Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Days of long ago...and far ahead

I read something the other day about how the color of the underwear you have on when you ring in the new year is an indicator of the way the rest of the year will be. Unfortunately, the guide to what the different colors mean included yellow and green, of which I have none, but not black, which I have in abundance. From here this blog post can only get better, so hopefully that will make up for my wearing underwear that brings harbingers of year-long doom.

My mother’s version of the underwear prophecy was a little more generalized and, naturally, far less scandalous; she simply said that what you do in general on New Year’s Eve will be reflected in the following year. Like a lot of these kinds of predictive superstitions, this one’s purpose seems to be to encourage a person not to sulk over the bad stuff that happened in the previous months but rather to move forward into a brighter future. What you do now, so it is suggested, will help create that future. Obviously this has just about as much merit as the underwear thing; most people do fairly atypical activities on New Year’s Eve, after all, and since I did not spend 2014 dancing to “YMCA” and rushing out to Schnuck’s to buy mozzarella sticks to replace the ones the dog ate, the prophecy was dead wrong for me.

In fact, I have to believe almost every prediction I’ve tried to make about my life has been wrong. I “predicted,” wishfully, that certain things would happen at certain points in my life, when in fact they either took a whole lot longer than desired or didn’t happen at all. I also failed to predict vast amounts and types of experiences I did end up having. I could not have anticipated how unconventional my life would turn out to be, as I’ve never really thought of myself as a “free spirit” (and frankly I rather despise the way that term is used in popular culture, as it tends to describe women who wear whimsical hats and nose rings rather than women who steadfastly remain spinsters and quit perfectly good tenured jobs). Thirty years ago it would never have crossed my mind that I would run marathons. Athletes ran marathons; I ran away from balls thrown at me in PE.

Like a lot of people, when I was young I was ambitious, I craved adventure. Now that I’m not quite so young any more, I’m more interested in calmness and stability. This is not, as you might think if you’re half my age, because I got old and boring and more risk-averse. If anything, I’m a stronger person now than I ever was before, and I could probably handle risky things a lot better. But at this point in my life, risk-taking often ends up being just another way to pass the time, no better or worse than any other. Sometimes a risky thing ends up totally worth it; sometimes it’s just hard and painful. Maybe the key is to avoid expectations and predictions entirely. But if you aren’t looking back for fear of regrets and you aren’t looking forward because you might be getting your hopes up only to be crushed later, where exactly can you look?

Perhaps the thing to do on NYE isn’t to turn your back on the past or blind yourself to the future. After all, it’s not a bad thing to see how far you’ve come or dream about where you might still go. The trick, of course, is to do it without regrets—or denial. People who say they have no regrets strike me as people who aren’t thinking very hard. Me, I have a ton of regrets. If I had to do it over again, I’d live more conventionally, be more connected, more rooted; years of loneliness could have been avoided. Or, I’d live an even less conventional life, totally rootless, never settling down, always on the move to a new horizon; just think of all that wasted time I could have spent seeing things, doing things, truly living on the edge. Yeah, I have a ton of regrets, but the thing is, there’s no way I could have lived my life any differently than the way it happened because of who I was—and am. To wish things had been different is to wish I had been a different person.

So what is this person that I am doing as she faces a new year? I am looking at cover designs for my new novel. I am planning on cooking something fun for tonight’s festivities. I am…not running, actually, but I will do a fairly intensive strength training workout as I recover from an injury (uh oh…cue ominous chord). I am spending time with the dog. (The dog is eating something gross-looking on the floor…re-cue ominous chord.) I am going to see the BF later and we will go hang out with our friends. Nothing too crazy, nothing to complain about. I’ll take it. Bring in the new year.

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