Ringing in the New Year

It’s 2023 and here I am, finishing the last of an Irish Whiskey cake leftover from dinner last night. Perhaps I’ll be healthier tomorrow, but probably not. New year, same old self.

The myth of renewal when one year changes over is based in nothing outside our persistence in believing it. January 1, 2023 is just the tomorrow of December 31, 2022 and will be the yesterday of January 2, 2023. Nothing more, nothing less. But, of course, what makes the promise of New Years real is the strength in which we believe in it. A resolution is not a revelation, it’s just one more decision to see through (if you can) except if it becomes the decision–something like filing for divorce or quitting your 9-5 job to pursue art. But, this type of monumental move is often made once in a lifetime, if at all.

I once declared well-intentioned resolutions every year, but the only one I ever really kept was to moisturize more. Trivial but important as we all age. This tradition ended when I authoritatively announced (a little wobbly, after the clock passed midnight at Stookey’s Club Moderne) that 2020 would be the year I traveled more and regularly rode public transit! As you can imagine, that worked out great. And while I don’t put the same weight onto one year moving into the next like I once did, there is still something special about this time of year.

Maybe it’s the weather that encourages us all to stay inside or our communal decision to slow down around the holidays. As a society, it feels like we let each other have a break. In this spirit, I did a wild thing and took two whole weeks off starting on December 19th and ending tomorrow. It’s the first time I’ve put work aside to be intentionally unproductive since my father died in 2010. Grief makes you want to disappear into something. Some people shoot up, others drink, I worked as many hours of the week as I could physically bear so I wouldn’t have to be alone with myself.

We have an unhealthy commitment to overworking here in the United States, so it was fine that I dodged my grief by dodging myself like this. Ambition is rewarded, no matter how blind. In the meantime, I lost my grandmother (2013), my mother (2018), a beloved uncle (2019), the woman who launched my career (2020), and a surrogate mother (2022)–all but one to cancer. I lost my health (2013/2020) and let go of anyone who reminded me of what I once had as well as both childhood homes (2012/2020). I no longer had a foothold in Southern California, a place I’ve come to love more every minute I’m away from it, or a firm grasp on who I am as a woman of flesh and spine and memory.

In the meantime, I lost myself. So, I am work and work is who I am, because I am now unmoored and what I was is no longer grounded on this earth. What I was is buried six feet beneath the soil of five separate cities, none of which I live in.

So, I put down roots in San Francisco and bought a home in 2021 with what will always feel like money I did not earn–money my father earned and never had the chance to enjoy. In what I hope was the right move, I bought a single family home despite being childless to have room for everyone I lost, and have space for everything they left behind in my inheritance. I bought a home in which to host holiday dinners, despite the fact that I cannot cook (although am trying) and am a “single woman, not divorced”–a category I checked several times in my mortgage paperwork that would have been absent had a man been signing in my place. I bought a house so I could finally bring the people I lost above ground, introduce them to the living I am trying to keep close, and be at home with myself.

On December 25, 2022, I hosted a baker’s dozen for dinner in this Doelger home that was last sold in 1956. We cooked a 16-pound prime rib roast from an old-school neighborhood meat market called Guerra’s, drank all the alcohols, and laughed extremely hard about something I can’t quite recall now but know, for a fact, was hilarious. And after that, I only left this home for walks on the beach in between the rains. I read voraciously like I haven’t been able to in years, listened to records annotated in my mother’s handwriting, watched movies new and old, cleaned a house destroyed by holiday merriment, and spent quality time with my cat. I found comfort in silence, in stillness, with momentary breaks of chaos evoking that scene in Home Alone where the extended McAllister family has pizza the night before they leave town.

The last two weeks of being mostly alone with myself wasn’t part of a resolution but is hopefully part of an evolution moving towards…I don’t know what…contentment? I hope to be a person at ease with her regrets and failures, measured in context with her accomplishments and the realization that what she does can have impact but that she, in the grand scheme of things, does not matter. As Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail said, “I lead a small life–valuable, but small–and sometimes I wonder: do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

The person who will eventually cure cancer will matter. The person who, with an apron on and a cat in her lap, writes this blog post that a few people will eventually read does not and will not matter. So, you’re probably wondering, why write a blog post at all if nothing matters? I suppose it boils down to this: I release this as an act of courage but mostly as an act of writing. This remarkably productive unproductive time has allowed me to recapture a part of my life before loss that was, and is, elemental to who I am. I rejoined my life as a thinker instead of a doer, met myself as an artist and not a nonprofit administrator. I don’t have the audacity to think people will care about anything that is found here on Nostos Algos, but I do think that a single act has a greater chance of becoming a habit if it’s made visible. For someone to be a writer, they have to make a habit of writing–of synthesizing the things they see and read and and hear and feel by pouring it all into words with regularity.

I want to be a writer who is seen as an artist free from her motives as a museum professional. When you’ve spent 12 years trying to disappear into ambition, visibility this naked is a revolution.


3 thoughts on “Ringing in the New Year

  1. Ah, but that woman in an apron does matter, her words matter. Curing cancer is not the only way to matter. Holding the people you love in your space, that matters. Speaking your grief and your truth, that matters.

  2. I’m reading your blog to Susan as we eat Mexican food and think about the Bill Pup across from Kelly’s. We both lost our partners about the time your dad passed but luckily we found each other. We both have children your age. You are a mensch! Your words, your thoughts, your writings do matter and they touch the hearts of many, especially those of us who live vicariously through you even though the Outsidelands are miles away from us. Happy New Year and so glad you had this time off the reflect and recharge. See you one day soon. ❤️

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