glass Half Empty observation. It's just reality.
More hobbies and pastimes and interests are falling by the wayside than I have time to replace with new ones.
More friends and loved ones are dying. Others move on to new locations, new jobs.
The core of my existence is still strong. The engine that moves me -- my family, my faith, my close friends -- continues to rev strong and shows no real sign of slowing. But what seems to be missing are those frilly fancy accouterments that make the walk of life a little more fun, a little prettier to behold, a little more unpredictable and capable of unexpected delight.
I'm hoping 2016 might offer me fewer break-ups and let-downs. I'm hoping I can find the drive in myself, the Indiana Jones inside me, willing to attack the adventure, to do whatever necessary to find a few more beginnings than the endings that inevitably find me.