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What 2012 Has Been

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In a word? Challenging.

In three words? Really bloody challenging.

I didn't actually intend to stop posting in August, but some sort of haze or fog descended on my brain, which hasn't honestly fully lifted yet. A soft-around-the-edges sense of exhaustion and weariness and constant aching in my neck that attenuates in unexpected and startling moments when I'm wholly unprepared to deal with serious thoughts.

If I'm being honest, I'm not dealing with things well. And 2012 has been the Year of Things to Deal With.

In August I was watching my parents' pets and house while they were on a trip to Africa. I was commuting by SeaStreak and usually getting home to catch spectacular sunsets in the Atlantic Highlands Marina. Smoochie, Otto, and I were watching the Olympics and crying at sappy commercials. One night, I was sitting in an armchair, my half-assed dinner of cereal and Diet Coke feeling surprisingly satisfying, beginning to doze and thinking I should get up to iron my dress for work, when something hit me, hard. It was such a simple, stark, quiet thought that it was fully inescapable.

"I can't believe she's really gone."

The sentence repeated over and over, until some sort of floodgate opened in my heart. I had been bottling up all of my grief and frustration and confusion about my aunt's death, literally saying, "I can't think about that right now," as if some better time to mourn would come one day. Something about sitting in my parents' house, completely and totally alone on a summer night, crying my eyes out with no one to explain it to, made me feel so desolately alone and empty inside. I haven't really shaken that feeling, even though I've talked with my friends and family and Smokey at great length since then. I have had some disconnect, where words and gestures fail, and I've continued feeling broken and adrift, at baffling and paradoxical times. It's not just my aunt or the upsetting aftermath that threatens to wreck that entire side of the family (if it hasn't already); it's something deeper and scarier and more intensely uncomfortable that lurks around the fringes of my consciousness each morning and haunts me in my sleep.

I used to talk with friends about depression and say that sometimes, it makes the most sense to be depressed. In the strictly pragmatic sense, sometimes you need to feel incredibly sad and dissatisfied to make changes in life. If we were constantly content and comfortable, why make art? Why improve things, or solve problems? Why not just enjoy sunny afternoons in hammocks until our time winds out?

So in the beginning of 2012, I was pretty unhappy in school, but still content knowing that it was adding up to something. I resolved to stop whining or making things unnecessarily hard on myself, just suck it up and do my work and get on with life. As I finally got my train chugging on its new line, I got blindsided and completely derailed by a stupid and immensely frustrating financial situation, and I haven't gotten over that in the slightest. I know I am damn lucky to have found my job when I did, and I mostly really like it, but there are days when I feel like all my education and experience has been a complete waste.

I faltered in my resolve to stop falling in love with guys who were all wrong for me or get carried away in escapist fantasies. I ignored countless flashing red signs of BAD IDEA and went with my feelings, then I broke both of our hearts when I called it off. A little later I gave in to his pleading, tried it again, and soon after called it off for good. A few weeks ago, I ran into him on the 4 train, when we were both running late for work, and it was genuinely pleasant to see one another and talk. He wasn't bitter or mean or cold - he was just himself, which is what I always loved about him.

He's going to be fine, and I have no doubt he'll find someone who wants the same things in life as he does, and he'll be immensely happy. When I broke up with him for good, he wished that I find a good man with a kind heart, and I awkwardly stammered, "You mean another one, right?" Every day I walk around knowing that I gave up on someone who loved me, who sincerely wanted to marry me and have children and make a life together. I know there were lots of intellectual and pragmatic reasons why it was a terrible idea to be with him, and I still know breaking up was the right thing to do, but that doesn't soften the sting of it.

Naturally, I imagine myself alone forever now, and I think about things I'll do with my time instead of being in love or having children. Healthy coping mechanisms have always been my strong suit.

Even I am tired of rehashing sadness and loss, but 2012 was unrelenting on that front. I spent a lot of time sick, like a ridiculous amount, either with the same bronchitis that kept coming back or a coincidental series of colds and flus that kept putting me back on antibiotics and codeine for the months of September, October, and November, with a milder dalliance with convalescence and fainting in the beginning of December (who ever could have predicted low blood pressure and anemia after three months of soup and cold pizza?).

Being constantly sick was pocket change compared to the crushing blow dealt by Hurricane Sandy, which deadbeat my parents' house, flooding their yard and basement with chest-deep water. They lost the furnace, water heater, and electrical panel, and my brother was champion of the storm, rewiring the house and putting in countless hours removing all of our ruined stuff. I stayed in Staten Island, contending poorly with commuting by bus from my freezing cold and dark apartment just to have a few hours at work, where it was warm and I could charge my phone. My brother and I both celebrated our birthdays without power, taking the coldest showers of our lives, and my sweet parents kept apologizing, as if they had anything to do with something so much bigger than all of us. On my actual birthday, in the hour I waited between express and local bus transfers at the side of a road, I decided to get a cheeseburger and fries so I'd have something warm to eat. Standing shivering in the insufficient lee of a bus shelter, I was feeling pretty dreadfully sorry for myself and my family, when I noticed just how crisp and flavorful the fries were. Everything was that way - this was really exceptional for fast food - and I started laughing that absurd, hysterical laughter that comes in the wake of awful things.

