On the Eighth Day of Christmas

New Year’s Day is the eighth day of Christmas. Last year, against my better judgment, I made a list of things I had learned in 2011. This year, probably also against my better judgment, I’m making a list of things I’d like to learn in 2013. Not resolutions. Note: NOT resolutions. Just some stuff I’d like to know better at the end of 2013 than I do at the beginning of it.

For example, I would like to learn:

-How to make a really, truly good lasagna

-More arias by Puccini

-How to get paint out of carpet

-My own worth

-More about history

-How to bette recognize and truly let go of lost causes

-How to be a more effective and prolific advocate for crime victims

-How to paint the nails on my right hand as well as I paint the nails on my left hand

-How to let other people see me vulnerable (in non-blog form)

-What it means to be truly loved

-How to get red wine splatter off a white ceiling without repainting the whole damned thing

-What yet another country looks like, in person

-Where I left my step stool (seriously, how do you lose a step stool?)

-More about my new community and who lives in it

-What it would take to fix Congress… because just voting everyone out is both unrealistic and also probably actually a really, really bad idea

-To be more open to new things

-A new, really good soup recipe

-How to clean my house the way Mary Poppins cleaned Jane and Michael Banks’ room

-A magic trick that makes laundry fold itself

-To be more productive and feel more purposed

-Better ways to get and keep my back healthier

-More grace

-When to keep my mouth shut

-More about where I came from

Happy New Year, my very valued blog friends and readers. What would you like to learn in 2013?

On the Seventh Day of Christmas (AKA New Year’s Eve)

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, I worked til 11pm. That meant I got home at midnight. One of the things that has clearly changed as I’ve gotten older is that I stopped caring whether I had any plans on New Year’s Eve. When I was in my early and mid-20s, I spent several New Year’s Eves crying alone on my couch. (Feel free to comment that you did, too, so I don’t feel quite so bad.) I cared a lot about whether I had something to do – or someone to do it with – on a night that I now tend to think of as a randomly assigned date marking the passage of time. Sure, on our calendar it means the old year is about to end (old as of when?) and the new year to begin. But on the Hebrew calendar we’ve already missed the party. And are we really that anxious to start the year the Mayans said would spell the end for us all? The Chinese new year doesn’t start until January 23rd this time around. (Year of the Dragon, by the way. Symbol of good fortune and sign of intense power. Not bad. Not bad at all. Phew. Way to deflect the Mayan thing.)

You could say that I use all of these other cultures’ dates as an excuse not to be bothered by having no plans for the night. Maybe that’s true. I admit: I do get a tiny bit sad if I don’t have anywhere to go or anyone to see after work. And it does sting a little when someone enthusiastically asks me what I’m doing. I suppose, since the night signifies so much (what?) for people all over the world, it is rather pathetic.

But I see a trend. The What Are You doing New Year’s Eve thing, aside from being a lovely song that chokes me up when I hear it, is a manufactured pressure situation by which those who subscribe to it will judge you for exactly two minutes. But only those who subscribe to it. My friends really didn’t do much of anything. I think they all stayed home with their significant others or maybe just a few friends, and in more than one case, a good DVD. One of my co-workers said she and a couple of other people were just hanging out, wearing sweats and playing board games.

Which, you have to admit, sounds kind of awesome.

If there’s something to do or somewhere to go, I’m happy to do it. But I’m glad I’m past trying to impress people with where I went or who I saw or what I wore. I am definitely not interested it trying to find parking spot or a square inch of space to occupy in which no one will spill a drink (or worse) on me. I am completely uninterested in trying to convince a schnockered 24-year-old that she is draped across my car, not the car belonging to the guy she met two hours ago, and that no, it is not okay for her to just stay there and have me drive her to him.

There was a TV on at work, affording me the opportunity to reconfirm that the formerly Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on ABC has become absolutely unwatchable. Around 9:30 or so, I caught a glimpse of some blonde woman who may have been Jenny McCarthy under seven layers of mascara, interviewing some people who said they’d eaten nothing but Power Bars since 9am and hadn’t used the bathroom since around two in the afternoon. Jenny or whoever it was managed to say the word “Blackberry” three times in a one-minute period. I noticed a little graphic on the bottom of the screen showing the corporate logo. Apparently, here in American culture, 2012 is The Year of the Blackberry. And that was all immediately after they put up a graphic that said the #3 resolution for 2012 was to “get in a relationship.” First of all, how can you resolve to do that? “That’s it! This year I’m going to have a girl/boyfriend, dammit! By force, if necessary!” Secondly… “Get in a relationship”? that’s just bad grammar.

***Poster’s note: in talking with Sister 2 just after midnight, I was reminded that her friend Andy resolved last year to find a girlfriend in 2011, and now he’s engaged. Bugger. I hereby declare him to be the exception to the rule. 

Here’s the deal: the only thing that makes New Year’s Eve unlike any other night is that lots of people stand around in various states of inebriation and possibly of clothing, and at midnight, a bunch of people start yelling and various items drop from poles, the most famous of which is a sparkly ball.

No different from a strip club, really.

