How are you? How was the party? How was your attempt to get out of going to the party? Have you decided what you're going to get that one really tricky person yet? Have you given up? Your tree looks beautiful. You did your best. Oh you're not doing a tree? I get that. Is everything coming together? Is everything falling apart? That all makes sense.
We're all just carrying our bones around December trying to show up for people and remain hopeful and wrap our heads around a new year and remember to get that thing for that one person and sneak in some quiet time to enjoy the candles we bought. Etc.
So here are some suggestions for all of the above:
I recommend trying a New Year's resolution. I'm one of those bonkers people who goes all out with New Year's resolutions, because, oddly enough, they actually work for me. This is where my usually-loathed obsessive compulsiveness and addictive tendencies actually work well in my favor: If I make a goal, I can focus on it.
Combine obsessive goal-setting with a mystical appreciation of socially-constructed time-keeping: I love the freshness of a new year as I love the freshness of a puckered new journal, the recovering sky after rain, a lump of wet clay, a new job: so much potential to dream and carve and bend and form. I get a distinct burst of hope on New Year's Eve as the world feels tender and malleable again, and I so enjoy placing the symbolic refresh in my personal narrative: what will this year mean and how will I shape its significance?
So, New Year's Resolutions: Yep I'm for them. I choose a guiding word or phrase for the year, I do a bit of a life edit, and I set aside hours to imagine what I want to invite in over coming months and might even do some color-coded planning. It's a whole production. I can completely understand why this is, uh, not everyone's thing.
But if you even set a casual goal or two for the new year, may I suggest an approach that I stole from my friend Madeleine: Rather than announce 'I'm going to become a figure skating champion this year' or 'I'm going to eat keto for the next twelve months,' perhaps amend your goals with the phrase I'm going to try.
On Madeleine's podcast, she mentioned that the podcast itself is an experiment--like everything in life. I loved that approach so much; I thought about it the rest of the week. Everything in life is an experiment! How freeing!
I'm experimenting with writing a newsletter. I'm experimenting with being a writer. It sounds so much easier, for example: I'm trying living in New York. I'm trying marriage. I'm going to see what it's like to dye my hair blonde. I'm going to experiment with being vegetarian. I'm experimenting with changing my mind on this issue. This lease is an attempt to live in Park Slope.
As someone who gets a mighty thrill from declaring my goals and announcing that I'm a completely new person now, I delighted in this more playful approach to decision-making and new-self-creating. Humans are ever-evolving beings and one of the benefits of being us is that we get to change our minds as much as we want. It would be such a waste of free will to insist that a goal has to remain rigid even as our proclivities shift around.
So, in 2022, I hereby declare that I'm going to experiment with writing another book. I'm going to try to deepen my relationships. I'm going to attempt a commitment to increased dance classes. I'm going to see what it's like for me to read 100 Years of Solitude in Spanish. I'm going to venture into the world of regular no-phone days. Just to see.
I recommend ritualizing gifts. Speaking of rituals (when am I not??), I've discovered the glory of gift rituals: giving people a variation on the same present every year. I give one friend a different designer lipstick every birthday (this year, Chanel); another gets a different museum membership every Christmas. My mom gives my stepdad an annual sweater, and he gets her an annual scarf. I make them an annual calendar.
This hack certainly makes gift decisions easier, but there's an added emotional benefit. Whenever a relationship is ritualized in any way, it assumes a new reality: it becomes something dependable, promised, planned for, invested in.
As someone who chronically struggles with fears of abandonment, having rituals around my relationships is a beautiful mental tool for keeping my worries soothed. Perhaps it even nudges me toward new neural pathways of trust and interdependence, helping me to embrace consistent love and promises to stay.
That's a little deep for a lipstick purchase, I realize, but I've gained so much from incorporating a ritual into my best friendships: a place where we always meet, a time of day that we check in, a ritual around mode of communication (I send audio messages with my morning coffee to one; I write monthly letters to another). My ritualized relationships are the ones I never worry about, even when we inevitably slip up. There's enough of a stable rhythm to them that we can go right back into the beat.
Gifts are a major love language for me, so incorporating a ritual into the buying and delivery makes natural sense for my relationships. After just two instances of a gift ritual, it will become 'a tradition,' an always. 'We always do this'--music to my anxious ears. Always.
I recommend a soup. My world has been crinkling in these days. Many moments have felt loud and harsh as aluminum foil crumpling into a ball of sharp edges.
I, personally, am fine--though a friend recently replied 'You aren't fine' and that sounded right too--but various stresses on others from my created little world are intense and relentless.
The day after Thanksgiving, I was paralyzed with a directionless grief: completely unsure of where I would go or what I would do if I could ever get up from my sofa. I just sat there, limbs limp, phone in weak hand, not knowing what to do with it. Text? Play a song? Respond to a work email? Set a timer and take a nap?
It was one of those moments in life where I had to remind myself what I find nourishing, because I couldn't think of anything that sounded appealing to do. 'You like getting massages,' I reminded myself. 'You like to paint.'
But both of those required some advanced planning. Another reminder from my prefrontal cortex emerged: 'You like cooking.'
RIGHT. I DO like cooking! Thank you, dear brain! In fact, cooking is the most pleasurable and calming activity available to me. At the risk of maybe plagiarizing some dialogue from Julie & Julia, there is a comforting certainty in the result of a delicious meal out of some reliable products such as leaves, an egg, a spice. I used my phone to type "easy" in the search bar of Half Baked Harvest's site and found a soup recipe.
I pried myself off the sofa and went to the grocery store, which is another great pleasure of mine. I whimpered through the herb aisle and wept through the canned goods section to find all the ingredients to make Creamy White Chicken Chili.
I cried while chopping onions, I stung myself with the poblano peppers, and I burned my hands while shredding the chicken. It was the intense sensory experience I needed to begin processing some news I'd just received--something I couldn't begin to do while lying starfish-style half-off the sofa.
As I was cooking, I watched a surprisingly heartbreaking movie called Language Lessons, which provided even more catharsis (and a little Spanish boost).
The soup didn't make sense of anything, but it did calm my nervous system and give my restless hands and heart something to do together: chop, grieve, burn, nourish.
I've since made this soup a couple times--it's a winner. I added even more cheese, and balanced that move out with lots of dinosaur kale.
We need food and we need meaning. I recommend soup and a movie for some of your human December needs.