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Good Riddance 2019, Hello 2020

My mommy’s holiday necklace.

Dear Reader may need an uplift this time of year, even if it’s dark humor. Let’s dig in.

In 2019, a friend’s limb was amputated. Others had other terrible things happen. Stars from all walks of life departed this Earth, including my mommy. This, as you know, is life. We slash through the bad and relish the good as able. Maybe your 2019 was dire, or your holidays horrible. An ER doctor told me, “The holidays bring out the best in some people, but in many they bring out the worst inner toddler.”

I offer from that pantheon of useful knowledge, the women’s magazine, this: rather than making New Year’s resolutions, why not list the good things that happened to – or because of – you in 2019? My own list includes a holiday party I threw last minute that was a riot, and the community chorus I joined that proved a rollercoaster of faltering and delight, one of the best experiences of my adult life.

Or try these: Maria Shriver envisions a garbage can she dumps crap in to leave behind. White Plains, NY wrote: I read my entire 2019 calendar, marveling at all I overcame. Brooklyn said, “One way I motivate myself, which probably exhibits a considerable pathology, is to imagine a medieval courtroom where seated around a table are people from my past who have either thwarted, opposed, or ridiculed me. They watch a closed-circuit TV feed of me as my willpower fails. I hit snooze, drink that next beer, whatever. They laugh at how I’m a failure. That gets me going at what I should be doing.”

If you dig resolutions, how about music? My minister advised, “Music will get you through the hard times.” Take uke or voice lessons. Join a choral group – you learn while the tenors and basses cause mischief. Get a pet so you have a cutie to come home to. Or read Eckhardt Tolle’s A New Earth, a slog in the beginning but with a pay-off that’ll blow your mind. I requested deep Resolution thots from the nutters I call friends. The printable responses follow.

From CT: Quit buying losing lottery tickets and buy an actual winner. Shelburne, VT: 2019 was awful…I’m planning on less grief and more joy. South Korea: Just living one day at a time. Spain: I have never ruminated over these things, nor do I give a toss about where I’ve been or where I’m going; whatever I’m doing in the moment is pretty much exactly what I want to be doing. The Bahamas: Prepare for transformation – think dragonflies and caterpillars!  And oddly, from three kind Americans: I’d like to be kinder; more patient; give people a chance.

Boston: Break the mold and try new things. Scarsdale: 2020 is the year of the woman! Burlington: I don’t do NYs resolutions because if something is worth changing, it’s worth changing pronto. North Reading: Declutter! Several women: (1) intermittent fasting; (2) looking forward to the current admin being defeated by the female vote. Fairfield: I hope that people feel they’re good enough…that improvements don’t come from comparing yourself to others or their expectations of you, but rather just…to be. NYC: No NYC resolution would be complete without “weight loss.”

Randolph: Release the old, prepare for the new – a new world is anchoring. This past year the illusions of the ego started dying and consciousness awakened. Let’s envision a new earth collectively and personally; what do we really want to experience in this lifetime? Also Randolph: Speak your truth. Maine: After the worst year of my personal life coinciding with the current state of politics and [skullduggery] among people, I find myself often in a dark and angry place; I resolve to focus on mental and physical recovery, resisting the temptation to become a total recluse in a cave.

Now for the cheery ones. Boca Raton: Year moved like lightning, enjoy the moments! Winooski: Support young people to be engaged and stay positive! Williston: 2020 will be a year of promise and prosperity; I will dedicate time to my passions and incorporate them into my profession. Denver: Speak up, ask for what you want, and accept what comes from that.

I end with these. Cancun: The only resolution I ever make is to try and get by with more. Colchester: I plan on openly laughing at people more this upcoming year. That’s still legal I think.

The good news is humans do feel hopeful about 2020. May Dear Reader’s new year bring happy changes, loving vibes, and that elusive minx: luck.  Good day, and good year.

The Home Stretch of Holiday Hell

snowy xmas ballYou’re almost there, people. You are almost through the holiday gauntlet.

