Ok, look. I’ve never been a fan of this holiday. It seems to be about a few things I have a hard time getting on board with: the pressure to go out and do something socially even if you don’t feel like it, the awkwardness, once out, of standing around, while everyone is freaking COUNTING DOWN, no less, wondering if anyone will notice you have no one to kiss, staying up until midnight (I’m not 19 anymore), saying this year sucked, and hoping next year will be better. Not to mention getting shit-faced, which I don’t do anymore. (Add to this, when I lived in New York, never being able to get a cab when you were beyond ready to go home from wherever you were, which was usually at the farthest distance from where you lived, say the World Trade Center, where I spent one bizarre New Year’s Eve, to the Upper West Side.)
For sure, New Year’s Eve has gotten better for me over the years as my life has gotten better – in Chicago there always seemed to be something going on and a ride to and from, and then I met Ben, so now I always have someone to kiss at midnight. You know, someone I want to kiss.
But this year New Year’s has me reflecting, no doubt because for me this isn’t an easy year to throw out with the bathwater. My father died in September, which sucked, and still sucks. So a part of me feels very much like, Yep, I’m super glad this year is over. Woot! But it’s also impossible to overlook the awesome things that happened for me this year: I finished a novel, which more or less happened altogether unexpectedly, and I sold that novel, which you can imagine was also a wonderful surprise. And there were various other wonderful times: three weeks with Ben at an artist’s residency in gorgeous, green, temperature-normal Vermont, where I wrote and made new friends. I taught a real-life class at UT, which I sometimes had to drag my butt to, and which was the last thing I wanted to show up for a week after my dad died, but which turned out to be kind of perfect, an exceptionally engaged, talented, and delightful bunch of undergrads. Ben and I took a trip to Marfa for my birthday. We gained a beautiful new nephew. We saw freaking West Side Story ON THE STAGE.
Most years, you don’t happen lose someone you love so very much. Some years, as I have been through in the past, it seems like every member of my family was coming down with cancer (and/or some other life-threatening condition): there have been years, periods of years, actually, where I have been known to tell people it wasn’t a good time to be related to me. My mother died of cancer in 1998, a few years later, my father was diagnosed with both prostate cancer and Parkinson’s in a relatively short span of time, and my stepfather, after having recovered from throat cancer, had a very serious stroke in 2003. (And sadly, this is the short list of illnesses that befell my relatives in this period.) But in 2001, I got my first book deal, and in 2003, I started dating a super sweet guy named Ben.
I know I’m not breaking any new ground here with my declaration that any year – that life –usually isn’t just bad or good. I’m pretty much just telling you about my shades of the gray for 2011, and I have reason to anticipate that though I am actually really excited about 2012, that it will come with many mixed emotions as well. We’re moving. You know what moving is like, right? It’s never good, and our last move was probably the most traumatic I’ve had (now that I’ve said this, I suppose by comparison, this next one will have to be less so, right?). Leaving Chicago felt as bad as, worse, than any bad breakup I’ve ever had. Ben and I are planning to move to New York, which, a few of you know, was a place I barely looked back on when I left fifteen years ago. I’m excited this time, but I also have reasonable reservations (it’s expensive, it’s crowded, it’s expensive). I’ve got several (exciting) trips on my calendar already, and/but the new book comes out right around the time we should begin packing to move, and/but, and this is where the bittersweet part comes in, there’s a character in my novel based on my dad in his decline with Parkinson’s, which I will undoubtedly be reading parts of again and again for audiences of two or twenty, and so, well, you see what I’m saying. It’s gray.
I endeavor, always, to be in the moment, but I am invariably a huge failure at this. Nevertheless, this idea of being in the moment calls for neither regretting the past nor wishing to shut the door on it, and it also calls for putting aside my expectations of what will come. On the pessimist-optimist continuum, I probably fall well on the optimist side. (Note: there was a full decade or two when I was very far on the pessimist side, albeit with fearful, fleeting glances at the optimist view.) My life is incredibly rich, and fulfilling, and it seems to me that overall, it has really only gotten better (often VERY slowly) over the last twenty years, and I have had, for some time, the strong feeling that this will continue to be the case. That shift in perspective, right there, is probably the miracle for me, regardless of what the next turn of events will be.
So. The New Year’s thing. That’s pretty much it. 2012 will suck when it sucks and it will be great when it’s great and sometimes those things will occur simultaneously. At midnight tonight, after a great meal with good (foodie) friends, I will most likely already be asleep. After that, yeah, I don’t really know.