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December 31, 9 p.m.
La Habra, California
Sunny Lake Retirement Community
It's New Year's Eve. Once again I have the disturbing feeling I should be somewhere more fun and exciting, wearing a funny hat and age-inappropriate glitter while drunkenly sloshing something on my fancy dress.
Instead I am wearing pajamas and my glasses, and I am locked in the bathroom at my grandmother's house in Orange County. We just watched the West Hollywood Gay Men's Chorus on TV, and she turned to ask me if I thought being gay was a requirement to join the chorus or if it was just a learning opportunity.
I am drinking wine out of a Styrofoam cup with my name penned on it. Grandma wrote my name on the cup so I would remember which one was mine. This is my family's version of going green.
Tonight, for the first time ever, I realized that my five-year plan includes turning FORTY YEARS OLD. My grandmother, well into her eighties, is still drinking bourbon and making jokes, but for some reason I am more terrified of one day being forty than of one day being eighty.
Also, since I am being honest, instead of really wanting to be at a cool party, I secretly just miss my cats who are probably puking on my new bathroom rug, unaware that we are on the cusp of a new year, a new start, a brand-new, freshly unopened calendar whose 365 days could hold unending surprise. I need to make some changes. I have to get my life together. I should make some resolutions. I should refill this Styrofoam cup.
The Morning After
After eating the required spoonful of black-eyed peas (for good luck!) and eating my way out of a jeans size at breakfast, I left Grandma's house and drove back to my own little corner of the world. My life, contained in 800 square feet of rented bliss in the San Fernando Valley. When I moved in, the landlord made me sign a disclaimer saying I wouldn't eat the paint or gnaw on the door frames, since the house was so old it was practically held together by lead-based paint from years gone by.
When I started my New Year's resolutions, there was no one in the house except for me and the cats—and a surprisingly large amount of champagne in little single-person sizes, which I couldn't help buying everywhere I saw them on sale until I had the equivalent of a miniature champagne farm in my cupboard. I opened a fresh notebook and began to ponder this new year, this new opportunity to become the person I'd always wanted to be:
New Year's Resolutions (first draft)
Start drinking champagne at noon
Clean the cat box
I am about to turn the corner from 'midthirties' to 'mid-to-wrinkled thirties,' and my life has settled into a rhythm that is certainly less dramatic and grief-encompassing than the past few years, but not nearly exciting enough to send out happy Christmas letters written in the third person, annoying all my friends and family about the minutia of my life.
New Year's resolutions feel powerful, like they have the transformative mojo to add purpose and excitement to your life and make over your wardrobe and your love life, and change your entire path. I want those resolutions; I want the list that will advance me ever nearer bliss and fulfillment—and forty.
But I am a realist; I can't see myself running off and joining an ashram and shaving my head to find enlightenment. I just paid my hairdresser to give me shiny New Year highlights, and I have yet to find an ashram that takes cats.
New Year's Resolutions (second draft)
• Stop reading books about other people that make me feel jealous and want to stab them with a fork
• Become a better person
• Clean the cat box
It is an attainable list, especially with 'become a better person' so loosely defined.
What I need is a purpose. An overarching life goal. And a pool boy. I want to change my life; I want happiness—whatever that is.
There Is Nothing Wrong with Me,
Still I Search
Some of my resolutions, such as 'become a better person,' are works in progress and not immediately achievable, while others, such as 'try five new things (not all of them food items),' 'clean the cat box every day,' and 'send at least two birthday cards on time' seem doable. But in terms of whole-life changes, there is no single resolution I can make, so my final list is fairly brief:
1. Explore New Paths to Enlightenment.
2. Take an Adventurous Trip.
3. Knit Something That Isn't Square.
4. Go on a Real, Live Date (Versus a Pretend One with Jason Bourne-Anderson Cooper/George Clooney).
5. Grow a Garden.
6. Deal with My Issues
7. Try Something New (and Not Just a New Food)
8. Do Some Form of Exercise Other than Knitting
©2010. Laurie Perry. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Home Is Where the Wine Is. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442