How could I not write about the past year, right? In the weeks leading up to New Year’s, I was feeling noticeably at peace. This was not what I expected heading into the holidays. It’s a cliché to say that being single during Christmas and New years is a recipe for depression, but it’s cliché for a reason. But this year, I felt better than I have, for a longer stretch of time, than I had throughout most of 2010.
Is it an accumulation of all of my efforts over the year to change, to get on top of my shit, to turn that frown upside down?
This wasn’t a resolution I made. On Jan 1 2010, I didn’t forecast or promise myself that in the upcoming year I would make the ground underneath my feet less shaky, nurture my relationships more, and start living in the present.
It just sort of happened. Or did it?
It was a rough year, as it was for almost everyone I know. It seems that at the turn of every New Year, we anxiously usher out the old and place high hopes on the new. Our desire for change, for “better,” blinds us from honoring what we have experienced - including the pain and grief - and acknowledging those things as critical building blocks to our future. It’s easy to look back on the past year and bid it adieu; to recount the hardships and believe that they evaporate when the clock strikes midnight. Of course, they don’t. They stay with us. “Our past doesn’t go away. It becomes us,” said TS Eliot somewhere, which I’m lifting from a wonderful memoir, Darrin Strauss’ “Half a Life.”
A lot of people have asked me what my New Year’s resolutions are. But I can’t offer a concrete answer. I’d like to say, “For my book to get published,” or “To meet my future husband,” and while these things are true, I have no control over any of them. The WSJ “Friday Journal” section featured “Cultural Resolutions: What top writers, artists and musicians are hoping to accomplish in 2011.” Each artist states that they wish to achieve a goal that is concrete: a work of art, losing weight, having a baby, etc. All of these goals are inspiring and while it’s quite likely these people will attain them, it made me stop and think. What about setting goals that are not tangible, that stem from within? Isn’t buying a house or expanding a museum’s collection, the cumulative result of all these intangible changes we make on the inside?
Without knowing it consciously, without uttering it aloud, my subconscious agenda this past year was to get to know myself better. And to try to stay in the present - rather than in the tug of war between past and future - and have faith that the rest, the physical manifestations of that, would follow in whatever form they were meant to.
I finished my novel and got a literary agent. That wasn’t my resolution. My resolution was the precursor to that. To find my voice, to keep going, to follow the thread I had started weaving. The rest followed. I had my first significant relationship - and my first significant break up - since my marriage. Looking back, my tacit and yet misguided resolution was to settle down with this person and start a family with him, but in the end, the opposite happened. That relationship taught me how to be present, to listen to my gutt, and clear the space for the new things waiting in line to get in.
Judging by how I was feeling as the clock was striking midnight, at a party surrounded by new and loyal friends, as texts were coming in from my long time pals who don’t live in NY, and a man I’ve recently met who was at a wedding in the Midwest – our texts crossing in the ether as the ball was dropping – I think it’s going to be a good year.