Anyway, you know what I realized as I hated on the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show? Everything they do now is geared toward young people. Younger than me. Which means even those people are staying home more and counting on Ryan Seacrest and Justin Bieber (who shows up everywhere, seriously… New Year’s Resolution 2012: End Bieber Fever. Some people want to cure cancer.  My thing might be a more realistic goal.) to see them through to 2012. Which means they didn’t have anywhere to go, either. And apparently, millions and millions of people have not had anywhere to go, since New Year’s Eve 1972 when Dick Clark started the special.

On the seventh day of Christmas (AKA New Year’s Eve), I rang in the new year grateful for everything and everyone that blessed me in 2011, and praying that they would all be blessed in 2012, even if I couldn’t see them at 12:01am.

May 2012 bring you joy, peace, grace and health.

And good blog posts.

And an end to Bieber Fever.

Amen.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas, I kind of thought a little bit about what I’d learned in 2011. In order to understand the significance of this quasi-navel-gazing, you have to understand that, while I freaking excel at navel-gazing, I really don’t ever use the end of a given year to look back on it and figure out where I am as compared to where I was when the year began. I find that process kind of depressing.

I suppose that means I’m doing it wrong.

Anyway, looking back has always seemed counter-productive to me. It’s why I don’t keep a journal or diary; every time I’ve written down a bunch of personal feelings and thoughts and re-read them months later, I’ve wanted to throw the stupid book across a room in disgust. Gah, me. You are so annoying sometimes. Plus, it’s just too much all at once. I prefer to do my soul-wrenching introspection in smaller, more random doses. My friend Joey does a lot of reflecting at the end of the year and also on his birthday, and sometimes those phone conversations are just agonizing. I wish he would just let himself off the hook and move forward.

So when I started suddenly wondering what I’d learned and putting some thoughts together, I felt rather surprised by the pull. Now, though, as I’m sitting here typing this, I’m feeling something more like dread. A roiling in my stomach. A definite threat that, at some point, I’m going to cry.

See why I don’t do this?

It’s not that I don’t think I’m in a good place as compared to where I was last year. Frankly, I’m not sure I’m in a different place at all, really, but that’s alright. Unlike Joey, I don’t feel the need to move mountains and leap tall buildings in the course of one year. What do you do the next year? You’re going to be miserably disappointed in yourself and calling me to whine about it. I know it. I’ve done some stuff. Moved past a couple things. Helped some people, I think. I’m good with that.

It doesn’t help that every website, aggregate, TV network and magazine is doing their year-ender pieces full of “looks back” at various categories of things deemed Best and Worst: political doings, celebrity habits, movies, news items, and, of course, the beloved Homage To Famous People Who Died This Year (my money’s on Etta James by the time the ball drops).

Yes, I’m twisted. You’re surprised by this? You must be new.

Anyway. Deep breath. Here goes.

******

Things I’ve Learned In 2011

Good fences make good neighbors. Ten miles’ distance make even better neighbors.

My taste has evolved quite a bit recently. I used to love candy. Now I find it too sweet. These days I far prefer for my sugar to be mixed with flour, butter and eggs.

It’s okay to just not care sometimes.

When feeling uninspired, it may be best to sit down and just make myself write something. And not infrequently, I will produce the worst crap I have ever written in my life.

Never buy a car with a cloth interior. It will pick up everything but men and money.

A clean home matters much less than a good friend. But a good friend is an excellent motivator to have a clean home. (So is a stupid faulty carbon monoxide detector.)

Do not get a smoke/carbon monoxide detector combo. It will tell you you’re about to die in the middle of the night when you’re totally not going to die. Or you might. Hard to say with those combos.

I will probably never separate reds from darks.

Sometimes it’s better just to not answer the phone when you know the conversation is going to go badly, be it because of your mood or theirs.

There is such a thing as a biceps femoralis. You don’t know about it, but it’s in your leg, and it will hurt you for days if you go roller skating past the age of 20. (I debated the age.)

Nothing beats the enthusiastic and happy-to-see-you hug of a child.

No matter how much I like to be a bum, I feel better if I’ve been productive. This will not, however, stop me from being a bum.

Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answers to. Do ask questions you should know the answers to… even if the answers hurt.

Sometimes my gut is an idiot.

The Learning Channel teaches me very little except that there are entire categories of people I did not know I can’t stand.

It is not hard to love someone. What is hard is to be secure in that love. What is harder still is to know whether it is foolish to love. And hardest of all is to know whether being foolish might be worth it.

I still hate English Baroque music. I will never grow to appreciate it. Not happening.

Trust what you know about yourself, but ask a question once in a while to be sure.

There is no longer nearly as much stigma to online dating as there used to be. I just watched an entire group of co-workers look over another co-worker’s shoulder at her eHarmony matches. The guys were so judgey!

Showing someone who seeks my counsel that I, too, am a complete neurotic mess is often more helpful to them than making them think I’m not.

It is bad to overdose on that over-the-counter stuff that makes UTIs stop hurting. Unless you want to see what day-glo vomit looks like.

Writing a blog has not exactly been what I hoped or expected. I have not done what I set out to do. But I have enjoyed what I have done, and I have found a wonderful bunch of writers and readers that I look forward to seeing every day on my screen.

Years of ordinary friendship add up to extraordinary support.

There is a difference between being loved and being liked. Sometimes it is hard to know which is best.

A compliment from a total stranger can make someone’s day. Be the stranger.

*****

I was right. On the sixth day of Christmas, I did a little reflecting… and it made me cry a little. But it made me smile, too.

What have you learned this year?