January 1st, 2022. It’s New Year’s Day and time to write another column. I’ve been conjuring up a column every two weeks for over twenty years now, and let’s just say some flow more easily than others.
Last night, at a New Year’s Eve oyster roast, somebody asked me how I do it. “How do you keep coming up with things to say?” she wondered. I told her it’s a damn miracle.
This morning, I’m tired – had a bit too much fun at the oyster roast! – and not particularly inspired. I have a tree to undecorate and Christmas presents to put away (finally) and a Hoppin’ John party to attend this afternoon. But deadline looms . . .
So, of course, I procrastinate by heading to Facebook, where a “memory” appears on my newsfeed. And a light bulb goes off! Why not scroll through Facebook posts from New Years Days gone by and make a column out of what I find there? Surely I said something philosophical, reflective, or at least mildly amusing over the past – gulp – 13 years since I started contributing to Mark Zuckerberg’s obscene fortune and worldwide domination.
But should I go backwards or forwards in time? I think I’ll start at the beginning and move forward, to see if I’ve gained any wisdom or perspective over the past 13 years. (Note: Some of the entries may require a bit of real-time commentary. It’ll be in italics.)
January 1, 2009: Margaret Shinn Evans . . . is still in her pajamas. (This is from the early days of FB, when we were all writing about ourselves in the third person. Remember?)
January 1, 2010: Margaret Shinn Evans . . . has resolved to start living by her convictions in 2010… now that she finally has some. A radical experiment, eh? (I have no idea what ‘convictions’ I was talking about here. But whatever they were, I doubt I still have them.)
January 1, 2011: Snow on Christmas Day, and a week later, Spring. Thank you, God.
January 1, 2012: Delightful, low-key New Year’s Eve at the Foolish Frog. Great food, great friends, and REALLY great music from Beek, Vic, and some cute young guy whose name I don’t know. Home by 10:30. Perfection! I may not hate New Year’s Eve anymore.
January 1, 2012: Amelia made it through the New Year’s Eve “Rockin’ Lock-In” at the Y unscathed. (15 hours of childcare for $25. Best deal in town!) She had an absolute ball and slept for only 2 hours. Today’s gonna be very peaceful. How I love my YMCA!
January 1, 2013: So, I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I’m in love. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I may be off books forever.
January 1, 2014: Cold, gray drizzle . . . Pajamas . . . Hoppin’ John . . . Law & Order marathon . . . Magazines. . . ‘Twas a classic New Year’s Day. Gotta love it.
January 1, 2015: Sitting in a dark theater waiting for “Into the Woods” to start, while Jeff sits next door waiting for “Unbroken.” That’s how we roll in this family.
January 1, 2015: I’m loving the hunkered-down feeling of winter, but also missing my birds and my energy . . . It’s bittersweet, this time of year. I’m wistful.
January 1, 2016: Looking through everybody’s New Year’s posts – some of them quite moving – it strikes me that I’m a bit of a weirdo. (Shush. Don’t be mean.) I simply can’t get sentimental OR good-riddance-y over a year. As hard as I try, I can’t seem to work up much emotion about 2015, reviewing it as “good” or “bad” – it was both, they’re always both – nor do I have any sense that 2016 will be “better.” I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the upcoming year, just as I feel no deep affection nor disdain for the year gone by. A “year” simply doesn’t register with me; it feels like an artificial construct. Does this make me a monster? It seems like a deficiency, at best.
I’m always impressed with people who think in years . . . people for whom time is a palpable, material thing they can wrangle, wrap up, and preserve. I marvel at those people who remember exactly what year such-and-such happened (little things, not the dates you’re forced to remember) and who say things like, “1987 was a great year… that was the year I bought my red convertible and tried escargot for the first time.” But I have never been one of those people. The years all blur together for me. I think in terms of relationships and experiences and events, but rarely in terms of dates, and never in terms of whole years. Unless something earth-shattering happens (or something that requires a date on an official document), a year is just a year to me, like any other – a collection of days, some good, some bad, some merely so-so. As each one passes, we have fewer collections to look forward to. Now THAT is something I can work up a proper sentimentality over, I suppose. In any case, as we pass over this border that feels completely fake to me, into a new frontier that feels much like the old one, Happy New Year to you all . . . whatever that means.
January 1, 2016: Well, it’s official. I cannot watch the final scene of “You’ve Got Mail” without crying. It’s simply impossible. Trust me, I’ve run this test at least 15 times.
January 1, 2017: I don’t really do goals and resolutions. (I’m just not wired that way. Once I label something a “goal” or “resolution,” it becomes this… THING. This psychic burden that I avoid.) Nevertheless, some things I hope to do more of in 2017 include: Sitting outside; walking outside; taking photographs outside; watching birds and being amazed outside; writing from my heart while still engaging my head; singing; reading good books; reading articles from various perspectives; listening with the intention of learning, not refuting; helping Americans understand other Americans, and vice versa; laying me down like a bridge over troubled water; being a good mom of a teenager (whatever that means); learning new things; seeking God; eating veggies.
Things I hope to do LESS of in 2017: taking pot shots; being petty; succumbing to tribalism; hearing what I want to hear instead of what’s true; being lazy; watching crap on TV; being overly sensitive to the words of others; caring too much about things I can’t change; spending time on FB; looking in the mirror (literally, not figuratively); taking things personally that aren’t; letting things get to me that shouldn’t; being unkind; eating carbs.
January 1, 2018: Is it wrong that my family’s been living on snack food from one of those giant corporate gift baskets all week?
January 1, 2019: Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: Such as we are, such are the times.” ― St. Augustine of Hippo
January 1, 2020: Wouldn’t it be something if the year 2020 brought humanity clear vision? (This one seems particularly poignant in retrospect.)
January 1, 2021: Girding my loins for The Undecorating. Some people love it. I just get maudlin.
January 1, 2021: When you sit down at the computer to work on the column you started yesterday and find weird gobbledy-gook all through the first paragraph and realize a cat has traipsed across your keyboard during the night.
So now we’re back where we started, and my column is done.
Happy New Year, reader. Wishing you all good things in 2022, and may your cat stay away from your keyboard.