I decided at the end of last year that I’d attempt to restart my Year of New project on January 1. I abandoned last year’s attempt pretty early on, even before COVID-19’s impact fully hit the States, as I quickly realized it was feeling more like a chore than a creative outlet.
I sort of feel like I spent the end of 2020 in creative recovery, similar to what Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Wayaims to do for its students. 202 was a long, hard year where I didn’t feel like doing anything creative. In the last couple of months, however, I could feel this start to change. But instead of launching into something big, I wanted to try a smaller, more incremental endeavor. This led me back to Year of New.
I miss very specific things about the last man I loved. His long fingers, strumming a guitar in my kitchen. Both of us singing along to the classic-rock station while we drove through the hills of Central New York. The mixed-media art he made out of reconstructed musical instruments and hung in the woods for his friends’ annual music festival. The pure happiness on his face the time we met a giant Malamute named Gershwin on a snowy street in Hudson, New York. A Thanksgiving trip to Montreal where we ate foie gras poutine and watched Beverly Hills Cop and spent hours wandering Bozar. The way he’d randomly surprise me with bodega flowers or hide a copy of Carrie Brownstein’s book on my bookshelf for me to find. He knew me, in a way I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to know me—still don’t, except for maybe you.
Back in September, I decided that my New Year’s Resolution for the coming year would be the lyrics to “Roll With It” by Steve Winwood. Most years, I come up with a set of 5-10 goals for the year, but after looking at how last year’s list turned out, I realized it made no sense to try to commit to anything that might end up beyond my control. Instead, I’m going to attempt to give up my desire to control anything and lean in to whatever 2021 throws at me. The past couple of months of my life have been marked by tremendous resistance to what is, which is honestly a horrible way to live. I like my life to feel magical, and nothing feels less magical than living completely in my head, being angry about things I have no power over and fruitlessly trying to bend the universe to my will.
Élodie Clyde makes a perfect Negroni. On Sunday nights, she draws a lavender-scented bath, lights some candles, and soaks until the water begins to cool, rereading The Dud Avocado or The Golden Notebook. She always has champagne in the fridge, which she serves only when warranted, and in an assortment of mismatched antique teacups. Clad in a series of caftans, she hosts hours-long dinner parties that begin with elaborate spreads from Sahadi’s and end with a range of digestifs and board games. Her closet is filled with Ulla Johnson dresses and confusing t-shirts from Parisian concept stores. Élodie cares about other people’s feelings, but just enough; she never takes responsibility for them. Her life is big, but never suffocating.
At the beginning of this month, I started Tiffany Han‘s Raise Your Hand Say Yes Inner Circle, a yearlong course in changing your life. That’s not how Tiffany frames it, really, but this is the second time I’ve done the Inner Circle and that’s the most succinct and accurate thing I can say about it. As I write this, I find myself mourning the fact that we’re already one-twelfth of the way through this cycle.
I was asked to write this list for a class I’m taking today, or a class I would be taking today but will now be watching a recording of on Sunday as I got a late invite to a(n outdoor, distanced, masked) wedding.
Ten years ago, something bad happened and I lost most of my closest friendships. I’m forever shocked that I survived the year that followed, and as a person whose body typically reminds me of residual trauma before I bother to look at the calendar, I’ve been apprehensive about living through the anniversary of all of it.
Weirdly, though, thinking back on everything that happened in the context of what’s happening now, I see it as proof that I can live through most things. That year of my life was truly unlivable, and the one after it wasn’t much better. I hated myself and questioned all of my life choices—the bad ones, naturally, but also the ones that looked good on paper. I believed my life was irredeemably bad and, worse, that I deserved it. It was a long time before I recovered from this mindset in any meaningful way. For years, it dictated who I let into my life and how I let them treat me.
I’ve been in a massive COVID slump lately. While my mood has been up and down since March, I’ve recently found it very hard to remain hopeful for more than an hour at a time. I think it’s finally sinking in just how much longer we’re going to be living this way, and I’ve begun thinking more about the longterm impact this is going to have on my life. For much of quarantine, I’ve been able to deny that this whole thing is in any way traumatizing to me, personally. None of my friends or family members have died of COVID-19, I haven’t lost my job, and for the most part I am very good at being alone.
But knowing that my life, or what I thought was my life, won’t exist for another year or so has implications for the future, and it’s been really hard to shake myself from the idea of finality–that this is the thing that will definitively decide which doors are still open to me, and which are closed. Bleak, right? And aside from not being great for my mental health, that sort of fatalistic thinking serves no actual purpose. If I decide I no longer have options, then what? Do I just give up, accept defeat? Stop trying at anything? Lie down on the floor and scream until there’s an effective vaccine? (This option sounds the best, to be honest.)