Well, I couldn’t muster a year end Top 10 list, and honestly, New Year’s Eve has always made me a just a little uneasy – so much performance pressure to have a good time. I can’t really blow my mind with happiness on cue. I mean I am pretty upbeat, but when it starts to feel forced, I just want to slap kittens.
I think I’ve found the key to New Year’s Eve happiness. Church. I’m serious. But not just any church. For the second year in a row, I’ve attended New Year’s Eve Watch Night service at Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem. From the exuberant gospel choir to the pastor’s fiery sermon to the commemorative countdown to freedom just before midnight (the Emancipation Proclamation came down 150 years ago, on January 1st, 1863), I felt awash in the glow of faith and optimism in the face of struggle. That kind of spirit speaks to me across all lines.
Of course, after church, there’s a house party, complete with food, friends and my new favorite, coquito – Puerto Rican coconut eggnog with a kick. I was not the designated driver this year, so I felt completely free to get buzzed on my little half a glass.
Heading back into the work week today and jump starting the new year with good intentions, I do have a few thoughts I want to share, in no particular order.
Boundaries. I’ve thought a lot about these suckers over the years. Now that I’m a parent, I understand more than ever the need to impose them on a child. My son, now 9 and a half, has fully embodied his assigned task of pushing said boundaries at every juncture. I realize it’s his job right now. Just as it’s my job to impose as strict a set of standards and practices as I can muster.
Boundaries. I was deprived of them at an early age by a mom who did not know any better. Little did she realize the kind of work she was setting me up for later in life. She enjoyed the comfort and reassurance of having a precocious little friend, and I developed an outsized sense of my own capabilities and responsibilities. It was a curse and a blessing, I suppose. I’m sure I’m also unwittingly giving my son a ton of mixed messages, but I’m really conscious of the process here. Even though I applaud his rebellious super confidence, I know it’s my job to show him the rules before he can grow up to break them in his own way.
These are lessons learned from training in music and theater and writing. It really helps to learn music theory basics – time and key signatures, scales, arpeggios and intervals of all kind, before you jump off into the land of improvisation. It’s good to know all about Aristotelian dramatic structure before you tear down the 4th wall and deconstruct narrative. Understanding the fundamentals of storytelling allows me to play with expectations yet still deliver good drama or suspense in my writing.
I am all about breaking down walls and operating in hybrid territory. I resist categorization of most kinds in my life and my work, and as a human being. Sure, I’m a woman, I was born and raised Jewish, in Long Island. But it was at a time when family structures and notions of personal and cultural identity were breaking down all around me. Now I’m a widow and a mother in an age when family units are being further redefined in countless ways. I pick and choose my elements of worship and belief from multiple spiritual traditions, and I define my politics, like my sexuality, on the relationships I cherish most, and the priorities I see before me.
Nobody puts Baby in a box.
I see a new year full of redefinition on the work and creative front, as well. More now than ever, I’m living my life as an entrepreneur and a freelance writer. Some of my projects take up more of my time than others, and my focus shifts with the priorities of any given moment. Imposing structure into such a free form lifestyle is my latest challenge. How does one create a routine that’s based on an internal to-do list, instead of orders from a boss? Many of you are familiar with this challenge already. Many more of you may confront it, as our economic system continues to evolve at a heady pace.
Do I sound optimistic? I am! Even as I’m preparing for some major and potentially frightening changes in all aspects of my life. I maintain that the calamities and sorrows of my past have armed me with more than enough resilience and perspective to manage whatever is preparing to come my way. And if not, I’m prepared to bluff my way through…
Can you feel the buzz? It’s a new year, a new time, a new day… can you feel it??