When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I suggest aiming low. Reach for your shoelaces, not the stars. For instance, this year, I resolve to eat more donuts. Crullers, coconut, apple and spice. I can handle this and am fairly confident that come next year, I will be able to look at my fat face in the mirror and wheeze to myself, “Good job!” When I aim low, I am never disappointed. Sometimes, I aim even lower, like resolving to wear pants or use electricity. All of these achievements are possible. You know what’s probably not possible? Running a marathon, learning to speak Chinese, and becoming an astronaut all in the next 12 months.
There’s a fine line between resolutions and prayer. In both instances, you hope someone is listening. Be it Morgan Freeman, Zeus, or That Thinner, Healthier, More Successful You who’s been curled up dormant in your guts your whole life, waiting for a chance to burst out of you like a spring-loaded alien. Better yet, resolve not to resolve anything. Be Zen. Let life happen to you. A surfer can’t make her own waves; she has to wait for them. Then it’s up to her to know what to do with them when they show up.
Generally, I loathe New Year’s Eve. While everyone is ringing their hands in anticipation of a new year full of promise, I am poking the last year with a ballpoint pen, like a homicide detective. Instead of looking forward to all the things I’m going to do, I am looking backward at all the things I didn’t do. It’s a time of intense self-reflection for me, and I blame that on my old man. He was the son of a Baptist preacher, a penitent and deeply religious man. But at the same time, funky enough to get down with a flammable Latina Catholic and sire a brood of charming little demons. I was raised very religiously, which might explain why I write about porking so damn much. There was an equal division of worship between the stuffy Protestants and the fancy Catholics — Christmas was for Midnight Mass, where the Church of Rome flaunted its supernatural ability to bend space and time, making 60 minutes feel like 12 hours of burning incense, liturgical readings, and mumbled carols. Half an hour in, and 6-year-old me went boneless with boredom.
But New Year’s Eve was spent with the Baptists. It was always a small, sparsely attended service, and mercifully short. Just half an hour or so of joyful noises and eyes crushed shut in prayer. I don’t think I ever saw my dad pray as hard as he would on that night. He was intense. He would clench his hands and his knuckles would go white. It seemed as if he was making an accounting of his failings over the past year, and making assurances to someone in the celestial home office that the next year would be different. My father never complained about life’s beanballs. When the clock struck new year, all the Baptists would humbly shake hands, pat backs, and wish everyone well, even us Papists.
Then it was home for a scandalous sip of bubbly, assorted hugs, and bed. As I’d doze off, I’d hear my folks finish the ghetto champagne, giggle, and tiptoe to their bedroom. The door would close slowly, with lots of shushing. And, suspiciously, the giggling would continue.
It was during these hushed transitions from one year to the next that I came up with my theory for New Year’s Eve. That it’s a time for keeping your head down. Fate is a mean-spirited, skeletal bat attracted to loud noises, especially drunken declarations of lofty personal goals. It is hubris that topples the great kings of tragedy, hubris, vanity, and arrogance. Fate loves that kind of stuff. Fate adores the boastful smoker who declares he’s done with cancer sticks, and ends up lighting a new cigarette with the glowing butt of an old one before the streamers are even thrown. Fate zeroes in on the late December braggart whose new job search begins and ends with deciding on the right font size for his resume. My old man greeted the future with battened down hatches for precautionary and respectful reasons. Make no racket; attract no mischief; save your dreams from cruel celestial irony.
It made an impression. In the many, many years since, I’ve always felt uncomfortable at big New Year’s Eve throw-downs. They always seem so manic, and fearful. Let’s not forget either that it’s when minor league tipplers try to play in the majors and end up slipping in vomit. If I want to get beer faced, I’ll do it celebrating Tuesday night. Normally, I stay home. Pull a blanket over my head, and as the crystal ball drops, close my eyes, cross my fingers, and whisper that this year, I’ll try to love a little more, work a little harder and own up to my sh*t. Apparently, I will also be eating more donuts.
But this is just neurotic, superstitious old me. It is how I welcome in another year full of potential failure and heartbreak. Man! That was funny. If only there were a handy, well-known acronym for those times when I laugh out loud at my own jokes. Pay me no heed. Pop corks, honk horns, rage, revel and rawk hard. Smooch indiscriminately. Shake your fist at the sky and tell the mighty gods hiding in the clouds above that your will be done. That’s right, you WILL learn how to bake a perfect apple pie from scratch or make an origami pterodactyl blindfolded by the end of the year. Do you hear that fate? Mean-spirited, skeletal bat?
The best hangover cure is corn beef hash and eggs. I’ll be spending the morning after, the first day of 2010, tentatively peeking out the window, then probably whipping up a gangster-ass brunch for The Girl I Am Currently Dating who, hopefully, will have spent New Year’s Eve in my bunker, where kisses will fall like confetti.
See you next year.