The holidays are finally over.
Along with God bless us, everyone, this statement is one of the beloved hallmarks of the season.
For some, taking the ornaments off the tree and vacuuming up the pine needles is a melancholy process. For others, it’s the kind of relief an accountant feels at the end of tax season—a divine blessing.
I am of the latter group; I enjoy a tacky Christmas light tour and a hot toddy as much as the next gal, but the month plus of holiday revelry is exhausting and expensive. Every time you turn around, from mid-November to the first of January, there’s a pusherman with cookies and cakes and Bath and Body Works seasonal lotions.
So I find myself, on New Year’s Eve, with a week-long hangover, an empty bank account and the stench of candy cane on my dry hands. I’m all partied out, too. My small talk skills have run thin and I find myself talking about old Roseanne episodes and vitamin supplements—with a glass of seltzer water in my hand.
I find myself the death of the party.
In past years, I’ve taken what little festivity I have left to the public; I’ve attended parties and parades and punk rock shows—I’ve put on a new dress and far too much glittery eye shadow and hobbled in heels around various cities with a ridiculous party hat atop my head. You may remember that girl at the bar who asked if you remembered the episode where David and Darlene go to the prom—the clock struck midnight and you struggled to find a way out of this conversation and into a midnight kiss.
Yes, that buzzkill was me…I suppose I owe you a glass of champagne.
This year, I had a few intriguing New Year’s options: One of my friends invited to the local Moose Chapter for cheap drinks and a cover band—I’ve never spent the holiday with a bunch of fifty-year-olds dancing to an off-key version of Free Bird. I could duct tape the soles of my well-worn cowboy boots and dance until dawn. Yee-haw.
When that plan got cancelled, I moved on to idea #2.
I could have spent the evening with my boyfriend, quietly toasting another year over candlelight. It would be a romantic, cozy way to spend the evening.
At the very least, it’s expected that couples spend the ball drop in a liplock.
After a long few weeks of fulfilling expectations, though, I found myself wanting to rebel by soberly sitting on my ass (now in its super-sized bowlful of jelly form) alone.
When I told people about my plan to spend New Year’s alone, I got the kind of look you’d get if you told people you’d decided to become a heroin addict: my friends and family were concerned and confused. There were several intervention attempts and promises of truly great parties. Some of my friends admitted that they’d like to do the same thing, but just couldn’t.
“I’ve always been afraid to spend New Year’s alone,” one of my friends said. “What if I’m setting myself up for a long, lonely year?”
Outside of Halloween, New Year’s is the holiday that is most ruled by omens and superstitions.
First, there is the idea that something magical happens at midnight—that the bell tolling actually has some kind of tangible effect on our lives. Then, there is the eating of black-eyed peas and collard greens for good luck. There are endless resolutions and intentions bombarding Facebook, as if publicly announcing them makes them any easier to stick to.
None of these even compare to the fears we create for ourselves and the traditions we invent to ward off those fears.
Like my friend, I’ve always feared that spending the holiday alone sets some kind of spinster-spell over the upcoming year.
Well over a decade ago, I found myself alone with nothing but a bottle of Andre and a VHS copy of Carnal Knowledge as the calendar turned. My diary passage from that night states, simply: lonely as fuck.
The following day, however, I reported burning two dozen star-shaped cookies with friends over several pitchers of mimosas.
The next day, according to my diary, I went to a concert and discovered the magic of a good cheese plate. “Friends, cheese, rock n’ roll. This is going to be a good year,” I wrote.
So, I have some solid proof that spending New Year’s alone isn’t a recipe for an agoraphobic year.
Even with that proof, I looked at the clock on this 31st and wondered if my fate was sealed. Was it too late to change course? At seven, I opened my closet door and flipped through my party dresses, most of which don’t currently fit me. I called my friends, none of whom answered, to see if I might join them.
I contemplated crying for a few minutes.
Then, I put on a pair of sweatpants and my warmest winter coat and took a walk to the convenience store around the corner for a candy bar.
The store was filled with vivacious, young people in their very best clothes buying 12 packs of beer. A few lonely drunks stood in line, arms filled with the cheapest of malt liquor. When I reached the front of the line, the sales clerk looked at my candy bar and my coconut water.
“Just this?” she asked.
The sales clerk is an African woman, a Muslim, whom I see almost every day for all of two minutes—we’ve developed one of those superficial relationships that you have with most of the people you see every day.
I know that she doesn’t approve of drinking partly because of her faith; it’s also because she works the night shift and sees hundreds of inebriated people buy 15 deep-fried pork egg rolls, drop them on the floor as they walk out the door, laugh and recklessly drive off into the night.
“No party for you, yogi?”
“No, just this,” I said.
“You and me have that in common,” she said. “We must stick to our guns and avoid temptation.”
I told her that’s exactly what I was doing: being a good yogi. She stared down at the mala around my wrist and gave me a thumbs up. I felt bad about taking credit for my strong morals when I’d just spent a week downing martinis like Don Draper, but it was the first person who hadn’t told me I was insane for avoiding the holiday.
She didn’t see me as some pathetic shut-in. I was strong! I was doing this for some greater cosmic cause! I felt powerful as I walked home eating that king-sized York Peppermint Pattie®.
When I got home and looked at my altar, though, that regal feeling left me and superstition set in again; not only was I sealing my fate for the next 365 days, but I’d lied to a very nice, strongly devout woman.
The only thing to do was repent.
I burned incense. I doused myself in rosewater. I sat for an hour or two—meditating, crying, trying to focus, then just allowing my mind to run rampant with all the memories from the last year.
A year, in all honesty, filled with medical problems, friendship disasters and bounced checks. The kind of year that I’m thankful for surviving, if not actually living. I learned to go through the motions, hoping that my method acting would, somehow, transform my DNA into a happy human being.
It was also a year filled with more time on the mat than any other.
A year where yoga provided not only solace, but acceptance of grief and sadness. After spending most of my life running from reality with another party, another hobby, another episode of Roseanne, 2012 was the year my legs, literally, stopped working.
The clock struck midnight and fireworks exploded around the neighborhood; I heard horns and Auld Lang Syne from the house next door.
I was not, as I’d feared, lonely as fuck; I was on my mat and oddly content for the first time in a very long time.
New Year’s is but a moment and what follows is often a year of failed resolutions and dreams.
This grace I’ve found is unfailing and thousand-fold.
Ed: Bryonie Wise
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