Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolve; or, it's a lot like hope

The first New Year's Eve that I can really remember was when I was 8. I was with my parents at a friend's house. He was a teacher who really wanted to be a politician. He ran for State Assemblyman when I was a junior or senior in high school. He lost. On that New Year's, when I was 8, I was wearing pink pajamas with a walrus on them. We had dinner, I don't remember what, and we watched movies. My dad's friend did not treat me or my brother as children so there were no kids movies. We watched Shogun. I remember my mother trying to shield my eyes from a scene where a warrior was killed by a vat of hot tar. We didn't watch any of those NYE shows or countdowns, there were no toasts or resolutions, and by midnight I was asleep and the new year rolled by unmarked and unnoticed.

I sometimes think I slept through my childhood. As a girl with big ideas and dreams living out-of-place in a small town with a mission to crush forward thinking, I found few bright spots. NYE my junior year of high school seemed like it would be one of those bright spots. I was a part of the "Just Say No" club on campus and as part of our mission to help students avoid drugs and alcohol we sponsored a New Year's Eve party. The theme was black and white. I had taken a special trip to Redding from Hayfork an hour-and-a-half away to buy the black sweater and a white skirt and shiny white heels to copy an outfit I had seen in a magazine. I had crimped my hair and put on makeup and was far too overdressed for the modest little gathering. I remember as I dressed thinking that this was the night my life was going to start. I arrived at the house of another of my dad's friends, another teacher, only to find that most people were wearing jeans and t-shirts and few of them had bothered to wear the theme colors. My visions of this great shining party and how this was going to be a beginning of the life I imagined faded. By the end of the night I had covered myself with a borrowed flannel shirt. I don't know if I was cold or if I was covering the raiment of hope that those clothes marked. At midnight we toasted with plastic glasses and apple cider. No one made any resolutions.

It was not until I was in my 20's that I began to make New Year's Resolutions; and then, I embraced it. I can even count myself amongst those few who can claim to have kept a few. I had a very satisfying NYE. For some reason, most NYE's just fizzle. I think it is a night with too much expectation attached for success to be inevitable. It was in Tulsa, Oklahoma when I had some pretty great friends and I lived in an art deco 1920's loft apartment in the *cool* part of Tulsa. My roommate, Krista, a woman who would later tell me we could not be friends because she was pregnant and that I was so "mean" that she "didn't want [her]baby to know me" (ouch), was throwing a dinner party. In spite of how our friendship turned out that night was a stellar NYE. We had a formal dinner party. Black-tie. We toasted with expensive champagne that none of us could afford and lived like Gatsby for the night. I am sure that event cost us all our paychecks it was such a show of extravagance. We wrote out resolutions on parchment with india ink and sealed them in envelopes to be opened the next year. Of course we thought we would meet and dine every year. But, like a lot of promises made to each other by twenty somethings we never did. But, the act of making resolutions did stick. I remember writing out these promises to myself as if the ink was fulfilling each promise just by the act of writing it down. I don't remember what I resolved, but I remember thinking that this, this was what NYE was supposed to be like. I may not have ever met up with those friends again (good riddance, actually) but I have written out my NYE resolutions every year since.

All those nights seem long ago now. And, in some ways, I suppose both literally and figuratively they are. Last year I made my resolutions, wrote them on parchment, stuck them in a envelope, and then threw it away. I decided I was tired of fighting to keep them. I thought they seemed like the same promises I had been making my whole life. I decided it before I had even finished making them. Later, on flight to Las Vegas, the mecca of NYE, I told friends that I had made a decision. That I wasn't going to pursue my resolutions any more. That I wasn't going to try anymore. That I was tired and needed to rest. So, I said I wasn't going to make resolutions any more. They nodded and said nothing.

Until this week, I was sure I was still done with resolutions. With the exception of working on my finances last year, I really stopped trying to make my life better and just lived without any real focus. But then, something, I am not sure what (I think it actually may be the television series Doctor Who, but that is for another day) has forced me to realize that I can't sleep through life. That I have done enough of that for a lifetime. That in some ways while 2013 was an easy year because I didn't really challenge myself too much, it has been the hardest year of my life because I haven't really had any thing to hope for. So this year I am going to make resolutions. And I am going to keep them. Well, at least as well as anyone does, or I ever have.

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