Saturday, December 31, 2016

It's Just Another New Year's Eve ... (a repost)

“… another night like all the rest …” Thank you, Barry Manilow.

Yes, it’s the end of an old year and the beginning of another. I see too many people stressing about their plans for this evening (or “Amateur Night,” as most people in the bar business like to call it).

As the end of one period and the beginning of another, it is significant. But why? In actuality, it is no significant than any other moment, because each moment is the same ending and beginning; therefore, every moment is significant.

What sets New Year’s Eve apart from every other night is the fact that we have been conditioned to believe that this one night is more important, more of a chance of new beginnings, than any other night – and all because of a change in a number.

The day you got your new job, got married, quit smoking, and/or bought a house have more importance than a simple night of having a glass of champagne at midnight – which you can do any night.

I’m actually quite surprised there wasn’t more of a hoopla made on December 20, 2012.  I would’ve thought the eve of the world ending would be considered a little big.

Look at all of us; we stay up late to watch a ball drop at the precise moment the new day begins. Isn’t every night that important? Because there are so many people in this world going through so many bigger, individual events, the way we have set this night up to be has turned more into a night of expectation – which, for many people (outside of a good party), can turn out to seem more like a night of empty promises.  There are too many people disappointed by not celebrating the moment with a special someone and a kiss at midnight – more than any other night.


Simply because it has been forever, it is a holiday. And any one of us can take it and make it something enjoyable, positive and happy.

First of all, if you buy into the adage about “whatever you’re doing at midnight New Year’s Eve will be what you will be doing the rest of the year,” – or something like that – why not go out of your way to make sure you are smiling.

No, you don’t need a reason, either; but maybe this will help you feel there is one:

Because NYE is a holiday, there is the same energy out and about this night as Christmas. It’s palpable. There are a great many people going out to have a good time, and their energy collects together and connects. Just go out and stand among them and feel it – but do NOT hold yourself as separate or apart, or make silly comparisons about what you feel that they have that you don’t. Concentrate on the energy, really feel it. That will lift your spirits. Unless you believe it won’t – because you will be right. I’m not being sarcastic here, I’m just aware of the fact that truth is an individual thing; your beliefs are your own truths. If you believe nothing will work, then nothing will.

Then again, if you totally felt like that, you would probably not be reading this right now.

A part of the energy around NYE in the excitement for the new year is the simple excitement for the new. This is part of the reason adults are so willing to make a big deal out of this night, because after so many years and trials and tribulations, there is very little new to experience – which isn’t true. It is, however, a very popular collective belief.

Don’t be lonely. Even if you are a single in a sea of couples, if you are there with them you are not alone. Share the night with anyone and everyone around you. Be aware of how much your own negative attitude will shut you off from so much going on, including possibilities of any kind that a closed mind will blind your eyes to.

Make this night yours. Don’t set yourself up for expectations you really don’t believe will be met. If you go out, go out knowing that you and the rest of us are all celebrating the same event together. Be wherever you are. Right there and nowhere else. Tell your inner cynic that since it’s a holiday, he or she deserves the night off.

Our bodies were made to dance all by themselves, no one else is needed. All you girls know that there is always a group of us on the dance floor, and we all make room for whoever wants to jump in.

Let go of expectations. Feel the positive energy and the sense of new. Share the smiles. Make it your night.

That’s another thing our bodies were designed to do solo – to make things happen.

If you are at home alone, spending the night all by yourself, remember that you are choosing to do so. And if you are miserable, I can guarantee that your New Year’s Eve will not meet even any of your smallest expectations.

Make the night yours. Do something you enjoy. Watch the ball drop or don’t. Have a glass of champagne or don’t. There are no rules to having fun, and there are no regulations to New Year’s Eve (except the valid one about not drinking and driving)
If you feel negatively that New Year’s Eve is just another night, understand that you are condemning every other night of yours as insignificant.

The bottom line is that how you celebrate or whether or not you celebrate it is a choice. You have more input to everything you feel than you think.

Remember, that if you don’t take control of your own happiness, other people and circumstances will. 

You are not supposed to be a victim; you are a creator. Celebrate that.

Have a Happy New Year.

Or not.

