Every year, heading into New Year's Eve, my holiday trifecta of emotional roller coasters reaches it zenith. I begin feeling sad around Thanksgiving when I realize, as I get older, more and more people have left my life. Christmas seems rigged against me as I pull out decorations that are attached to memory after memory recalling both those I wish were still around and those I wish I could forget. Then, I feel the final slide into New Year's Eve when it seems the whole world appears to be celebrating a giant party that I don't get.
Ever since I can remember, no matter what has happened in my life that year, at midnight on New Year's I will be hiding somewhere, crying. My mother used to have parties with what seemed like a hundred people. Laughing. Eating. Drinking. Dancing. And I had a great time until the countdown started. While everyone was kissing each other Happy New Year, banging pots, clacking noisemakers, I was in the upstairs bathroom, door locked, crying.
Maybe it's the strains of "Auld Lang Syne," written by Robert Burns, Scotland's national bard. The title roughly translates into "long, long ago" or "days gone by." Maybe I channel some old world energy that was handed down through emotional DNA I don't even know about or that I am just naturally prone to internalize emotional melancholy; anyone who has ever read my poetry would easily agree. But the song brings a lump to my throat from the first chord.
Maybe it was the frenzied strings of "Golden Slippers" from the mummers, an obligatory song pick for anyone who has grown up in Philadelphia. Or, maybe it's just the idea of time passing and people moving on that overwhelms and saddens me. I have always hated saying good-bye.
I really have no idea why crying is my instinct when that countdown begins every year. I sometimes feel that I am doomed to see the world through my emotional response to loss rather than possibility. So this morning I decided to find another way to take stock this year. I decided to look at what I have accomplished in my life for this year alone. Let's see where that takes me.
As this year comes to a close, I have to admit, I see more positive things happening than in the past. I've had a few poems and a creative nonfiction short published. I've had quite a few reviews published and I am putting finishing touches on the first draft of my thesis for my MFA. I have met and worked with some amazing women writers, whom I really admire, and I begin the new year as the new Nonfiction Editor for r.kv.r.y. Even I have a hard time finding something depressing in all that and am glad to begin to see the results of working hard at my craft and putting my work out there.
My grandmother was a seamstress who worked in a "sweat-shop" in Philly with rows and rows of other women who were treated badly and paid even less. I don't know if my grandmother even went to school. She was versed in classical music, opera and the arts, I assume, taught from the nuns at the convent who taught her how to sew. My mother was forced to quit high school, pass up a scholarship to study opera in Rome and go to work because that's what the family needed. This is how they got through The Great Depression.
My grandmother worked in those shops, sewing men's suits by hand, until she retired after a heart attack at 68 years old. My mother got her GED, took a Civil Service test and worked at the post office for a while until she took over the business office for her husband's orthodontic appliance business. Not a bad climb from the waitress jobs she had when she was divorced with three kids in the 1950's.
So here I stand, staring into the face of 2011. BA in Writing Arts in one hand, thesis draft in the other, staring down the final semester and thesis defense for my MFA. I suddenly realize I may be the first generation of women in my family, in this country anyway, that has actually had a chance to go after what she wanted. The first one that has been able to pursue her first love, writing, on a major scale. Maybe it's time to give back the sadness to the "days gone by" and celebrate my liberation from them. Maybe this year I can burn these melancholic strings holding me to the sadness of the past and sing out loud for my own successes on midnight this New Year's Eve. Who knows? I may even find a way to write some comedy in 2011, sick and slightly twisted dark comedy, but comedy none-the-less. Well come on, you weren't expecting a Christmas miracle now were you?
But having said all that, here is wishing you all a wonderfully blessed 2011. May you have the strength to climb mountains, the wisdom to build bridges and the blessing of over-flowing rivers of abundance in your lives.