Rituals & New Years

The dregs of 2010 are spiraling down the drain of time, leaving some of us in a reflective state, myself included. I am a firm believer in the power of important dates and rituals, not because I necessarily ascribe any supernatural or universal Meanings to those things, but rather because they give us access to internal and external processes we might otherwise overlook.

Whether it be the ritual of Communion, a Pagan ceremony, placing flowers on a grave or the special reflections we do at New Year or Solstice, we place importance upon the date, the movement, the action, the thought. They carry weight, they create an almost tangible feeling within us.

As the last few seconds of one year speed over us, many of us realize the astonishing fleetingness of time itself – its river washes over us and we only stand in its stream, helpless to stop or even slow its passage. We notice each second as it ticks by, perhaps in awe of its simple power. It is a lesson in being humble. Those few moments before midnight on December 31st of any year are precious to me, no different from any other moments as far as the universe is concerned, but so filled with meaning to me personally.

As the clock strikes midnight, it is just another second, another hour, another year, but we are filled with a sense of Renewal. We make promises, we reflect, we look forward. Birthdays might be more appropriate, meaningful personal markers, but birthdays happen every second of every day, and are easy to overlook as renewal milestones. New Years and Solstices, however, are communal. We experience them together, as tribes delineated by slices of the planet and its time zones.

In 2004 going into 2005, I spent New Year’s Eve with Wendy, Cesar and Lance at Cesar and Wendy’s house out on Steamboat Island in Washington. We had a great time, and took part in one of Cesar’s family’s traditions. Cesar is from Peru, where apparently it is tradition to sketch out the things one wants in the new year. I miss Wendy a lot.

I’ve never been an artist – most of the time, the things I draw end up looking like a three-year-old did her best. I drew them full of hope and optimism, though, and while I know I scanned them somewhere, I can’t find them right now to share. Alas.

After we drew out our desires, we put pennies in our mouths, and crawled under the kitchen table. It was fun, and even though my drawings look like they were done with my feet, I still remember what each one represents. I drew pictures of my dogs’ unhappy hips being healthy, and of the evil dictator director of WHI being ousted. I drew my representation of inner peace and Wendy and I founding our own dog rescue sanctuary. I drew love and happiness for all of our friends and animals, and much more.

We shoved 12 grapes into our mouths at midnight and declared it a new year.

Having suitably prepared ourselves for a brilliant 2005, we played Cranium and drank wine until the wee hours of the morning. We had a great time.

And then… 2005 sucked.

That year sucked harder than any other to date, in fact. I lost my job at Wolf Haven (and therefore my house on-site,) my beloved Zephyr was run over and killed, the roommate I had in my next house ran out of money and bailed, and everything just went utterly, utterly wrong. There were good parts… I met my friend Allyson and her dogs, had such interesting times at the alpaca ranch… I’m sure there were more, but they all fade into the overall blackness of the year. Such brutal memories are not easily overcome.

Not generally a superstitious sort am I, but I have never repeated that ritual again.

Many of us are making new year’s resolutions. Over the years, I have set many a resolution and have watched many of them fall by the wayside. The last year I set specific resolutions, I even taped them to the inside of my front door, so I would be reminded each time I left the house. They were good ones, too, resolutions that would have made me a better person in many dimensions.

Apathy, that slayer of intentions, claimed most resolutions that year, and I was riddled with guilt. Now, on principle, I don’t “make new year’s resolutions;” I “set goals.” The semantic difference is obviously a minor one, but it’s a distinction that works for me.

I frame my goals in a positive manner – instead of saying “don’t” do something, I say “do” do something else. Instead of “quitting” one habit or activity, I say, “find a way to improve” whatever aspect of life the destructive habit or activity is eroding. I don’t like “don’ts” and “shoulds;” they’re annoying little bastards and have no place in my fresh, new year – at least, not right away.

Looking back over the goals I set for this year, I did pretty well:

  • Make my own cold-processed soap at least once – Nope, failed
  • Make my own soft cheese at least once – Success
  • Make my own butter at least once – Success
  • Finish 5 books (I used to finish that many in a month, but I’ve gotten out of the habit. Baby steps.) – Success
  • Find small ways to be greener every week – Medicore
  • Maintain the daily household calendar – Complete failure after 3 months
  • Build a chicken coop – Success, with much help from Mike Neir
  • Obtain chickens – Success
  • Plan, plant and maintain a garden – Success
  • Build or buy a composter – Success, thanks to Mike Neir
  • Take more everyday photos for the pleasure of it – Success but for the last few months
  • Go for walks and bike rides as the mood strikes – keep the momentum – Success until weather got cold and icky
  • Make healthier food and personal care choices (purchase Mike’s meat from Creswick or similar, get our milk from the family share, et cetera) – Success
  • Exercise greater financial discipline – Mediocre
  • Open and use my many cookbooks – try a new recipe from them a few times per month, rather than relying on online sites – Failure, largely due to gluten issues

Rather than feeling guilty over the goals I failed to meet, I think about why and how I didn’t meet my own expectations, and decide if it’s something worth carrying forward into the next new year. Failing to meet the goals doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or that I should waste a lot of energy fretting over not having completed every little thing I set out to do.

