Looking Over My Shoulder

It’s late. The moon is just past full, and stars are peeking between the branches of the leafless trees. It’s cold, but not as cold as it should be in Massachusetts on the last day of the year.

My husband has gone to bed, but I am restless. I haven’t stayed up to see the New Year in a few years. But this year is different.

Everything is different.

This year the ending of the calendar count feels momentous. It feels like rebirth, like renewal. It feels like an ending, and this time it is an ending that we all crave.

I’m wide awake.

I am not sure why I’m so alert; I’ve been in bed by 8PM for months. Snuggled under the blankets with a book or the iPad, ready to rest. Ready to let go of another day in 2020.

But not tonight. No, tonight I am awake. I have a glass of wine, a bowl of popcorn and a dog on each knee. My right foot taps, taps, counting out the seconds. The curtains are drawn, but I feel the moonlight hitting the yard. I stand up, walk to the sliding doors, peer out into the woods.

All is quiet. I hear no owls, no coyotes, no restless neighborhood dogs. Everything is holding its breath. The night is holding its breath, and so am I.

I don’t know what I think will happen at the stroke of midnight. I don’t believe that the sky will fill with bursting light, or that night birds will break into song. I do not foresee a swirl of warm wind stirring up the leaves, or the sound of distant voices singing of freedom and love.

I don’t expect that the dogs, asleep in their canine curls, will feel the change in the universe.

But I will.

I will.

At the very moment when the second hand sweeps past the 12, and the meaningless human invention of the calendar turns to a new year, I will exhale. And I will lean over my knees, with my hands over my eyes. I might shed some tears.

In my heart I’ll say what I’m thinking.

“We did it,” I’ll say. “We made it.” I’ll think of how unbelievably lucky I have been, without having lost a single friend or family member. I’ll send out thanks to the universe for protecting me and mine.

But right after that, I’ll let the rest of my thoughts emerge. I just might open that slider and step out into the night. I might just howl into the darkness, a shriek of rage and frustration. If I do, I’ll be thinking of all of the lost opportunities. All the losses of every child who hasn’t been able to play with a friend. Of every teacher who has had to teach children she’ll never see. I’ll scream for the people who lost the businesses that they built step by step out of their dreams and their courage and their endless work. I’ll cry and shake my fist for everyone I know who has not yet met a grandchild, a nephew, a cousin. For every father or mother who lost a job in spite of every best effort, when the pandemic crashed the economy. For every loving couple who postponed a wedding. For every graduate who missed that chance to “walk” and accept a diploma.

I’ll scream for every friend who has had to say goodbye to a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a child.

I’ll bark and snarl into the wild woods, letting Mother Nature know that I am not amused at her sudden attack.

I know that we are lucky. I know. I thank the goddess, the universe, the powers of heaven, every single day. Every day. I have had my beautiful grandchildren in my arms throughout this terrible year. That makes me lucky beyond anyone else I know. My sister and my mom, both of whom I love beyond words, have survived this awful virus.

And yet.

The last year, the infamous 2020, was a horrific, awful, exhausting shit-show of a year. From the political machinations, to the overt racism, to the incompetent government, it has been a year of disaster. Lost jobs, lost friends, lost classroom time, lost loved ones, lost hugs, lost dreams, lost opportunities. Twenty-twenty was full of loss.

I intend to tell it goodbye. I intend to tell it to go straight to hell, where it belongs.

Another fifty minutes, and I will stand on my deck. I will bang on a pot with a wooden spoon, ring some Tibetan bells and I will yell, most likely at the top of my aging lungs.

“Good fucking riddance, 2020!!!!”

Then I’ll probably cry myself to sleep, out of pure relief.

