Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Old Year

I used to. I used to read back in my journals, at the end of the year: I used to make up stories, the year in review, What I Accomplished Last Year, that sort of thing. Not this year. It would break my heart, for one thing, but I can pretend it's for other reasons. Because I'm above all that, say. Or because I recognize that my life is not a narrative at all, not an epic, but more an episodic sit-com, which will run until the jokes are so threadbare, and the plots so transparent, that even the die-hard fans will change the channel when my theme music comes on.

I could make resolutions, lists, plans for 2011, the year of the great leap forward, the year when I will finally eat properly, make my massage business a smooth-running, booked-solid machine, begin promoting myself as a poet, write my zeppelin-in-Africa novel, become a bestselling mystery writer (“Murder in the Sangha”), brush up my anatomy (what is the scientific name for the cheekbone, again?), get a handle on economic theory, teach poetry classes at PCC, get better lights on my bicycle, downsize to a non-mortgaged house, put my files in order, and buy a presentable jacket. I could.

But I think instead I'll sit here in the coffee shop, looking at a bit of unexpected blue sky through the window, and think of the friends who have helped me this year. You never know, till trouble comes, who will be both willing and able to give the help that you need. Some old friends come through, and some don't; some new friends appear suddenly with overwhelming generosity; some quiet acquaintances suddenly blossom into angels of rescue. You needn't -- and I don't -- think of these things as intrinsic characteristics of the people, or of the friendships. It's just the way of the world. I've let people I love down, and I've showered acquaintances with loving support, too. It's timing and resources, and a matter of matching the need to receive with the need to give. But the resonance, the pitch, changes over time. I'm grateful, that's all.

It has been a dark cold winter. As I sit here, still huddled in my jacket and eye-poppingly chartreuse bicycle vest, my feet are aching with cold. When the clouds wander over the sun -- as they do periodically -- my heart sinks. Last night at 11:00 we went on an expedition across town to where Alan had been forced to abandon the Honda, because its door-locks had frozen fast. We were armed with WD 40 and a milk jug of hot water to hold against the locks, but we never did manage to get into it. Triple-A apologetically said all they could do is tow it so we could put it into our heated garage, but since we don't have a heated garage, we passed on that. Martha took Alan to the fire station this morning: I'll pick him up tomorrow. I hope he doesn't have to deal with too much New Year's carnage tonight. And presumably, this being after all the maritime Northwest, temperatures will rise above freezing within a couple days and we'll be a two-car family again.

So -- that's how it goes, one thought leading to the next. I'm slammed at work, of course: hundreds of donations come in at the last minute, people trying to get their gifts in under the wire. My sense is of a real upsurge of giving this year, back up to pre-recession levels, but those impressions can be deceiving. I'll wait till I can run the numbers.

Pristine unwritten pages, blank slates? No. I don't have them, I don't want them. I want the palimpsest of my life as it is, messy, overwritten, painted and scraped and painted again. Subdued to what it works in, like the dyer's hand: and what it works in, clumsily and awkwardly, is love. Happy New Year, dear friends, old and new: and Happy Old Year too.

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