It is the fifth of January and, in my neighborhood, almost all of the holiday decorations have been taken down. Those light strands and inflatable snowmen that remain have gone unlit and uninflated for several days now. For my neighbors, Christmas clearly was over when all the boxes and trash were hauled to the curb on the 26th. Then it was on to New Year’s, out with the old and in with the new, and firm intentions for Change.
What most people don’t realize is that tonight is Twelfth Night, the night when everything is reversed, when kings are ruled by peasants, and the world is turned upside down. Traditionally, it marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas and is a night for merrymaking, wassail, pastries, and gift giving. It blows my mind that Americans would ignore another excuse for parties, drinks, gifts, and great food, but on the whole we have forgotten all about the twelve days of Christmas. By this point, we’re supposed to be five days into our 2012 diet and fitness program and focused on the projects and goals we have set for the coming year, not still reveling in a holiday that began last year.
When I sat down to write this post, I typed this sentence: It is only the 5th of January, and already I am running out of time! As I sit here, trying to figure out what this post is about, I am realizing that I am exhausted. This season, I didn’t take off nearly enough time from my job to rest and prepare myself for all the hard work that is to come, so already I am feeling stressed, looking at what lies ahead of me, and feeling completely overwhelmed and clueless as to how I will find the time to get it all done.
In my personal life, I’ve been mulling which word to choose for 2012 and, while trying NOT to make unrealistic resolutions I will never keep, trying to figure out exactly what vision I would like to hold for the year. Last night I sat in this same chair with a notepad trying to figure out how many hours are left in the week after a full-time job and commuting eat up about 55 of them and how to divide that remainder so I get enough exercise and sleep to lose weight and improve my health while still having enough time to read and write and explore the ideas that make life worth living and, oh yeah, spending time with my husband and the poor dog whose life is already lonely and mind-numbingly boring enough. So, if I spend five hours a week at the gym and want to write/read/research/experiment/do art sixteen hours a week and take the time to prepare all of my meals at home, I can have 7 hours of sleep per night. Or, I can cut back the writing et al. to 12 hours per week and get eight hours of sleep, but then how do I want to slice up those 12 hours between writing, reading, photography, blogging…. And who am I kidding? There is no way I am going to write from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and then put the computer away and go to sleep by 9:15 so I can get up at 4:45 to be at the gym by 5:30. If the wheels are turning and the words are flowing, I’m going to be up ’til midnight trying to get a draft finished. Then, I’ll get four hours of sleep and maybe go to the gym but probably not and then I’ll start the next day already behind and feeling guilty. Ugh.
In the living room, my Christmas tree is still lit. Outside, the blue icicles and the white LED Christmas lights still illuminate the front of my house. Tonight Hans made it home before I did and plugged all the lights and the tree in for me so I would see them and get happy as soon as I turned onto our street. And I did get happy. The lights were a hug from him before I even turned off my car’s engine. I promised myself I’d stop plugging in the exterior lights after tonight – my way of dealing with the neighborhood peer pressure to pack them away – and take them and the Christmas tree down this weekend. But, if this is truly my last year to live, then that means this is the last night I will arrive home to my family in a house lit by Christmas lights. I will take down the Christmas tree and spend the rest of the winter in a dark living room, waiting for the light to return. And this makes me very sad. If this is my last Christmas, then I am not ready for it to be packed back into boxes.
And, as it is January, if I have less than six months remaining, how do I want to spend my time? Can I really begin the new projects of 2012 when there are still things from 2011 I want and need to do – like writing personal letters to Tad, Carri, Chris, and Patrick thanking them for helping to make 2011 wonderful and writing that recommendation for Martha that I’ve been writing in my head for months and finally writing to Scott to tell him to own his genius, no matter what labels the rest of the world tries to apply to him?
I think this New Year needs a gentler start. I am not setting anything in stone, not spending hours writing out specific goals for every month of the year, not creating charts to track daily actions designed to help me modify my behavior so that I more closely approximate perfection. I’m going to spend as much time as I need looking at my messy life, deciding what is truly worth my time, and exploring what makes me happy. I am going to spend evenings photographing the sunset off my deck, playing with paint with my nieces and nephew, and cuddling with the sweetest dog on the planet. I am going to hold my husband’s hand on the couch and in movie theaters and whenever he’s moving slowly enough that I can catch him. I’m going to call friends. I’m going to finish reading a novel! Then, maybe, I’ll make some plans.
The word Imbolc came to me in a dream a few nights ago. I did not know at the time that it was the name of a Sabbat that takes place at the beginning of February. Sounds like the perfect occasion to take down a Christmas tree.