I Resolve to

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  • I Resolve to:  stop making resolutions.   I mean, jeez, I already work pretty hard at being the best human being I can be.  What else is there to add?
  • I Resolve to: give myself some credit already.   OK, so I am not Martha Stewart.  My curtains don’t match my socks, my hair color isn’t coordinated with my napkins.  But I’m not a convicted felon either.  I guess I’m ok the way I am!
  • I Resolve to: laugh more often.  The hell with it.  I will watch stupid TV when I want to, and I will laugh out loud at Gunsmoke if I want to.
  • I Resolve to: stop telling myself that this is the year when I’ll suddenly become hip/svelte/athletic/spontaneous.  I will NOT run a marathon this year.  Nope. Nuh, uh. Ain’t gonna happen.    I will NOT suddenly decide to fly to Paris to pursue a singing career.  Seriously, dude? Nope.   I will not decide to sell my house and finally buy that bungalow by the beach.
  • I Resolve to:greet January 1st as that annoying day when I have to find the new calendar that I bought in October and transfer all of the family birthdays to it.
  • I Resolve to:look at January 1st as the first day that I have to try to remember what the hell the new year actually is.  AND I resolve to forgive myself if at any time between January 1st and August 31st  I sign a check and date it as 1991.
  • I Resolve to:to be mostly happy with the me that has evolved over the past 60 years.  I resolve to smile at her, to pat her on the back for her herculean efforts at keeping her old dogs alive and happy.  I resolve to remind her that she will never be this young again.  I resolve to put an arm around the 60 year old me and whisper in her ear, “You did a pretty damn good job with those kids, honey.”
  • I resolve, in this new year, to be happy with myself while still trying to learn more, grow more, evolve more and accept more.
  • Finally, I resolve, in this year of our Lord 2016, to cast my Presidential vote for someone who will not disgust or dishonor us, for someone who shares my views, for someone I’d be proud to call my President.
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I am resolute.

This post is a tribute to all of my blogger buddies, most especially Peg at Peg O’ Legs Ramblings. It is dedicated to all of the people in my life who feel “not quite good enough”.

I’ve been thinking about the whole idea of “New Year’s Resolutions” for the past week or so. You see, I brought up the subject with my fifth grade class just before winter vacation.  They really surprised me.

They are ten and eleven years old.

They all wanted to feel less worry, less anxiety, less fear.

What?  They’re babies!!! But this was the main resolution that each of them expressed to me that morning. “I want to worry less.”  “I want to be less anxious.”

They fear failure, injury, death, illness, mistakes, embarrassment, war, tests, the future.

And I also talked to some of my friends (mostly women), who have made resolutions this year.  They all seemed to want to lose weight, to be more fit, to exercise more, to read more, to achieve more, to clean more thoroughly, to be BETTER.

Holy BS.  Holy Nonsense.  Holy Garbagio, Batman.  Really?

So I have made up my mind. I am absolutely going to make some New Year’s Resolutions this year.   I am resolving to do the following:

1) I will look in the mirror and smile at my familiar, kind, middle aged face every morning.  I will notice how much I look like the people I love so much (my Mom, my Dad, my daughter, my boys, even my hound dog with his brown eyes).

2) I will congratulate myself every Friday evening for all that I have done all week.  Even if all I did was get myself down the highway five times to get to my classroom, and get myself back home again afterwards. Even if the greatest achievement was arriving back at Friday in one piece.

3)  I will think about how lucky I am.  Every day.  I will look at pictures of my healthy happy kids, and I will thank every god and goddess in the universe for the reality of them in my life.   I will spend time with my Mom and my siblings and I will thank every positive force in the universe for the reality of them in my life.

4) I will laugh every single day. No exceptions.

5) I will hug every kid who seems to be even slightly in need of one.  Then I will remind myself that I just got far more than I gave.

6)  I will eat good food and I will enjoy it.  This includes good wine.

And I will do my level best to help the children in my life to ease the fears that haunt them. I will tell them how wonderful they are, how much I love them, how happy I am to teach them.  I will give them whatever bits of wisdom I have about how to manage that anxiety.  Maybe we’ll learn some yoga together. Maybe we’ll work on our breathing. Maybe we’ll try to write out our fears.  I’m not sure.

All I know is that my New Year’s Resolutions will have everything to do with stepping back and finding joy in my reality.  They won’t have anything to do with making myself a Better Human Being.

To quote Peg: “Screw That”.  I think we’re all pretty damn awesome just the way we are.