Happy New Year!
It started like this: twenty minutes before midnight, I resolved to be nicer to Bear when he interrupted something I was doing. At midnight, Bear and I were lying around in his mother’s guest bedroom. We had just finished packing, and we’d forgotten to calculate for gifts, so it was much harder than on the way over. It was much more like the kind of practical logic puzzle I’ve always been disappointing at. Our flight was horribly early the next morning.
“Happy New Year!” said Bear.
I reached for him and somehow managed to claw his face. He turned and his knee slammed into my leg. OW.
A minute later, I was checking my phone, doing something extremely important that I can’t remember, and Bear said, “What are you doing?” and I said, “Can you just let me do this, please?!” And broke my resolution. Awesome.
But then, horribly early the next morning, we were on a plane, flying over the whole country, and it was surprisingly big, and I felt a little like God or a hawk might feel, tracing the sweet curl of overlapping highways with my eyes– enjoying that faint, graceful human symmetry against the massiveness of nature. I thought about the people who live by the base of all those mountains, and the people who live near the start of great forests, and all of the people who live in the wild open spaces that look to me like montages out of movies that will have werewolves later, and I was pretty awed. And cowed. Which is a great word. I had been planning on getting things done on my computer, but instead I stared out the window at the world and felt fulfilled.
I have been trying to think of good New Year’s resolutions. But what I really want to write about is the time before. Because I know I’m in it. I’m in this lucky, easy grace period that happens sometimes when you’re young. And it’s easy not to think about where you are. You’re more likely to think about how you were once there, later, when you’re not anymore. And then you say things like, “I didn’t even know how good I had it.”
For the record, I am trying to know how good I have it.
In college, I had three friends who had lost parents. Two heart attacks and a car accident.
I grew up knowing my dad was sick. In college, he called me to tell me his stomach was paralyzed. It wasn’t clear what was going to happen. I remember walking into a final right after that conversation, feeling like my mind was paralyzed. I felt frozen.
Recently, my mom has been dealing with serious back problems. She doesn’t really talk about it, because she’s the kind of person who doesn’t like to talk about her problems. She’s the kind of person who doesn’t take painkillers until she’s in excruciating pain.
But my dad is OK, and my mom is OK, and my two impressively witty brothers, and even my ninety-year-old grandma is OK.
And I need them so much, so I’m OK.
I don’t want to be morbid, but I know it’s not forever. Sometimes I’m painfully aware that it’s not forever. Sometimes this time, the time before, feels fragile, hovering, potentially brief.
Sometimes I look at Bear at it occurs to me that there is no rule that says I had to find him and be happy and safe. Some people spend a very long time waiting for a partner who makes automatic, instinctive sense like Bear. Some people don’t find that partner.
Sometimes I am almost overwhelmed by the sense that this stuff, right now, right here, is precious. And the simplest detail, my mom putting on her glasses to read something, making the face she makes when she’s concentrating, brings tears to my eyes. I am acutely, fiercely aware that there is only one of her. That this is it for me. She is it.
So I guess as the year flips over and another one is lying there, blank and shiny-new, I want to think about what I already have.
And I want to think about how big the world is– full of sprawling mountains and scattered, blinking lakes and places I can’t even imagine from Brooklyn, NY.
I think I know what my New Year’s resolution is– other than to really be nicer to Bear when he interrupts something I’m doing: I want to allow for more mystery in my life. I am such a know-it-all. I think I know exactly where I stand. I think I know what I’ve accomplished and what I will never accomplish. I think now is forever. I think I’ve figured it out– my neck is too short. I will continue to fail in certain ways that I can count without thinking. The things I don’t know about life, I think I need to plan for right now.
But looked at slightly differently, with my head turned just a little, I can see that my whole life has changed, and changed again, so many times. That I could not have predicted where I would be or what I would be doing. That my priorities have shifted and my skills have reoriented, and my singing voice has grown richer and warmer, just from living longer, the way I always hoped it would but didn’t believe was really possible. And I don’t know what will happen next, or where I’ll be when it happens. I don’t know what I’m capable of. I don’t know how strong I am.
But I do know, factually, unequivocally, that it is a big, open world. I want to make room for it in my mind. Maybe one day, I’ll even live at the edge of the wild, rolling mountains.
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What is your New Year’s resolution?
Unroast: Today I love my sideburns. They are spunky.
P.S. If you want to win free stuff, enter the sneakpeeq giveaway here. They’re calling it “Let Them Eat Cake” in our honor.