by Angeliska on December 31, 2014
Right now, I am standing on the brink between one year and the next, and for the first time in a long time – I feel totally different. The long, long ago feels a lot farther away. So much has shifted for me this year: internally and externally – and though I am far from being able to really process it all and come to any place of deep understanding about what all these changes will really bring, I feel strangely at peace. This year has been truly wild, in so many ways. I learned so much. I let go of things that meant a lot to me. I got rid of a decade’s worth of physical junk that I didn’t need. I stopped doing some things, and began others. I thought about where I put my energy, and made big decisions regarding my approach. I lost a lot, and I gained a lot. I witnessed so much pain, and also – so much jubilation. I went on incredible adventures. I pushed my boundaries, and found that sometimes you have to sit with being completely uncomfortable before you can really get anywhere. My heart broke, and broke again. I loved so hard and so blindly that I allowed myself to get very lost. My dear friend Charity wrote this to me the other day, and it helps me to read, so I’ll put it here:
“I think you’re amazing, of course, and no one can convince you of that, but there it is.
When someone leaves you, or a relationship fails right when you’re ready for it to succeed,
all we can do is examine the ruins… Which feels shitty, especially when you want to do the
good work at building palaces and love grottoes. Oy, timing.”
There’s a quote this makes me think of (I think of it often, actually) taught to me by my friend Nica: it’s from the novel “Mating” by Norman Rush, and it goes: “He said, There is a school of thought, a heresy from the madhouse of heresies in the ninth century, that says God is good and is in control of every individual thing that happens, every event, but that unfortunately the devil is in control of timing. Hence, gaffes. Hence, the actually existing world.”
Hence, broken hearts. It’s hard to think there could ever be any wrong in too much love – but what is love, and what is longing? It’s time to finally know the difference, and to learn something about really being alone. Being with myself. Going into the dark cave of the soul, into the ruins, the ancient temple. It’s humbling to be so blind and naked: groping and stumbling in the dim – reading the hieroglyphic stories written long ago, those old scripts. I know now that they can be re-written, amended, edited – into something that serves the higher self better. Those stories from our past don’t have to define us any longer. Not if we’re willing to do the work to heal ourselves. In the dark night, I listened to what the bitter medicine had to tell me, and – at some point, I’ll be coming out the other side. Wiser, maybe. I hope. Stronger, I think. Something about being shattered over and over again will eventually take you to a place where you just no longer fear it the way you used to. Maybe. I’m looking into what happens to us when we really start letting go. What happens when we truly surrender control? Strange things. Amazing things. I feel as if all of these brilliant, golden balls of possibility have been suddenly tossed up into the air, and set into motion: for the first time in a long time, life does truly seem limitless. Anything could happen now. Anything! This is a time for wish work – for manifesting. The future from this point forward feels wide open: the perfect place for a bright comet to streak through, trailing stardust, cosmic debris – all the stuff we are made of. It could be you and me up there, flying through the stratosphere. If you want it. It’s a little shocking, every time another layer of the blinders we tend to shutter ourselves with gets removed. It’s kind of crazy how willfully, how almost intentionally, we can hold ourselves back from flight, from rising – from doing everything we were born to do. It doesn’t have to be like that, you know. The cage is open, and you can fly out whenever you want.
They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
― Andy Warhol
This is the first time in several years that we won’t be gathering out in Lone Grove for New Year’s Eve. Feels strange to admit it, to acquiesce – but the weather gods are not cooperating with us, currently! Mother Nature has conspired to invite Jack Frost and the Snow Queen to visit the Hill Country, and though cold is something we can totally handle – icy roads and sleety freezing rain might make for a miserable and potentially dangerous situation. We’re planning to reconvene out there for 12th Night, and the full moon, instead. Old country magic will still happen – just a few days later… We’ve been so lucky with the weather for so long – I guess there had to be some tests of faith thrown in there. Seems like there’s been a lot of those this year, eh? It’s really forced me to learn to be flexible, to go with the flow, and to seek out my internal resources to ensure that no matter what – I can gain something from whatever is happening. I’ve been working on that whole “relinquishing attachment to the outcome” thing for a little while now, and I’m really hoping that I’m starting to get better at it. It’s so easy to fall back into habits, into rigidity, into making demands that the universe fit neatly into the palm of your hand – right when you want it. But I’m beginning to learn that if I open up and trust a little bit – if I speak more softly and whisper my heartfelt requests, well… Good things can and will happen, of their own accord. Often in the most surprising ways. It pains me to change plans – to go against the traditions I’ve held so firmly to for years. But the reed that resists the river, breaks. And I’m voting for no unnecessary suffering for 2015. This past year has held more than enough. So, on New Year’s Eve this year, I’ll be (literally) in a glittering gold dust wonderland, created by dear friends, and ideally – enjoying the dazzle of a party I’m not responsible for! What liberation – what a delight! The theme is one very close to my heart: “a gilded explosion of glamour and light, channeling Biba style, the Egyptian Revival, the 1920s Golden Age of sequins and stockings, golden disco balls & golden dance halls, Ziggy Stardust, the sun, the stars, the dawn, the Golden Eye, the Gold Rush, and the transformation of everything dark into everything bright.” I mean. How can I resist that? Lead into gold: spirit alchemy, and unexpected transformations. Bend, go, trust, flow. There are blessings undreamed of, awaiting us. I know it.
