Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Day . . . and beyond

This is not among my favorite holidays. All that forced celebration is almost too maniacal; the pessimist in me knows that, in spite of the "New" moniker, we are also mourning a year that's gone.

I rarely hear anyone wrap up Dec. 31 by saying, "Wow! That was a great year!" It's always something along the line of "Good riddance!"

I won't belabor the fact that you have the same assurance of a fresh run of 365 new days on June 30 as you do on Dec. 31. We love milestones and that new challenge of remembering to change the number at the end of the date every time you write a check. And -- hey -- any excuse to run a 40 percent off sale at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

My mother used to make a big fuss over New Year's Eve and even New Year's Day. I think it was her attempt to extend the holiday season as much as possible and I wonder, in retrospect, if she didn't suffer a bit from Seasonal Affective Disorder -- I do remember her sighing sadly once and mentioning, "Now comes the post-holiday blues." I don't recall her ever acting depressed, but hers was a generation that wouldn't have "acted out" their feelings.

I will admit that January is sort of a blank time these days. There is nothing to anticipate -- even gardeners are relegated to merely perusing seed catalogs. We're not preparing for anything or anticipating anything but the end of it. Even beastly February at least features Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day white sales and mattress discounts, and Lent (okay, Lent is probably not an eagerly anticipated event and one that, when I was a Catholic schoolgirl, I never quite "got." I knew I had to give something up, so I usually chose something I didn't really like to begin with -- like liver...or kale). You have to travel to experience Mardi Gras and, frankly, every day in the South is Fat Tuesday.

January, though, is 31 days of a blank slate. To me, that's terrific. I have 31 days for which nothing is expected; 31 days where whatever I do is gravy. I can get in some groundwork for times when I will have an obligation...or not. Mostly, I can pick my project and my deadline. So much power!

I remember saying last year that 2009 had been so horrible, I was glad it was over. I was ready to say the same thing about 2010. But, ya know...even though both years held their terrors, they also held a certain beauty of painful, but necessary, growth and poignant moments that only gut-wrenching misery can manifest. I doubt I would have ever witnessed my children's strength and compassion or my brothers' fierce loyalty had this year not happened.

So, thank you, 2010, for what you brought. And I'll even welcome you, 2011 -- in my own, quiet way.

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