A gauntlet is an odious form of punishment wherein the victim is forced to run between two rows (the gauntlet) of soldiers that repeatedly smite him. The victim is slowed down by various means, preventing him from running the gauntlet—God forbid—too quickly. A magical holiday metaphor for you there.

Mercifully, the figurative holiday gauntlet is more varied and less severe. There’s the endless conveyor belt of cookies, booze, and dips that make you blow up like Santy Claus. There’s forced gaiety, perhaps—in, say, the workplace. Secret Santas you want no part of. Malfunctioning decorations. Fighty fights over tree placement. Hernias, ruptured disks, rocketing cholesterol. Concerts, pageants, fundraisers, and parties demanding special gifts, attire, or baking. Aversion to pine. Aversion to sugar plums.  Aversion to family. To holiday-themed newspaper columns. 2014, take me away! Not so fast, dear Reader. Remember:  you are not allowed to run the gauntlet too quickly.

Maybe your gauntlet has your kids driving you lunatic on one side, your parents on the other. Sadly, advances in technology are exacerbating the digital divide within families, amplifying holiday tensions. The grandparents just can’t seem to grab a hold of technology a lot of the time, and the kids are so much savvier than the parents (us) that it’s annoying.

Well, what is annoying is their annoyance with us. Teenagers since the dawn of time have considered their parents moronic. Only now, because of parents’ slimmer grasp of the technology their children have been wired with, parents really are dumber than their kids. This has never before been the case.  Kids didn’t know more about farming, sewing, war, factory work, finance…anything beyond pop culture fluff. Now they are more knowledgeable about something of consequence. As a friend put it, “My rocket geek son ‘helps’ me with my blog.  He’s rolling his eyes, ‘Mom, why’d you do it that way?’ like I‘m a complete idiot. When I explain I didn’t know there was another way, this fuels his irritation—and disdain. If I ever acted like him, my parents put the hammer down. I can’t.  Because he actually knows more than I do.”

Sigh! If you’ve had your fill of insults, exploding casseroles, manuals with miniscule print in 47 languages,  watching football teams do things you gave them no clearance to, the good news is you have only a few more games and New Year’s Eve left, and that’s not even a real holiday. Some call it “Amateur’s Night,” referring to those imbibing who rarely drink, an excellent reason to stay off snowy roads. Hell, even pros like Jethro or Granny manning the wheel of a poorly maintained jalopy after a couple pops of spiked nog coming at you in the oncoming lane, that’s just no fun at all. Stay home and, whatever you do, avoid those awful New Year’s Eve shows. They are worse than Honey Boo Boo, Toddlers and Tiaras, Kardashians singly or in groups, and Mafia Plumbers’ Wives combined. The exaggerated merriment of gussied-up commentators excitedly reciting numbers backwards can kill even the slenderest hope of a new and improved year coming your way.  Give yourself a fighting chance. Don’t watch. Ring in the New Year cozying up to your pet(s) or preferred person(s). Sing Auld Lang Syne (first a poem written in 1788 by Robert Burns) softly into their ears.  It’s nice like that.

And as a countermeasure to failed New Year’s resolutions kicking off the year badly, that important media outlet, the woman’s magazine, suggests an alternative: make instead a list of what you accomplished last year.  You’ll be amazed by what you did. Although I plan on more reading/less Candy Crushing with enough conviction to announce it here publicly to complete strangers, and strange completers (you know who you are). If you must resolve, pick something you can handle.

Helpful Reminder: As the highway notification boards proclaim, DUI. YOU WILL GET ARRESTED. Only the “D” is fat, so it looks like OUI, YOU WILL GET ARRESTED. (“But non, awf-ee-sair, I had nussing to dreenk zees evening! I am Canadienne. We drive feefty in ze left lane on ze intair-state, eet’s what we dewww! Alors, your dawg—does eet baht?”)

May you have enough coal in your stocking to keep you warm, and may the last few yards of your gauntlet be kind. Good New Year, good laffs, and good Boxing Day.

Ann Aikens

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