So, ironically, I set out this year to write all about winter, and community, and what the cold has to teach us – during a year where the (quite extreme and unreasonable) cold is keeping us home. I want to share this excerpt from the essay WATER IMMERSION DAY, by Thea Elijah. The entire essay is amazing, and I have read it aloud to the gathered circle for the past two Winter Solstices. It’s been really, really helpful to me. This part, especially, though – it encapsulates exactly why it’s so important to me to go out to the country, my ancestral land, every year – in the cold. On the New Year. To gather with friends and family and welcome in the turning. To feel what it is to survive together, to have it seem a little more dire, a little more important than just hanging out, having a party. This feels necessary to me. And this is why:
“That there is some deep self-knowing that comes in winter, that is a holding of the warmth on the inside, and part of what is so good about this holding of one’s warmth on the inside, is the memory of summer, and that summer will return; and the very careful and precious nature of exchange of warmth. This is a precious thing, not be taken lightly, the exchange of warmth. One of the things I love about New England is that if you and one other person are the only two people on the street when it’s thirty below, you definitely smile at each other. You are so happy to see this other person. However, the heart exchanges in this very careful way in winter. It’s not like a summer greeting. It’s a very different greeting, that thirty below kind of greeting. It’s pared down. Talk about love in the cold times. There’s that deep winter from one- living-being-to-another affirmation. Ah, you live. I live. That’s so powerful.
In summer it’s like yeah, you’re alive, I’m alive, ha ha. I mean it’s great, love in the summer, easy in a way. But the holding of this deep winter ‘I live,’ the holding of this deep warmth, and the incredible specialness of how much it means in winter, to be able to greet from that place. Try it for a moment. First be summer. Just be out and about in the room. Yeah, see the whole room changes. Here we are and we’re together and that’s fine. It’s not as special to be sharing warmth in summer. Now draw yourself in. Figure it’s cold and it’s going to be cold for awhile and on some level every single one of us is on our own, because it’s our survival that either will or will not happen in the cold. And then having taken responsibility for that, that paring down, saying o.k., each and every one us, our life in our own safekeeping… it’s not entirely pleasant to feel but I promise, it is salutary. I promise I’m taking you some place that is a health-promoting place. Bear with me, let yourself feel where I’m taking you. I need to protect my survival and that’s up to me. It’s a cold world. And my survival’s mine and I need to hold to this; I am in here. Now each of us having taken responsibility for this light that’s mine, then to look around the room at other lights and say, all right, we can build something together. If your car is stuck I’ll help you. If you need wood. I’ve taken care of mine. I’m alert to my survival. I’m already prepared for mine. I’ve already put in my stores and now I look to the rest of the people, one of whom might have a little bit more wood, one of whom might have a little more food, to feel that very different quality of being ‘in it together’ than the summer way of being in it together.
You feel this in New Englanders in a way that you don’t feel it in Florida folk. This quality of kind of checking each other out as we make alliance with somebody, from a winter mentality. You got any wood put away, buddy? Do you know it’s cold? Or are you just some summer person who doesn’t know about that? Do you know about cold? Are you aware of the coming dark? Do you know about winter? Do you know how cold it can get? There’s a way in which that’s who we want to know in our community. Don’t you want neighbors who also have their own wood stacked up, because they know winter is coming and they know what winter is about and they’re preparing, too? Yes. We are allies: all of us who know about the cold and have prepared. Now I’m ready to be your friend. There’s a wariness. My survival is at stake. I’ll stake it with you if you know my survival is at stake. And your survival is at stake. And yes, I’m willing to pull together, but it’s a very different feeling. It’s not Southern hospitality, because you don’t have to heat down there.
Cold teaches us this responsibility, this awareness. I want to make sure that I’m saying this in a way that really gets across the virtue – there’s the contrast between the whole Southern hospitality thing, and the more Northern quality of wise friendship. We want a friend who knows what winter is, don’t we? We want friends who understand that it can be very cold for a long time. And that’s whose eye you want to meet. The eye with the kind of love that knows that it isn’t necessarily easy. I want to be around people who know that it’s going to snow and they’re going to have to shovel it. This changes a person’s consciousness and it changes the nature of a person’s connections. Cold teaches about conservation of vital resource, what it means to share warmth and share resources when resources are not plentiful, when the sharing of resources is a matter of survival. Is everybody equally aware of that? It matters.”
