We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
The New Year holds a striking amount of significance for so many people – me among them. In my rational mind I am aware that this is silly, this arbitrary attachment to an abstract new beginning. But I still believe. I have borrowed from a variety of places and traditions in terms of how I celebrate. I clean and get everything all sorted out for smooth segues into new calendars, I eat something celebratory for no other reason than the simple pleasure it brings, if I toast in the new year anymore I am mindful of the sort of hangovers that lurk around every corner in middle age, I contemplate, I make lists (and I read so many: best photos, most searched, best music, best movies… ), I set goals, which in combination comes down to a sort of daydreamy visualization situation. I hesitate to call it meditation only for its lack of continuity and specific intention. Not to say that I think this kind of mental exercise is any less effective, just different. And it allows from some mu-si vegetables and wonton soup in between thoughts. I also love to have my own sort of greatest hits, generally punctuated by photos. I may do that again – but now with Instagram and what not, it it starting to seem a little unoriginal – if it ever was.
I did not write a lot this past year, well I didn’t blog a lot. And my relationship with “social” media is really changing for a variety of reasons. First of all the fact that the OED identified the (non)word “selfie” as the word of the year because its use increased by more than 17,000% is profoundly disturbing – more for the underlying meaning of universally embracing this concept than the fact that it is a made up word. What does it say about a species that their most used word is all about self-promotion, self-obsession, self-ishness? I have students that seriously shoot unending series of selfies. Daily. Hourly. In addition to this ridiculousness, there is the constant Facebook weirdness. I have taken to hiding people from my feed because I am too gutless to actually delete these people on the outside chance that they would notice and I might be forced to deal, face to face, and explain that I really find their superiority trips/self-obsession/directives on how to live/ignorance/politics/judgements/incessant unedited posting/Candy Crush invites/misspellings (which even when intentional are still misspellings and annoying) soul crushing. And this is super frustrating as I have been working so hard to be kind and to remember that everyone is fighting a battle I know nothing about…. Well, frankly with all your posts I do know about it – unless you are one of those cryptic posters – but I am still trying to be kind. Really. Another thing that happened this year is that someone started aggressively stalking and harassing me via any available online conduit. He would read (and repost!) my blog posts that he took offense to (and believes to the point of mass publicizing it that one of them was written about him – ummm… Hello Crazy.) He stalked my Instagram. Then he started a series of ad-hom attacks on Twitter (keep in mind my Twitter is private and he is fully blocked by every available avenue and still he persisted.) I reported him repeatedly. Then he started contacting me through some other account – that he was accusing me of running. Where is Sweet Brown when you need here? I mean, who in the world got time for THAT? Reported that too. But it just made things less pleasant. Then I read Dave Eggers’ The Circle, and I just got freaked out about the whole situation.
Also, my hard drive crashed in September without a real recent back up and so I did some deep work with attachment… and ended up feeling a bit detached. Though, this morning as I watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day my first reaction was, “I gotta get a photo of that…” while I was still curled up all warm in my bed. And why? For whom?
But my transition from old year to new year seemed incomplete without some sort of look back – as well as forward. And sooo…
This year is beginning in a markedly different way than I had anticipated, directly. Looking back at the (little) bit of writing I did this year in the public and private forums it seems a little less surprising. And I am paying a lot more attention to the layers of synchronicity in my life – like facing relationship crisis points and walking into yoga class where one of my teachers announces that his theme for 2014 will be vulnerability. Seriously? Yeah. Or getting up at the crack of dawn to try to make someone’s morning a little better by making them coffee… and then three hours later on making coffee for myself having the carafe shatter with the pressure of the French Press. Really universe?
Still, I’m gonna keep trying to kill them with kindness. Even the lady from Glee on the NYE special was talking about that being her goal for the new year: kindness. [redacted]
So my year? Sitting here on a quiet New Year’s morning, there is a lot to think about buried in a seemingly mundane year. In honor of the OED, let’s see if I can find a selfie from every month… while all is quiet.
I got super sick in January – like worse than I had in a long time. And although I started my year with high hopes and an auspicious NYE… I felt amiss, adrift, a little trepidatious.
I worked, I contemplated Valentine’s Day, I waited for this challenging month to pass.
March was warm and sunny in San Francisco. I tried to find ways to alleviate a hard workload and a larger economic burden than I was interested in shouldering. I spent a lot of time at Dolores Park.
I went to New York City – and it had been so long since I had visited. I spent time with one of my favorite people from auld lang syne, and wrote a lot about it here. And here. [All the original photo files from my NYC trip are on my destroyed hard drive – which I still have on the outside chance my attachment/detachment issues never get worked out, for now, here is the selfie via Instagram. And R chose the filter, btw.]
By May I was feeling the full effects of a full and challenging school year. I booked it out of town for a ridiculously indulgent long weekend in Napa for a music festival with A. It was well worth it, though it also brought up – for both of us – some pretty real issues we were going to have to deal with in our lives. Also, R came out my way for a bi-coastal City comparison and it was awesome. This is not a selfie, but whatevs.
