10, 9… We’re inside The Ancient Order of Hibernians’ local chapter reception facility. The building was once a church, and then a library, and now holds some of my most important people. I’m wearing a tea length, fluffy black tutu, and a loose-knit gold-platinum sweater. The air is humid with the heat of dancing. My cousin, Sean, is counting on the microphone. I’ve always made resolutions in the New Year, but this time I’m too scared, too apprehensive. I wonder if something will destroy us–if a comet will burst through stained glass windows and end the year with our lives, but the counting continues.
…8, 7…my stomach fills with butterflies, my most immediate family, my parents, my brother, my husband and children, instinctively draw up into a circle to be close in the last seconds.
The obstacles of the year flash through my mind. There was a bout of unemployment for the only
6,5,4…I grab for my daughter, lock eyes with my husband. It is going to happen. We are about to survive the absolute worst year I can ever remember.
In February my closest uncle died suddenly, and tragically young. My family swarmed to North Carolina, stunned and bleary-eyed. In March my 93 year-old Grandmother began a terrifying transition to the other side. Every few weeks a hospitalization stole her out of her assisted living facility, triggering impulsive cluster visits from out-of-state family members. At any moment there could be an air mattress in the living room. In June she passed, surrounded by family, and everyone let out a breath of relief and despair. In the background the election season was ramping up to its dramatic crescendo, and what I’d hoped would be a light at the end of the tunnel, a woman President to guide us into a New Year, went from Spielburg to Shyamalan in a matter of hours.
But it wasn’t all bad was it?
It was hard, but it was about to be over, which means we made it, didn’t we? There were warmer moments during our February pilgrimage to North Carolina. At the hotel there was a sleepover trio, made up of myself, an older, and a younger cousin. There was bean salad, too much wine, tears, laughter, and who can forget rolly pollie O-lllieeee? There was the decision to honor my uncle by wearing comic book characters on our clothes (I wore my awesome Avenger leggings), and an ensuing trip twenty deep to Kohls. There were tears, yes, but there was so much more wasn’t there? As unpredictable as the Spring had been, the injections of family visits were uplifting, and heartwarming weren’t they? Even when my Grandmother left us, wasn’t the gathering of us all one of the highlights of our year? Wasn’t it amazing to be together like that?
And sure, there were obstacles, but the unemployment ended, the struggles subsided, I even debuted a ten minute play at an amazing event in Harlem, NY, Colors of Community. Even the election results, while frightening, had awoken a beast inside me. I am more aware. I am more committed to getting involved, serving my readers, and using my gift to help change the world. Oh, yeah, and did I mention that I’d opened an Etsy shop? It was in that final second of 2016 that I realized that while the year was one of the worst in memory, it was one where I ++ adulted all over the place.
This very party is a tradition born from the desires of my Mothers (my Mom and her sisters) to seduce their young adult children to celebrate with them, instead of venturing off to night clubs or Time Square or whatever it is people do on New Year’s Eve. As one of the 23 middle children (we’re 26 altogether) my Mothers have between them, I was in my 30s before the New Year’s parties faded away out of existence. Throwing a small dinner party is no easy task; a party for upwards of 50 people is even harder, and when those teenagers began starting families of their own attendance dwindled. You never realize what you’re missing until its gone. My cousins and I had decided to take the torch lit by our parents before us, and there we were, standing in the middle of it, celebrating the way we always should…together. That’s when I realized the message 2016 had been trying to teach me all along.
1! I’m not sure I even hear the last number before I launch into my husband’s awaiting arms. Our lips lock. Our arms squeeze. “We did it!” I cry as I let the tears fall (that’s what waterproof make-up is for).
“It’s over.” He says. “Finally.”
The relief cascades from head to toe like a blanket pulled from my sweating, suffocating body. I could breathe again. Understanding sweeps through me too, like wind taking up the sails of thought. There were moments I thought I wouldn’t make it, but now, in the infancy of 2017 I can see the vast expanse of the past year not as one of hardship, but as one of learning.
This year I won’t let failure derail me. I will let it educate me.
I won’t let sadness turn me to ice. I will honor it.
I will make the commitment to respect my life, and to ensure my actions do too.
Most of all, I won’t do it alone anymore. I will spend more faith and time in my family. I will share my love with my friends. I will serve my readers with my gifts.
How about you? What will you do differently with your 2017?