– Thea Elijah
Okay, so – another irony I have to point out, however – is that it does actually get damned cold down South, and we do seriously have to heat down here! But I guess it’s rarely cold enough to keep us from camping outside in the middle of winter – except for this year… Dammit.
I’ve been thinking about that song, Auld Lang Syne, and how I grew up hearing it sung at New Year’s Eve parties when I was little. I remember being frustrated, because it seemed so important to people, but I didn’t understand what the words meant. It felt poignant, and people would sway together and get teary, and smash their glasses together in drunken toasts, and I’d be so sleepy but wired on the energy around me and wanting to stay up late and be part of it all. I can’t remember ever seeing folks do this, though:
“It is common practice that everyone joins hands with the person next to them to form a great circle around the dance floor. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbour on the left and vice versa. When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while still holding hands. When the circle is re-established, everyone turns under the arms to end up facing outwards with hands still joined.”
I wish people would do that still, and sing the old song again. I like traditions, the old ways. They connect us from here to there, then to now.
Past. Future. Always now.
Here are the words of Auld Lang Syne translated from the original Scots folk verse into a minimalist English:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and long, long ago?
For long, long ago, my dear,
for long, long ago,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for long, long ago.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for long, long ago.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since long, long ago.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since long, long ago.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for long, long ago.
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my friendships, my relationships, lately. Thinking a lot about the surprise of how closeness with those we’ve loved can ebb and flow. People come and go. Someone can be so central to your life, to your everyday notion of existence, and then – one day, just gone. Often it happens slowly: some have babies, and careers and tragedies and depression and television and secrets and gardens and end up with hands full and overflowing with everything that goes into building a life. Some kinds of survival take our full focus. I know now that friendships are an integral part of that survival. But people move away and you never see them again. Maybe we’ll meet on a crowded street corner years from now in a city neither of us live in. Or maybe not. People just stop talking to each other. Stop checking in. Stop inviting each other to parties. Ebb and flow. Sometimes this is discussed, or questioned – and sometimes not. Friends can fall out of our hands like sand, when we’re looking the other way. Connections can be severed, and it can feel so final – so irrevocable. We don’t really speak anymore. The burden of the tangle between us got to be too much to unknot, and we moved on, sailed away. This has always been hard for me. I like to hold on, even when it doesn’t serve me. I think this is because I’ve lost so many people I loved to death. So many. Those faces I’ll never see again. That’s the hardest part – that they are so truly gone. It’s also why I’ve been so happily surprised to find that even estranged friendships, or people I’d thought lost, or even grown distant from myself for one reason or another, can come back around. Be redeemed. Reconnect. Relationships don’t end – they just transform. We grow, we learn, we change. Often for the better. We’re all trying the best we can. Everyone on earth, at every moment, is truly and genuinely doing the very best they can. Sometimes your might curl your lip, and say, “Well, their best seems pretty crappy to me!” But – that is what they have to offer at that moment, given whatever they are equipped with. I’m really trying to remember that, lately. For myself, too. I mess up, so often. Say the wrong thing. React. Get scared. Do the wrong thing. I’m trying to be patient with myself, and with everybody else.
The best thing we can do for each other is try and speak our truths, speak from the heart – and listen honestly and quietly to one another. To do our very best to be kind, to be understanding. I have been working on judgment a lot in the past few years – realizing how harshly I have judged others in my life: people I knew, people I didn’t even know – and how, in the end, my judgements were all about my own fear and sadness. And how, in the end, they hurt me more than the people I judged. I regret this, deeply. I want to change this thing in me. So, I’m putting this here – as a reminder to myself, that the most important thing we have in this life is each other. Our friendships, our communities, our families, our people. I want to deepen the true heart connections with the people I love. I want to be able to be of better service and support to them. The work I do on myself now makes it possible for me to have more to offer to everyone else. Ram Dass actually said it better, here:
“I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.”
Happy New Year, friends. May 2015 be a year of filled with wonder, powerful growth, and transformative healing for us all.
I love you. Thank you for reading.
More to read from New Year’s Eves of yore:
✶ YEAR OF THE HORSE
✶ NEW YEAR’S EVE FOXFIRES AT THE CHANGING TREE
✶ FUCK THE PLAN 2012
✶ AN EPICALLY EPIC AND FAIRLY TARDY YEAR IN REVIEW – OR, HOLY SHIT: 2011!
✶ A Bright Blue Wish
✶ New Year’s Redux
✶ Stargazer Honey
✶ Blue Moon
✶ Lone Grove New Year
✶ Pink Moons
✶ The New Year
✶ Lucky Stars and Garters
✶ La Nouvelle Année