Marriage Equality put a pretty huge celebratory stamp on SF Pride and that was what was happening in my neighborhood for sure. School ended. I survived. Wendy Davis took a stand (painfully literally) in Texas and it got me thinking about the same. I spent a lot of time at the beach. And the A’s were playing some great baseball.
Le Tour winds up. Corinne & Dom got married in Hopland, and I sported my own maillot jaune. Polly came calling from down under allowing me to do a solid for one of may favorite people on earth. I was in the midst of a staycation (not by choice, necessarily, but making the most of it), doing hours of yoga a day, cooking delicious meals, and unwinding. Mostly.
I finally got out of town in August and that was great. I love San Diego and a change of perspective is always good. I saw my family as we said good bye to my cousin Arjuna, for most of us in the only possible way – long delayed and spectrally.
Another birthday come and gone. A new school year. A lost hard drive. A stellar A’s run, and Star Wars night at the ball park. Hayley and Glen got married at the Santa Barbara zoo (the second of three out of town weddings… of which I did not realize the toll.)
Work carried on and so did I. Blindly in both cases. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and go. Not that it is a great strategy for longevity, mind you. We headed to Vegas for Alyssa & Dan. And another dear friend from far away came my way; it was wonderful to see you and be able to offer a landing spot Andy Griff.
Things are tough all over. But I really had no idea how tough. Ignorance may be bliss but it is fatiguing. Work was getting me down, and home was little respite. I have to imagine the lesson learned here is to trust that when things look bleak, they probably are, but pretending they are not, or hoping they are not only magnifies the consequences. I got the only bad manicure I have ever had at my salon. It spoke accurately of the month.
The sum of the parts can sometimes tip the scale – and things must be reset. It is important to (re)turn to the things you know are true, and not to lose sight of yourself. My hairdresser told me that, earlier in the month, unsolicited, as he massaged my scalp: “Whatever you choose, just don’t lose who you are.” He is a wise man (as evidenced by my amazing hair.)
This year my highlights list was harder to put together than any other. Unsure if that has to do with slipping memory as a result of middle age(?!), or more likely, larger shifts in lifestyle. Of course, when you do not have the big, statement events – I went to Bali! I bought a house! I had a fourth baby! – the smaller things perhaps seem… well, smaller. But it is in those smaller moments that one makes a life, I expect.
Much of my quieter year had to do with self-assumed responsibility to lifestyles changes that were never requested, but somehow implied. I am, of course, complicit in the assumption of these changes, and 2013 shows that. I spent most of 2013 trying to be smaller. Not physically, necessarily (though as a child of the 80s I am permanently scarred with the “you can never be too rich or too thin” mantra) but small in other ways. Unobtrusive. Mitigating. Ameliorating. Compromising. Fixing, fixing, and more fixing. Making things work. Finding out that people who say “Be honest,” or “Tell me the truth,” rarely want those things, especially in my profession. Learning that I had to sit and listen -redacted-.
And elsewhere in my year, I realize looking back, that I simply tried to make everything okay for everyone around me. Except me. Oh I had my moments: 108 days of yoga was a pretty impressively lengthy me party, for example. But overall, I worked really hard to prevent others from being mad, loud, angry, aggressive, unhappy, lacking… And I sort of hid out. That is okay once in a while you know, to become a little more backgroundish… it offers an important and different perspective. But then, one must emerge, otherwise, well, you can disappear I imagine. And emergence is not always easy for those around you who must then create some space.
When I look back at my photos of the year, they are mostly cats. Now, I have no illusions about my status as a cat-lady, but even for me, the ratio of cat to non-cat is telling. If not shocking. (Instagram identified my top moments as a series of five cat photos – from all of my photos, five cat photos. On discovering that this hierarchy was simply based on likes… all it does is remind me that the cat people are taking over the internet and so maybe it speaks more to that than to the fact that in looking for signs of life and peace and sweetness this year I often turned to my cats.)
It was not a bad year. I did things I wanted to do, I have no pressing, outstanding needs, and I survived, which is so much better than infinite other possibilities. Work was a challenge, but I am not clear yet if this has to do with me, my work place, or the general circumstances of education in America – or the world. I imagine it is all of the above. In the end, at the end, I go into 2014 with a childish hope and eternal optimism that I think infects everyone at this time of the year. And thank god for that.
I do hope people will be more kind this year – because it is always an option.
I hope people will begin to look outside of the self a little more this year, because I think our survival is dependent upon it.
I feel like I am in a place where I can do whatever I want to do – and so I guess this is going to be an important thing to figure out.
Or at least to figure out what I want to do next.
I think that is my wish for everyone this year: Figure out that next step you want to take and take it, even if it’s small, or seems impossible. Just make the choice. Whether or not you choose wisely is only relevant in hindsight, so you know… check it out.