I felt embarrassed and like an aged Alice in Wonderland. I was a bit bruised, and a little shaken at first, but as I fell right to the edge of the dance floor, I was strangely calm. Maybe it's because I had been reading THE WIND UP BIRD CHRONICLES, which is full of signs and symbols that it seemed perfectly apt.
Alex and I had always LIKED Christmas, particularly after the kids were born - but we loved New Year's. Many people don't like to go out and celebrate, but we did. There were almost always fireworks at midnight (or close enough anyway) which are extra beautiful in cold and snowy weather - even if you are freezing. We marked the promise of the new year by eating great food, drinking champagne, and reminiscing. We always sang Auld Lang Syne and kissed at midnight. It was one of the very first holidays we celebrated together, and also sadly, the last - although Alex was so profoundly altered by then, it was a pretty sorry excuse for a party.
As I thought about New Years' Eve, I could not imagine anything I could do at home or with friends or with the kids that would not simply emphasize his absence. Trying to recreate what we once had would have been futile, and doing the "usual" celebration without him was unthinkable.
And that's when my friend, Pattie invited me to a New Year's Eve party at her vineyard in Oregon. It took me all of about ten seconds to decide that was the single best thing I could do because I could make it contain all of the things that mattered (food, wine, change of scenery, lively conversation and fireworks) without the attachment to specific memories of Alex.
Even better, this would the first trip I have taken since 2012 that was NOT somehow focused on either Alex or my mother. For the first time, in a very long while, I experienced a sense of lightness and freedom. It ended up being one of the best New Year's Eves I have had in some time!
In a few short days, I shared an airplane with Afro Man and got his autograph for Laura (look him up if you don't know who he is), went out for some wonderful dinners with my brother and his wife, went out to a movie, drove around beautiful countryside, met a bunch of interesting and funny new people of all ages, drank delicious wine, hiked around a park full of waterfalls and felt like an "insider" as Pattie and Mark showed me around Bjornson Vineyard.
And I also had lots of quiet time to myself in a beautiful room above the tasting floor. I was able to read and write and reflect and rest as much as I wanted/needed. And I had great company at every moment when I wanted company. I felt that I was meeting myself again for the first time in years.
I meditated on my own upstairs, looking out over Mt. Hood which literally glowed in the sunlight. As I thought back to how we handled Alex's illness, the objective was always to stay in the present and live as fully as possible - even in the last days/hours of his life on earth. I asked myself if I could just allow myself to let go of Alex. Because without trying, and without being altogether aware of it, I have been hanging on to him so tightly all of this last year, that it has dulled my capacity for delight.
My intention then, for 2019 is to re-capture an appreciation for life and living - with all of the contradictions which I am sure will manifest over the course of coming months. And it's not to say that I am DONE with grief - I know it will continue to visit when it needs to.
But years ago, my friend Alanna, recommended a book on the Art of Possibility which contained some "rules" - of which my favorite was, "Stop taking yourself so f-ing seriously."
So here and I now, I declare that 2019 is the year to remember to PLAY. I have been working hard on so many fronts for so many years it really is time to let go and quit taking it all seriously.
My next adventure is set - at the end of March, I will head to Japan where I will walk a part of the Shikoku Island pilgrimage, eat massive quantities of sushi, admire the cherry blossoms, encounter the completely unexpected, and I am sure, get completely lost at various points.
But like Alice who had to fall upside down to find herself, I think that I will enjoy the journey.