Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On New Year's Day

I have a friend who hates New Years Eve. Really, my friend hates any day reserved for forced merriment--days everyone points to on the calendar months in advance and asks expectantly, "what are you doing?" He says, "Don't tell me which days to have fun." He says, "Don't tell me what type of fun I'm supposed to have on those days." He says, "Why that night? Why not any other?" And there's where I agree with him.

Everyone I know spends New Years Eve the same way: you party with friends, strangers, strange friends and friendly strangers, eating too little, paying too much, drinking plenty, dancing, screaming, singing, celebrating, counting down the end of their past and waiting for the beginning of your future, frenzied by youth and drunk off optimism.

And in that spirit, you suddenly resolve yourself to resolution. You seek improvement--basic human development, growth, maturity, individual progress, etc--so you set out, eager yet doubtful, to chase it. Maybe you're embarrassed by your past behavior, maybe there's one singular aspect of your life which you need to improve upon, maybe the fear of something larger, looming somewhere in the future, is catalyzing this present sea-change. Whatever the impetus, you have, on the eve of the rest of your life, tentatively committed to "doing better."

And you wake up the next day...and it feels like any other. Maybe a little worse. Another year, another morning, another day of reality, blurred sagacity, quiet tedium. It's a harsh realization when you've been set up by yourself. Again.

So you create distractions, revisit old resolutions. You write them down on your calendar, discuss them with your friends and have a laugh, leave yourself reminder messages, buy whatever item might help your cause, even catalogue them in your damned blog:

Write more.
Sleep less.
Eat more vegetables.
Drink less Kool-Aid.
Be nice.
Get real.
Call people back.
Exercise patience.
If you love someone, tell them.
If you hate someone, don't tell them.
Don't hate people.
Exercise, or something like it.
Go to church.
Read the paper.
Cut back on the fruit roll-ups.
Drive safer.
Walk slower.
Laugh more.
Think less.
Take vacations.
Take holidays.
Take a break.
Take yourself less seriously.
Walk the dog.
Clean the bathroom.
Get a haircut.
Occasionally do what's best for someone else.
Find the someone who deserves better, and give them better.
Take what you need.
Want what you have.
Say what you mean.
Be sure.
Be self-contained.
Be social.
Be spontaneous.
Be careful.
Be honest.
Be punctual.
Be succinct.

And when the listing, practicing, rehearsing, rehashing, and relearning is finished, you're off your pace and it's not even February. You forget that it's even a new year. You resume familiar habits, resettle into old routines. It's an old story. We designate the New Year as a hopeful beginning and, just as quickly, mark its familiarity and dismiss its promise because we don't miraculously feel like a completely different person on January 1.

Maybe my friend is right: why New Years Eve to start something new, and why New Years Day to proclaim its beginning or end? Really, the reason January 1 feels like just another day is because it is just another day. There is no greater innate potential on this date than any other on the calendar. Rather than heightening expectations for one night, why not treat every day as an equal opportunity? I'd rather take back the hats and glitter, cover charges, toasts, nostalgia, drinks, madness, and platonic hell of New Years Eve. Take back the manufactured optimism, the year's worth of procrastination, the orgiastic deception. Take back December 31, and give me a year of new years. Give me 365 January 1sts with all of its immediacy and reality . Give me an early wake-up call at the beginning of each day; a morning where I wake expecting the present, and not an impossible future. Give me a new year in late February, when the sky is dark and it's hard to get out of bed; a new year in May, when the breeze feels good and I get restless; a new year in August, when summer ends and I need a place to stand still. Give me a fresh start in November, when the sun is setting on this year and I wish I had done more.

Give me the peace to sleep well at night--every night--knowing that the day's pleasures and labors have past and I have done my best to meet them . And give me dreams each night, not of how my life should be but of the way it is.

And let me wake up the next day and have it feel like any other. Maybe a little better.

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