My hysterics grew as I chanted the litany of things I'd lost to myself. Pigments and paints I'd hand-carried back from Venice. Every film negative of every photograph I've ever taken. Every fresco or mosaic I've made, illuminated manuscripts, thousands of dollars' worth of art supplies, countless hours of sketchbooks, paintings, dyeing projects, books, love letters, softball gloves, handbags, ticket stubs, and all the nonsensical ephemera that seems important enough to pack in boxes and keep. Laughing harder than could possibly seem sane to an outside observer, I said out loud, "I didn't lose my family!" and I danced in relief that we may have lost a really lot of stuff, but we didn't lose each other. What else actually matters?

That night, I decided that the only thing that would make me happy was a hot bath. I spent a ridiculous amount of time boiling water by candlelight, banking on still tenuous ideas about physics and heat transfer through water, willing my stupid drafty bathroom not to ruin my plan. I drank an entire bottle of wine and took the greatest bath of my life by candlelight. Two days later, I was in New Jersey with my family, mucking out the rest of the basement and eating chili that my father and I prepared on the wood stove. I kept thinking that if all I wanted in the world was a hot bath and to be with my family, I was damn lucky that I had literally gotten everything I wanted.

In spite of - or perhaps because of - so many challenges this year, there were some really great things too. The soul thrives in contrast, and the lower the valleys, the more soaring and transcendent the peaks seemed.

Art and culture became vital and essential to my survival, instead of just happy ways to spend a day. I had some of my favorite days and nights ever in New York, and I finally started to feel that this city is my home. So here is the year according to my calendar (of course not including little dinners and drinks, which are seriously the sustenance of my soul lately):

January

  • helped my brother move into a new apartment, which was one of the more amusing days I've spent with him and marked our introduction to Spooky Ghost
  • Faust and The Enchanted Island at the Met
  • War Horse at the Lincoln Center Theater, the best night of theater of my life
  • NYC Ballet : The Steadfast Tin Soldier / Le Tombeau de Couperin / Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux / Who Cares?; Donizetti Variations / Polyphonia / Ocean's Kingdom
  • met and started dating Mustafa

February

  • This Will Destroy You with A Far Cry and Slow Six at Merkin Concert Hall (amazing concert with my dear friend John)
  • NYC Ballet : Allegro Brillante / Russian Seasons / Zakouski / Stravinsky Violin Concerto; Romeo and Juliet
  • Ernani at the Met
  • an Arabic poetry reading at the other Met with Penelope
  • a visit to the Staten Island Museum and Historic Richmond Town, obsessing over the history of Staten Island for my History and Geography of New York class (one of the best I've ever taken)
  • my first "real" date with Mustafa at Enoteca Maria, followed by many other perfect dates

March

  • Don Giovanni and Macbeth at the Met
  • lunch and a visit to see the Renoirs at the Frick with my awesome cousin Desirée

  • a lovely visit with my dear friend Kelly (how did we not take any pictures??)
  • Shake Shack and the Black Keys at Madison Square Garden on an unseasonably warm, perfect night with Penelope:

  • Miike Snow at the Music Hall of Williamsburg (amazing)
  • my family's St. Patrick's Day party, one of the best yet
  • SPRING BREAAAAAK (during which I worried enormously about Biochemistry)

April

  • Manon and La Traviata at the Met
  • SBTRKT at Terminal 5, where I danced my face off (much needed)
  • Alabama Shakes at the Bowery Ballroom, with my whole family :

  • presentation of our semester-long Biochemistry research project on Glutamate dehydrogenase in T. vaginalis, which my lovely partner and I crushed (if I'm being completely immodest but factually accurate)
  • celebration of my Grandma Jean's 80th birthday with my mom's family

May

  • Neon Indian at Terminal 5 (more face-dancing-off, again much-needed)
  • NYC Ballet : In the Night / The Cage / Andantino / In G Major; Serenade / Firebird / Symphony in C
  • American Ballet Theater: Giselle, La Bayedere
  • the crushing realization that I would not be able to continue in school and the subsequent panic and flailing about to get my resume up to date and submitted for jobs; the solidification of my resolve over way too many coconut margaritas, where I declared to my mother that I would definitely, without question, get a job that week and then our HR person called me for my first interview

June

  • ABT : Onegin, Swan Lake
  • NYC Ballet : A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • at the Count Basie, Buddy Guy & Jonny Lang; Crosby, Stills & Nash
  • second interview, third in-person interview, and job offer a half hour after I left (booyah); started my lovely job
  • lost my Aunt Elise in the second week of my new job, tried really hard not to fall apart and (as you can see above) have been mostly unsuccessful with that whole repressing-emotions bit

July

  • saw no fireworks for Independence Day because WTF, Red Bank
  • Concerts : Guided by Voices / The Pains of Being Pure at Heart / The War on Drugs / Cloud Nothings in Central Park, Beach House in Central Park, The Wallflowers at the Stone Pony

  • Tchaikovsky Festival and the New York Philharmonic Concert in the Park, which thoroughly ignited by obsession for the symphony
  • summer break from work (I know!)
  • taking care of the pets and house in New Jersey while my parents were in Africa

August

  • one of the best exhibits I've seen in years, if not ever, Wu Guanzhong at the Asia Society
  • summer Fridays, which quickly became Prosecco Fridays
  • