If you’re looking for fluffy holiday sentiment to pass the time before the party is in full swing, Buzzfeed’s got you covered. If you’re looking for a way to set reasonable short term goals for the new year, there’s plenty of moon-faced smilers willing to sell them to you on Amazon. If you’re looking for a way to visualize yourself as a stronger more assertive person for 2014, then boy did you take a wrong turn on your way to Albuquerque.
I once made an impassioned plea for bloggers to gimme some truth, tonight I’m dishing it out. If you’re expecting my usual sympathetic voice, he’s going to sit this one out. Charm has to take a back seat to candor. Consequences be damned.
Last night, finishing this piece was the furthest thing from my mind. It felt like a lie, a last minute attempt to cushion myself from a blow I knew was coming. A frown I tried to dig my claws into and twist upside down. Things happened. My focus shift.
Forgive me if I rant, if I get abstract, if I slobber all over the place. At time’s like these, I have to let it all hang out.
For me, New Year’s Eve has always represented heartbreak and regret. The first time I got stood up was on New Year’s. Turns out, I was the alibi she gave her father when she ran away with her boyfriend. I loosened my tie around the time he called the house to ask where she was. He kept calling. Years later, I got involved with a roommate’s girlfriend (nothing to be proud of). When the ball dropped, she kissed him, and I bit through a champaign glass. The next morning, we all went to a restaurant with our best game faces on. I gave the group the old Batman goodbye. Bridge burned, lesson learned.
This year, the tradition continues. The details are mine to keep replaying in my head. You’re here for another reason, and pity parties are so 2013. Let’s get to what really matters here: how all this introspection applies to you. Hiding behind first person just isn’t my style. Let’s stagger on into the second, into your comfort bubble. Come on, be brave.
I’d like to issue you a challenge for the New Year, dear reader, and as sign of respect I’m going to issue a separate one to myself. I’m going to make my point using strictly positive language. Knowing me, this will be a herculean feat of self discipline. I’m going to talk about New Year’s resolutions, New Year’s expectations, and the yard sticks by which we measure our lives. From this paragraph on, I will spare you all the “don’t’s” and the “try not to’s” and the “avoid thinking about’s,” you tend to find in articles like this. I want you thinking about the things you try to cast out.
Let them in.
I’m flipping the script to spare you the compulsive pull of negative suggestion. Avoiding a thought has a way of turning it into the big red button that you just have to press. Thinking we’ve locked a thought inside a vault, we find the door in a place of prominence in our memory palace. My nasty thought is. It’s big, bright, and burst wide open. That’s okay. Sometimes you have to look at the elephant in the room to realize it’s a bull in a china shop.
The following self fulfilling prophecies are going to happen at midnight: you will contemplate bettering yourself. Goals will slip in through a breach in your subconscious. Your wish board will populate on its own. You will imagine yourself in 2015, looking back on what went down in 2014, and hope it was an improvement over 2013. You will make an empty promise, because you have to.
You will mistake hope for entitlement. You will mistake the absence of events for fate. You will mistake wishes for resolutions. You will contort the definition of Karma, and treat your built up stress like it’s good for a paid vacation.
Others will volunteer their resolutions. They’ll tell the monkey on their back that they’re smoking habits are in the past. They’ll announce their novel, their daily word count goals. They’ll have an end date in mind before they even get started. They’ll tell you their dietary changes, so that you can help enforce them. They’ll tell you about the numbers they expect to see coming from their scales.
You will tune out completely, and wonder who you are in the grand scheme of things. Your identity will split, like so much confetti. You’ll have to distort your self image to keep yourself from looking away.
Broaden your definition of success. Life’s grading spectrum is wider than pass or fail. There are goals, then there are stretch goals. Short sighted, we only see black and white. Counting our blessings, everything looks so binary. With our eyes on the prize, everything else seems like such a wash. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.
Focus on the bear essentials, everything else is just gravy. Get on top of your current workload, everything else is just extra credit. Find your comfort zone, then start on building an expansion.
The holidays have a way of tempering our egos. Social media has us comparing our party-scapes, contrasting our entourages. It rounds our expectations to the highest percentile.
We’ve seen so many stories play out, that we’ve been conditioned to think in three act structures. Each and every one of us thinks that we’re the protagonist, the underdog, the bright eyed lover. We give our memories beginnings, middles, and ends, bending reality into a movie trailer. This warps our expectations. Many of us will find ourselves pacing the scenery, waiting for the next act to begin. I know I will.
When it feels like we lost the plot, we need to hope the story is longer than we thought it was. We need to pitch ourselves a pretty lie to bide the time.
You will see this New Year’s Eve in the context of every other New Year’s Eve celebration you have on file. Let the fear of disappointment come, let it wash over you, let it kick off its shoes and make itself at home. There’s only one way this process will play itself out. You have to process it. This only passes when you lift the gate.
Stew in your own juices. Lick your wounds. Get up close with your thousand yard stare. Let yourself feel the way you’re actually feeling. Let it bleed through to the surface. Let it show on your face. Pride is a wall. Shame is suspect. Dignity is the enemy, it stands in the way of empathy.
This is going to hurt. It’s supposed to. The jugular is open, take the shot.
Those of you who’ve gotten everything you wanted out of the year, feel free to skip out of the room in a trail of glitter. There’s refreshments, a rainbow parachute, and some lovely glockenspiel music in the lobby.
As for the rest of you, the one’s swaddling your wounded egos, the one’s clinging to expectations that stretch out the door, I want you to lean in.
The rest of this is coming in hushed tones, mumbles, and whispers.
Next time we have to set clearer expectations. Lead with our hearts on our sleeves. Point them out, remind people that they’re there, explain how fragile they can be. Take the risk on the chin, before the stakes start rising, before we find our calendars landing on introspective holidays.
We need to respect our role in the decision. Whatever side of the table we land on, both players are here for the same audition. Both players get their turn to be the actor and the casting agent. Monologues are for mirrors, dialogue is where it’s at. There has to be balance, an understanding, mutual respect. Trust has to be a factor, if you’re really doing what you think you’re doing.
Just be honest, be clear. If you need special handling, use clear imagery. If you’re looking for something specific. Then specify. If you need your role defined from the get go, then say so.
The fantasy is that this will happen at first sight. That it will happen organically, and blossom into something purer than words, an unspoken bond, coded telepathy, kindred spirits with signs aligning. We want to believe that romance is an enterprise onto itself, independent of our input. We hold our breath as fate deals our hand. We walk into a minefield with a blindfold on.
How’s that working out for us so far?
You have value. Your feelings matter. You deserve better. Ask and receive. Next time. Keep telling yourself there will be one.
I’m giving this advice to an abstract audience. It’s something I need to hear myself. Everybody needs a little assurance, even if it has to come from the mirror.
This all might be subject to deletion. A sober man’s cover up. Right now, my tongue is so loose it feels like it’s going to fall into the snow. Restraint is so 2013.
Some of you can follow this plot. You know just what I’m talking about. Those who have to ask why we feel this way, will never know. Them’s the breaks.
Empathy works in different frequencies.
For those of you who follow my blog, our regularly scheduled programming will be back when it’s back. Right now I’m feeling a little bit truthsome.
If I’ve ever had a message to hammer home, it’s this: it’s okay to be low sometimes, just don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Ah fuck it, I just used negative language.