Again, your choice. 

(But if you feel like dancing, even alone in your kitchen, I have a great playlist for you! Stepping Out or Staying In - Music to Ring in the New Year

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Little Christmas Magic

I have always loved Christmas, especially the lights and the trees. For as long as I can remember, I’d feel a deep sadness as the once brightly-lit houses went dark again, and seeing Christmas trees lying on their sides by the curb for garbage collection was truly depressing.

I still feel that way, but the feeling has been lessened by the fact that for the past 10 years my tree has been fake – I never had to abandon it by the side of the road. Yes, I would complain that it looked slightly anorexic and that you could see through it; but I would console myself with thoughts of being able to keep it up as long as I wanted to and to not have to worry about watering it, or worry about sweeping up pine needles for the next year.

This year was different; this year I had a real tree. I won it, calling in to a radio station at the right time – even though I’d just turned the radio on and missed the announcement for callers; I was calling to make a request (thank you, again, WPLM 99.1 and Plainville’s Boston Tropical and Tree)! It was fun going to the tree lot to pick it out – I knew which one I wanted the moment I saw it, the first one I laid eyes on. Even loading it onto the car was fun (although we had to be told we had it facing the wrong way and needed to turn it around!).

When we put it up, I was in awe. It was beautiful, even without decorations and lights. It was so … full. After the kids went to sleep, I sat down with a cup of coffee and just stared at it for a long while.

Winning something is always fun, but it’s even better when you realize how happy you are with your prize – and I was truly happy with my tree. My daughters were different about decorating this one, too; I think they liked it almost as much as I did. Almost.

The night we decorated it, I did something I hadn’t done in many years: I lay down under it, looking up into its fullness and lights and decorations. When I was a kid, that used to be my favorite Christmas pastime. I would lie down under the tree and just stare up into it and dream happy Christmas dreams. Doing it again brought all of the same feelings of … magic back. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not jaded about Christmas. I still believe it’s the happiest time of year and that everything about it is magical, but after that night I had to admit that maybe some of my original enthusiasm had faded a little.

It happens to the best of us, and it happens because we get older. As children, our only responsibility to Christmas is to just show up. As adults, we are responsible for giving the children the reason to show up on top of everything else we already have to do. With more Christmases under our belts, we’ve had the chance to experience tragedies during the holidays and endure losses that forever change what we considered our Christmas traditions to be. Then we begin celebrating ‘Christmas by comparison’ where we say things like, “I remember when we used to …”

If we are fortunate enough to age past that stage, we begin finding moments of getting that magic back, despite personal losses and the financial concerns that are always exacerbated during the holiday season. That can be caused by many things: a new love, a rekindled relationship, children who’ve outgrown the idea of Santa but created their own Christmas magic, a random act of kindness, forgiveness, the end of a family feud, the birth of a grandchild … or a real Christmas tree.

My tree – and I was constantly talking about ‘my tree’- was that for me. If any of us choose to look back on our past holidays, there will always be one thing in particular that stands out – good or bad. This Christmas it was my tree. My kitchen has the most space in my apartment; there is a corner I call ‘the dead corner’ because it is space, but not functional kitchen space. It was perfect for the Christmas tree (especially one as big as I had this year). My tree was the first thing you saw when you walked into my apartment, and I could sit at the table with my coffee and just look at it every morning. I found myself doing that a lot this season, and on the days when I was worried about bills or whether or not I could provide Christmas for my kids I would find myself just looking at my tree and thinking how beautiful it was.

And then I would feel better.

I had to un-decorate it tonight and get ready to take it outside. It’s only December 29 (actually, it’s the 30th since it’s 2 a.m., but I haven’t gone to bed yet so to me it is still the 29th). Normally I wait until January; I had to make the adult decision that now was the best time, since I had other rearranging around the house to do, and my kids aren’t here.

I hate making ‘adult’ decisions – but that’s another story.

Pulling the decorations off and wrapping them up was sad. I had to use extra strands of lights (even white ones) because it was so full (a problem I was happy to have), and it took some doing to get them all off without hurting myself – did you know that once Christmas trees begin to dry out the needles get extra stabby? I remember that, now.

