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Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year: A Few Words of Advice for 2013

Dear 2013,

I know that's it's your first official day on the job, and that you're probably up to your elbows in it as you and your staff set up your new offices. I hope that the move in wasn't too taxing, especially since we all know that 2012 had a nasty habit of leaving a mess behind (fiscal cliff, anyone??). And while I don't wish to speak ill of someone not here to defend themselves, let me be frank - there's a lot of us around here who are glad to see 2012 go. Look, I'm not a gossip, but, personally, I think that 2012 had a bad attitude. He was difficult to work with, uncooperative, and moody as hell. Don't get me wrong! 2012 could be nice...sometimes. But, it never lasted for very long, and soon, he'd have one of his epic temper tantrums, and, oh boy, you just wished you could skip ahead and get to 2013!

Which leads me to my next point - watch your back 2013. Look, there are a lot of people around here who say they want to be your friend. On December 31st, they'll raise their glasses and toast to you. For the first month, they'll even say things like, "Happy New Year," like they're wishing you well. But, no one will ever ask you if YOU'RE happy, 2013. And the next time December 31st rolls around, those same people who praised you in the beginning will curse you. Think this can't happen to you?? Just take a look at 2012. Yes, that gnarled, withered old man, limping along with a cane, with the scraggly beard and the tired, sad eyes - he started out young and spry, just like you, with the dewy skin and the bright, innocent eyes of a happy baby. So do your best, 2013, but prepare yourself. There are going to be people who will say that they can't wait for you to be over. A lot of people are going to compare you to 2012, and there are even some who thought they were smart enough to predict how you'd turn out. Try not to listen to them. Every year that has gone before you leaves with some regret, some secret or not-so-secret thing left undone. My advice? Don't worry about it - it'll keep until the New Year:)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Moving Furniture

On the night before my dad's funeral, Hurricane Sandy came ashore, with furious wind gusts and drenching rains. After the worst of the storm had passed, my husband and I went around the house assessing the damage, starting in the basement where we had taken shelter, and working our way upstairs, where we spotted water damage in the two guest rooms that lied underneath our dormer windows. It was 2am, but we quickly went into action, removing all of the contents of both rooms into the hallway and into our bedroom. One room had become a dumping ground for contents from the bachelorette pad that I had before we were married, as well as all of the odds and ends from past vacations, including dusty guide books and maps, and old music scores and photography books. I laughed at the absurdity of it all - emptying out a room I'd scarecly paid attention to on the eve of my father's funeral, but it all made sense, somehow.

I'd often taken to moving furniture around. From the time I was a little girl, I often felt the need for spacial realignment. I started out small, relocating the white quilted hamper that held my grandmother's crocheted handiwork, and my stuffed animal collection, from just behind my bedroom door to a spot in front of the window. This move would, of course, necessitate the move of my rocking chair away from the window and into the corner to the right of the window. And, because the bed and the dresser were stationary in my space plan, that meant that the rocking chair, which had been facing the side of the bed when it was in front of the window, would now have to face the door, which was a perfect diagonal.

By the time I got to college, my dorm room reconfiguration seemed to coincide with midterms and finals, and it continued at that pace through graduate school, with some additional turns after a couple of bad break-ups (heck, it beat gulping down a pint of ice cream:). After grad school, my need for space reconfiguration was synced to the seasons, and since I was living in a large studio apartment with hardwood floors, it was like conducting my life in a black box theatre where I was the cast, crew, director, and stage manager. Every time my parents would visit, they'd remark about what was different, and lend their own suggestions for future furniture remixes.

When I got married and moved into our home, I found out that not everyone likes coming home to a completely altered space. There are people in this world who, apparently, like things to stay in their place. Oh, I tried - boy, did I try! But, all that it got me was a sore back and the realization that married people furniture is far heavier than single lady furniture! It also got me into endless discussions as to why the furniture needed to be moved in the first place. Apparently, my answer - "because I felt like moving it" - was not acceptable, nor did it meet the rigorous standards of logic set forth by my husband, but it does follow the standard for emotional logic.

Moving things around changes so much - it's like walking into a new space, or making fresh discoveries about the space in which you live for 365 days of the year. When I would come back to my apartment after a day of moving around the furniture, it was like seeing my home anew, like stepping off of the plane in a new country. But, there is also something much deeper at play. Moving a chair from the window to the wall is creativity on a small scale. It is creativity that is, literally, bounded by the walls of the room. This is creativity with rules, with mental training wheels, and I had, over the years, become too scared to perform even this minimally risky task.  Standing there, in the hallway on the night before Dad's funeral, I was moving furniture and I was smiling that in the midst of losing Dad, that somehow, through some divine intervention, my father had helped me find a piece of myself that I had buried.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Good Grief?

I am tired. More tired than I have ever been in my life. In the weeks since my father's death, I have attempted to drag my family through the holiday minefield. Thanksgiving dinner had the feel of a second funeral with all of us doing our best to give a stiff upper lip at a generic restaurant buffet. Black Friday was packed with an outing to see Christmas decorations, along with a birthday luncheon for Mom, and a Christmas tree lighting. The past few weekends have been a red and green blur, with field trips to Christmas concerts, holiday parties, and more Christmas lights. My young nephews enjoy the spectacle, and we indulge them with  cookies and candy and promises of more, more, more. But, if I said that I was doing all of this just for my nephews, and just for my family, I'd be lying. In the midst of grief, I want to dig into life until I'm up to my elbows in it. I want endless days filled with noise because the quiet and the dark are just too much right now.

But, still, I'm tired. So maybe it's time that I let myself grieve. Even now, at this inconvenient time - when it would be easier to swill some eggnog, put on my Christmas sweater and get with the program. Maybe it's OK to sleep a little longer and sit out a few holiday parties. Maybe it's cool to NOT feel like Christmas shopping and maybe I can be forgiven for not having my Christmas cards signed, sealed, and delivered before Christmas Day. Maybe it's alright to be still and to face all of the fear and the pain and the doubt that grief brings to the surface. In grief, life and death come face to face with one another, and while dwelling on this fact can destroy you, denying this fact will exhaust you.