In stories, we (usually) go Beginning to Ending. In the calendar, we focus on the other direction: Ending to Beginning. We see how the last year turned out, and immediately press ourselves to write a better life story this time around. I don’t do normal New Year’s resolutions. After all, it isn’t really a new year or a new day…it is, to paraphrase Janis Joplin, the same bleeping day or year, the Earth spinning on its axis and revolving around its middle-aged, medium-sized star, with neither pause nor demarkation. As I begin this post, on the morning of December 31, it is already January 1 in many parts of Asia. We cannot say for sure when a day or year has begun, because it depends on where you’re standing.
In a different, more practical sense, new days and new years are real, and felt in every cell of the body. Night and day, sleep and wake, winter and summer, each determines a group of activities, chores, and states of mind. This morning, I will walk, and grocery shop, which makes it a regular day, like any other Monday. Ditto this afternoon, when I will do laundry, a little house cleaning, write for two hours, and cook dinner. Monday, the arbitrary first day of the work week.
And now it’s January 2, yesterday having flown by in socializing and resting. In spite of having a larger than normal number of chores to do, I find myself immensely relieved that the holidays are over. I did not like the holidays this year. On my snail-mail Christmas letter I sent to a few people, I said that I had, in fact, gotten into the spirit, but that turned out to be an untruth. Not a lie, exactly. I believed it at the moment I wrote it. I don’t know why it happened that way, but here are my ideas:
One: Tuesday is not a good day for Christmas and New Year to fall upon. Both of the other two people in this house, the ones with regular jobs, had to work Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, and go back to work the day after. Not a big deal for New Year’s, but for Christmas, and all its preparations, it made it kind of lonely. I am accustomed to doing the vast bulk of household and holiday prep work, but the work week this year isolated me. That also affected others’ moods, which in turn affect me, etc., etc. This year, Tuesday sucked as a day for Christmas to fall on.
Two: I like my life. I am thrilled to be Chief Domestic Engineer and Resident Unfinished Novelist. I enjoy my daily routine of wild speculations and comfortable mundanity. I strive for a routine just loose enough to allow for spontaneity and changes in plan. Christmas overwhelms and shoves that all aside. This year, I strove to keep up as much of my spirit-sustaining routine as possible. Didn’t do so well on the exercise, but I did keep up my writing schedule, taking off only Christmas and New Year’s Day. Yay!
Three: Christmas has changed. Where we used to have big family gatherings, the gatherings are now small. Where holiday prep chores were shared among many, they are now done by only a few. I am not old, but I am old enough. Enough to feel the aches and pains, enough to have my hand cramp up while I’m hand-mixing the dough for cookies. Enough to notice that there don’t seem to be any of those old-fashioned Christmas stores selling simple, old-looking ornaments, so that those that broke this year weren’t replaced.
Now it’s January 3, and I’m not yet into the new year. This year feels like the beginning of a narrative that doesn’t know where it’s going. These first pages must be setting up something, but I’ll be darned if I know what it is. Characters are wandering in and out, and I can’t tell what roles any of them will be playing. Beginning premises all seem too thin for plausible or interesting plot lines. All I have so far is that we can’t get high-def CBS, and our cable company doesn’t seem to be able to help us. This puts our February Super Bowl gathering at risk. I mean, I can watch Dr. Phil in standard def, but the Super Bowl? I don’t think so.
As far as writing goes, having finished the most recent draft of my novel, I have put it aside to write a synopsis of a second novel idea, which features some of the same characters. I know that plotting it out will help me when I go back to the third draft of the first book. It is a tedious and nerve-wracking process, at least in its prospect. Once I sit down, it’s not so bad. I can’t outline very well, but I can do a fifty-page synopsis.
The year is beginning like it doesn’t know where it’s going, but I need to stick with it for a few more pages, give it a chance to gather momentum. Let the characters wander in and out, and let the plot unfold. Happy New Year!