On the whole, 2010 was a pretty good year, apart from Mom’s accident, which honestly hasn’t impacted me a great deal until recently. I started yoga, got a bike, did some writing, finished a book, read many books, had greater garden success than I knew what to do with… not bad.

Now, I’m on the cusp of a new year, and a completely new journey.

It’s time to contemplate next year’s goals.

Here is my guide for the coming 365 days.

  • Find a way to take one motorcycle trip, be it on my own bike, a borrowed or a rented one
  • Be engaged with friends more often, even in simple ways
  • Find ways to indulge my adventure-seeking side
  • Maintain attendance at yoga, or replace with another vigorous physical activity
  • Begin yoga practice at home at least once per week, or replace with similar activity
  • Keep reading
  • Find creative ways to keep Mom’s brain engaged and challenged
  • Go with Mike to the Wright-Patterson flight museum
  • Go camping at least once
  • Develop a better plan for coping with the output of the garden
  • Keep writing
  • Maintain accurate records of Mom’s state of mind, health and finances
  • Set aside enough time for myself so as not to go insane
  • Help my mother to the best of my abilities with compassion and patience
  • Get my math class requirement for MSU taken care of
  • Re-apply to MSU for the fall term, or 2012 spring term if fall is not possible
  • Pay more attention to staying hydrated
  • Knit one wearable thing
  • Sew one wearable thing
  • Finish one quilt
  • Complete the “pay it forward” projects I forgot this year
  • Carrying forward from last year – make cold-pressed soap at least once
  • Find one cause for which I can volunteer

That’s not too much, right? I have a whole year to get things done – it just requires doing them.

I’ve no idea how much energy I will have or lack over the course of caring for Mom, but I’m a leaper, you remember, not a looker/planner. I’ll find the path through this coming year, just as I’ve found the path through the previous forty. We all do.

For each of you, I wish you the best of all possible things in the coming year, and always. I’m looking forward to what lies just around the next bend.

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10 responses to Rituals & New Years

  1. Nancy

    I know someone with a spare Bandit and who desperately wants to take a road trip as well.

  2. Erin D.

    You don’t say! 🙂 Wow, is that the same Bandit from… what was it, 1993?

  3. benny

    You inspire me so much, lady. <3

    Time to get off my own ass, and make a list. And keep that list in mind. 🙂

  4. Nancy

    He bought a new Bandit this past spring and held on to the old one. Wants to get me on it but I find a sport bike is really uncomfortable for me. And he’s itching to go ANYWHERE on two wheels. Word.

  5. Chris

    When weather warms you would be very welcome to take a ride on the old Bandit. Like any such bike it has a personality, mostly positive but it has a couple issues. It actually has far more personality than my current Bandit. That is one reason I can not bring myself yet to roll it to curb and offer it up to the world. If you and the Bandit become friends, I would love to take a trip somewhere. One on my list is visiting WI to do 10 roads:

    “Presently, Wisconsin has 108 marked Rustic Roads covering over 600 miles in 56 counties. Travel 10 of these roads and you’ll be eligible for a Rustic Roads Motorcycle Tour patch. 25 Rustic Roads qualifies you for a special state certificate.”

    If we did go for a trip, or even just a ride, it would have a beautiful circular symmetry about it. You were part of what encouraged my motorcycle interest and you are 100% the reason I ended up with the old Bandit, which became a utterly treasured friend.

  6. I am completely new to wordpress – how do I follow further replies to a post on someone else’s blog? This one, for example 😉

  7. Erin D.

    Chris, I think this is a great plan for the coming year! Thanks for the offer of loaning me your old friend. 🙂

    Also, I’ve been meaning to add the WP plug-in that allows for subscribing to a post’s comments, but never got around to it until now. There should be a little checkbox now underneath the comment entry area – check to subscribe.

  8. Wonderful!

    and checkbox checked.. thanks!

  9. Erin D.

    Very welcome! Now, does it work? 😀

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