So I forgot to tell you about my New Years itself, and how it was a cold, snowy night, and how driving out to dinner was this perilous affair as my poor car trudged down the road at 20 mph, fishtailing here and there. I was so scared, and yet I felt determined to at least end 2013 with some kind of festivity.
I tried to put myself in a festive mood earlier by wearing a peacock blue wrap dress — my one dress purchase of 2013, believe it or not! — with my fancy drop pearl earrings and Chanel perfume. But I had spent most of the day either working or filling out my hippie yearly planner while listening to Bjork’s Vespertine, so I was in a minor-key kind of mood. Driving on crazy-snowy roads didn’t help, so when I got to dinner I was pretty quiet, maybe even a little tense. (I hate winter driving, and I’m not a driver at my ease even in the best of weather.)
I tried to shake off that weirdly isolating “stuck in your head” feeling, trying to enjoy the night and the company of my beau. The food was good, the fire was warm. And yet it was like my head was in so many places at once: still stressed from the drive, still in “2013 retrospective” mode, still wondering if my dress was hanging okay and did I look old or grown-up and how sad that we can’t order the cheese plate tonight and oh, how the march of time is so inexorable! So many places a head can be!
My mind actually was a direct reflection of the year that just passed: it was a full mind, and had accomplished many things. And yet it felt splintered and discontinuous, shards of feelings, sensations and experiences held together by messy, ungraceful knots. I couldn’t even see the smooth fabric anymore — all I saw were stray threads, ripped seams and hasty darning. My 2013 hung together well, and I was proud of it, but metaphorically it resembled a droopy sock puppet.
All that would’ve been okay, I suppose, but I felt like I was missing something, like some crucial ingredient hadn’t been added. You know like how pico de gallo just doesn’t taste right without cilantro, or just a bit of lemon really makes guacamole great? (And, uh, why are all my metaphors involving Mexican food? I think it’s almost time for lunch!) I was missing something from my 2013 — the life experience equivalent of lemon or cilantro, just to continue my goofy metaphor.
And then it hit me, sitting there by the fire in the restaurant, watching people drink wine and raise glasses in celebration. I wanted an experience of profound joy and wonderment this year. That was it! That was the thing my heart has been craving all along!
Maybe it was a funny thing to have as a New Year’s resolution, something both odd and completely impossible. It was definitely an “aha!” type of feeling, like when you’ve nailed something so squarely on the head. Even the phrasing came to me perfectly: profound joy and wonderment.
I mean, I feel joy everyday. Maybe not 24/7, but there is always a moment in the day that I deeply enjoy and appreciate, even if it is as simple as stepping outside on a sunny morning and inhaling some fresh air, or listening to a Neil Young song, or hugging my nieces and nephews and looking down at their poppylike faces full of excitement and smiles. Or, yes, wearing a nice dress and some Chanel perfume. I’m up with my small pleasures.
But profound joy? And wonderment? Is that asking too much of life? Is that too immense and grandiose and pretentious?
But it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s funny, because I learned in college when you start to study something, you need to at first look at the language and understand the terminology, and then go onto the rules and underlying assumptions of whatever subject you’re into. Even as dinner finished — it was delicious — and we sped downtown and later found ourselves in a loud, crowded bar being plied with mountains of champagne and dancing — in the back of my mind I knew I carried some big questions inside me. What does “profound joy” look like? What makes it profound vs., I don’t know, humble or ordinary? What is wonderment?
No answers yet, but the mind is humming along, weaving threads — and hopefully the end results looks like a harmonious tapestry and not such a higgledy-piggledy ragdoll.
Occasionally I’m going to try to chit-chat in this kind of space about stuff like music and movies. I’m not up for a whole blog devoted to pop culture anymore, but come on — it’s not like I can shake that gene, right? Anyway, lately I’ve been enjoying, with about a million other people, the new Beyonce record. I sort of have this love/hate thing with her. The best music writing I ever did was an analysis of her song “Upgrade U,” and I’ve always made a case that she is a lot more eccentric, weird and progressive than her image suggests, but I can see why people find her too manicured and manufactured as a pop star. Corporate industrial pop machine kills us all, no? But now with this record, I love her. I love its weird, personal mishmash of outspoken feminist defiance, mushy motherhood and sexy beyond-MILF-y/wife anthems, and how experimental and minimal and organic and even futuristic it sounds in parts. I could write a whole feminist treatise about the record, and how interesting and frustrating and fascinating it is. And it’s fun to drive and workout to, which to me puts it in the ultimate-music category.
Gah, what else? I’m re-reading Elizabeth and Her German Garden as well, which has oddly become one of my favorite books. It’s weirdly almost proto-blogger, a diary about a woman and her travails about growing a traditional English garden in northern Germany in the 1800s, but it’s also a meditation on beauty and happiness, as well as a witty, sarcastic critique of women’s roles and marriage. It’s a good book to begin 2014, especially if gardening as a metaphor for patiently cultivating good things resonates with you. (Though actually the first book I read for the year was Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, which I ended up liking a lot because even though Pynchon is smart and dense and all kinds of semi-fearsome things, he’s also a goofball and really funny at times. But I read it for work, so in a weird way it doesn’t count in my brain.
And after months of holding onto the Netflix DVD I finally watched Spring Breakers, and while there’s no real emotional resonance and I didn’t come away with any revelations — I did think it was this hypnotically beautiful visual treat, super-saturated sheen-y glossy. I wish I’d seen it on the big-screen now, preferably half-stoned or at least coming down a major sugar high. Hopefully on tap soon: Her and Inside Llewyn Davis, which finally opened here. It’s slim pickings in this area when it comes to movie theaters, but I’ll take what I can get.
Tags: New Year's Eve, New Year's resolutions, profound joy and wonderment