By the time you are reading this, I will be in Paris. It is my last residency to finish my five-residency MFA program, and thanks to Covid, it’s the first in-person January residency I’ve attended. Yes, yes, I’m excited. I love Europe in the winter, and city living in the winter too. I love bundling up to walk down the sidewalks at twilight, when the street lamps come on and the shops look golden and inviting through the windows. I love the heavy, warming foods and the rich, abundant wines. I practically feel French myself listing all of these things. However, I am still me. Still the same anxious, neurotic me, and I am freaking out preparing to travel to kick-off the year.
None of you get-up-and-go, “new year, new me” types are going to get this, but if you’ve been reading my column these past few years, you’ve learned that I am not a new year’s resolutions sort of gal. January, to me, is hardly a beginning. It’s more of an ending, really, by which I mean, Christmastime is over and I’m a little sad. I love the glow of twinkle lights in my living room and outside the windows every night. I love the parties and the scheduled events, or how, when there’s nothing happening, just sitting by the fire with a bourbon feels a little more magical. I have to grieve the holidays’ passing, and I see no better time to do that than in the cold dark freeze of January.
Come the new year, I’m usually something akin to a black bear. (Does this mean I have transitioned and am now a real mountain woman?!) I prefer to pack on the pounds, in sweaters and sweets, and curl up in the fetal position with a soft blanket and just let the winter woes sink in, not because I’m depressed, exactly, but because pausing is good after a busy season. It’s good to rest, to eat for comfort, to find solace at home, to not have to “do it all” for a little bit. You can see how, coming from this point, “new year, new me” has never really stuck.
So, here is the same old me, same old anxious, neurotic me, making plans to travel for several weeks to start January without a single moment of pause. If this mama bear doesn’t hibernate in January, will she ever rest? Have I hurt Christmas’s feelings that everything is already tucked away into the closet with a “thank goodness that’s done” sigh? Am I going to tackle the next 12 months with intention and peace if I’m running headfirst into a packed schedule of flights and dinners, craft talks and workshops, trains and taxis and thesis defense?
I think the real reason I’ve never cared for new year’s resolutions isn’t so much that they get in the way of rest. For instance, you could make a resolution to be more restful, and I think that would be a solid, healthy choice. But I disagree with the emphasis that this rebirth and commitment needs to be time-sensitive. I hate that we hold ourselves to a certain standard of renewal, almost with the expectation that the ambition isn’t built to last. There’s a passage in the Book of Lamentations that says, “Mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning,” and I’ve always preferred the perspective that we can change whenever we need to, want to, feel inspired to.
Look at me, for example. Ordinarily, by the time the January issue makes its way into your mailboxes, I would have assumed Couch Potato position and would probably already be on Season Three of my “Gilmore Girls” DVD boxed set. (I don’t know, it just feels better to watch it one DVD/four episodes at a time.) But this year, a new opportunity has presented itself, and I have barely sat down! Even to write this! I’m typing standing up! (My friends know that’s not true, but it felt like another opportunity to seize!) I’ve learned to love the hibernating bear version of myself, but I can resolve to be something different in order to make the most of life, and I think I could do that whether or not it was January, the start of a new year.
I guess what I’m saying is, forget the pressure. Forget the rat race. Hustle and bustle season is over, and it’s okay if you’re sad or tired. If you feel like doing something differently or discovering a new part of yourself, great—go for it. Or maybe start in February. Or July. Maybe the new thing to try is hibernating through the cold and gray. The important part is to remember that life is yours for the taking any old time, and that if you feel like starting over, you have the chance to do that, any time.