So now, my tree is naked. And it is still beautiful. And I’m going to hate taking it outside.

- but I am so very grateful I had it.

One thing that we all tend to forget is how powerful our minds are. Once we experience something (good or bad) and have knowledge of what it felt like, we can re-create the feeling again - even after we feel we have lost what caused it.  Our reality is not based on a certain time or event but our experience of that time or event; the fact that no two people perceive a time or event in the exact same way proves that.

When I look back on this Christmas of 2016, the first thing I’m going to remember is my tree, and how much pleasure I got from it. It will always make me smile, and it’s nice to know I have another good memory to add to my list. Maybe later when I’m in a looking-back mood, I will choose a good thought like this to look back on instead of something from that ‘other’ list. Maybe, too, I will carry this good thought with me every day this year.

In the grand scheme of things, something like this can seem pretty small – ridiculous, even. But anything that gives us a reason to smile is never insignificant.

Especially not 'my' tree.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Waiting for Baby (For Jessica)

It’s been a LOOOOONG pregnancy, hasn’t it? Overdue, being induced tomorrow with no guarantee that you still won’t be waiting another day … will he be born on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? (Of course, he could still show up during the next few hours.)

I know your mother is waiting rather impatiently, too. Hell, even I am – I got your mother a gift that she can’t open until the baby is born! Hurry it up, already!

I don’t envy you right now. I remember the last few weeks of my pregnancies; they were hellish – and both of my children were born early! I can’t imagine how much more fun it is to wait longer than expected, especially knowing what a generally patient person I am on a good day!

I got to thinking; before my first was born, a woman gave me this piece of advice: “Get your sleep now, because it will be gone forever after the baby is born.” I remember thinking at the time that I already knew that (actually, my first reaction was probably, “DUH!”), and then my daughter was born – then I REALLY knew what she meant.

I know you are uncomfortable. I know that the discomfort interferes with your sleep – but it is really nothing compared to the lack of sleep you will be getting later.

And then even later.

You may not see it now, but even this – this combination of impatience, pain, discomfort, crankiness, strange hungers, and sleeplessness has a bright side, one that you will look back on with a strange, fond ruefulness when you realize that this is the very last time you will be able to feel all of this shit and be able to cater to it. The next time you are tired, you will still have to take care of someone else; the next time you have a cold or sickness that you would have previously just ignored and barreled through, you will have to responsibly take care of to prevent passing contagions; and you will endure the next headache upright and with your eyes open, because someone else will have to be fed.

How about all of those annoying people that want to rub the pregnant lady’s belly and make a wish? You’re going to miss them when you realize that after the baby is born no one is going to even notice you are there when the baby is around. You won’t be able to be seen alone without someone asking, “Where’s the baby?”

Later, in the mornings when you get up to get ready for work, you will miss the days when it’s only you that you have to worry about getting ready. You’ll miss the days when you could accept an invitation without having to get a babysitter.

And there is an upside to all of this, too: the first time you see your child’s face light up with recognition of your face or voice, his self-pride when he accomplishes something new (like finding his toes or taking his first steps), and the special feeling you will get when he grabs your hand or wraps his arms around you. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

This is also just the beginning of your having to wait for him; you’ll be waiting for him to fall asleep so that you can, too … waiting for him to zip up his jacket so you can leave the house … waiting for him to finish his homework or come home on time for curfew … waiting for doctor test results when he is sick or injured …

There is an upside and a downside to everything, something wonderful about every moment. Right now, don’t wait for what’s next; notice every aspect about now that is good and wonderful. Starting that habit now will prevent you from overlooking little moments you may one day look back on with regret at not paying better attention. For parents, the most common lament is about what they missed when their children were little. Days, months, years go by fast; I’m sure your own mother is feeling that way right about now.

Don’t wait. Enjoy that these are the last few days you will have without needing to lug around a baby carrier … that you can feed your child at the same time you feed yourself – and the food will be hot when you eat it … that the attention is all on you. And then, when he is here, enjoy every sleepless night, cold meal, late start, hair-pulling debates … happy giggles, warm hugs, sleepy smiles, and wondrous eyes. Every moment of it, before and after, is  wonderful and worth it.