Well, the stork came ’round last night, and delivered. Congratulations. You have now gone once more around the sun, and are the sole guardian of a wrinkle-free, blank-paged new year.
Boy, howdy was 2011 a difficult year. The vicious cold last Christmas which led to frozen pipes, then thawing-flooding rooms, and the return of the under-toilet mushroom. D’s nameless illness which went on and on and on; icy falls, deaths of friends, dumb dissertation delays, D’s work woes, Mom’s pulmonary embolism, carpet-eating moths, selling many possessions, leaving the city. So much change. So much growth. So much… well, angst.
No one ever mentions that whilst the caterpillar is busy heading butterfly-wards that there’s a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears involved. (No blood, because caterpillars only have this kind of green gook, which you discover if you accidentally squish one. But we digress. Badly.) Battling to emerge from the last tough bits of a cocoon, whether scholastic, psychological or work-related is difficult. Even at our geriatric stage, growing up is hard to do. In myriad ways, we are fundamentally changed from living through a painful 2011 – we are, perhaps a little more serpent-wise than dove-harmless. We are less apt to tolerate liars, less apt to be people-pleasers, and we say no a lot more often – but we’ve managed to keep our people-pleaser smiles as we say it. We’ve re-evaluated many of our relationships, and have hopefully become calmer and kinder and smarter about weighing what really matters.
We’ve realized that we spent 2011 sort of reeling – creeping and cringing from one crisis to the next. There are so many places to err in a normal life, but being outside of our culture provides even more ways. We misspoke, we misunderstood, we …missed the mark. And while today is a new day in a new year, we figure a lot of that will happen again. And again…
We are not much given to making resolutions. (In fact, we are not much given to even paying attention to the traditional celebrations of the new year; T. thought the first fireworks [at 9:30!?] were someone dragging a trashcan over the cobblestones.) If we were to make a resolution, though, it would go something like this: we will not fear. Or, perhaps more realistically, “we’ll fear, but move forward.” We’ll stand up straight, instead of cringing, and put some boldness in our steps, instead of creeping. Crises happen, after all… The pop-psychology catchprase says “Do It Scared.”
Human beings live in fear of those squidgy moments no one can control. We live in fear of embarrassment and the horror of awkwardness. Most of us are deathly afraid of pain. Many of us are afraid of voicing our opinions, our likes, our dislikes, or desires, for fear that everyone will say, “eeew!” like they did in grade school when we brought too brown of a banana or tofu in a sandwich. But part of that last moment of birth is the pain – for all parties involved. Being squeezed is uncomfortable, and the last push to break through the cocoon is the one the butterfly – weary, damp, and losing hope – probably believes will kill them.
The goal is to feel the fear and move forward. And while that may sound simplistic to the extreme, it’s what successful people do. They don’t look too far ahead, and try to swallow down the entire scope of the days before them, they take in the immediate challenges of the now, solve them, and go on to the next. It’s T’s mantra, which a friend embroidered on sleeves for her: be here now.
And we, who don’t know what we’re doing or where we’re going or how our work will be received, or what the future holds – we are here now. Today we take the first step on another journey around the sun, clutching both hands to a fragile faith, waiting for our wings to dry, so we can fly.