Leaving the year

I sit here on New Year’s Eve, listening to music from ten years ago and debating whether or not I should wear my nice black shoes to my family’s Christmas today. We usually have the Hemond Christmas between Christmas and New Years, but this feels so late. I’ve already moved past the holidays, preparing myself for a new year. There are only a few things I have left to do before the clock strikes midnight tonight, and I’m ready to put this year to bed.

It’s been a year of extremes. We had cancer, back surgery, and Bell’s Palsy just in my immediate family this year. Our dog died. I spent half the year with insomnia so extreme it wasn’t uncommon for me to miss an entire night’s sleep. But I also got a new job at the university, published my second piece of writing, and rejoined the halls of literary journal editing. I started coaching a soccer team of eleven-year-old girls. My sister graduated.

But there are holes, too, in my experience, as there always are: friends who went unseen yet again, plans that fell apart or that never fully formed, possibilities left behind, choices made that so fully exclude others. Things left undone, and there aren’t enough hours left now.

I’m not big on making resolutions; I’ve never understood why the turn of the calendar should be the prompt, but here I am today, using the same coming occurrence to look back, to plan forward.

2012 will be many things. I will complete my first year with Michigan State University. I will turn twenty-eight. I will attend my ten-year high school reunion. And there are other things that I hope for: to become published (fiction this time), to finally move into my own apartment, to be kept on at MSU with a full teaching load, to travel back to France and learn to speak the language well enough to not need English while I’m there.

And now I’m listening to What Sarah Said, and it all feels so appropriate.

Perhaps it’s the weather, or the holidays, or genetics, or one of a thousand other things, but I always get a bit melancholy at this time of year. Reflection can do that I think, and for me, planning can, too. If I did set a resolution this year it might be to become a better planner. Not better at making plans, but better at letting them go, at making new ones, at thinking on my feet when things take a turn.

It’s hard being back in my hometown now, feeling as if I’ve changed so much and yet so much around me is the same. I’d have never guessed, five or ten years ago, that I would be someone uncomfortable with comfort. I remember sitting in the car with a boyfriend once, maybe nine years ago, talking about that awful John Mayer song and debating comfort. But even then I said I wanted something more. It’s funny how even in change, some things stay the same, simply maturing, blossoming.

Now I leave, to go spend a few more hours inside this year. I will try to finish some of those things I’ve left undone: I will deliver my final Christmas gift, I will try to finish reading another book (Rivethead), I will read more story submissions. I will think on all the things I haven’t done: phone calls I haven’t made, things I haven’t said, stories I haven’t finished writing. So much, so much unfinished. Some, I will do in 2012, some I will try to push into the back corner of my closet and forget about, to be packed in boxes and taken with me wherever I go, until I finally forget, or find the courage to do.

May 2012 be a year of many blessings for you. May the stumbling blocks be ones you can climb over, teaching you important lessons as you do so. May there be smiles and laughter. And may we all find the strength to do those difficult things, or to let them go. Happy New Year, everyone.

Holiday spirit, or something like it

A few random things that have been knocking around in my head lately.

1. Where are all the giving trees? One of my Day Zero goals has been to donate off a giving tree, but the one that’s usually at the mall was not set up this year. It’s less than two weeks to Christmas, and my Day Zero challenge finishes next November, so I think I’m going to have to mark this goal up as a failure.

2. As of yesterday, I have added another business to the list of places I try my best to not do business with. Dominoes, Amazon, and now Lowes, though I’m sure there are others that I just can’t think of right now. This holiday season, while I am buying two gifts from Amazon (couldn’t find elsewhere), I am still doing most of my shopping at small or locally owned businesses. Some days it seems like I’m single-handedly trying to keep Schuler Books and Music in business.

3. I don’t have a problem with being told “Merry Christmas,” but I do have a problem with the assumption that it doesn’t bother some people. Even though I’m not religious (I think some of my family still don’t know this, but seeing how I haven’t said Grace or gone to church in years, I’m hoping this isn’t a bombshell), I was raised in the Christian tradition and am therefore in the majority in this country. I can only imagine, therefore, that for some people, constantly having your religion overlooked and forgotten is frustrating and painful.

3.1. I was thinking the other day that I’m much more interested in the stories that surround Chanukah than I am in those surrounding Christmas. I have theories as to why I feel this way, but I think I’ll leave those unsaid. When I mentioned these thoughts to my dad yesterday, he arched his eyebrows and said, “Are you sure you want to write that?”

4. Gift giving is hard. I’m realizing, as I get older, that a lot of the gift buying I did as a kid/teenager was probably crap. I think I bought a lot of gifts that cluttered people’s houses and that they didn’t want. These days I try really hard to get people things they will like, appreciate, and use, and I’ve noticed that gift giving has gotten increasingly difficult.

5. A sad thing about the holiday season is how good television shows stop airing new episodes. To make room, I can only assume, for all those holiday specials. The next episode of Once Upon a Time isn’t until January!

6. My dog Molly apparently hates the Christmas—or at least Santa Claus. She ate a Santa hat today. And she did not like the reindeer ears I put on her while we decorated our tree. As an aside, my cats also refuse to wear hats.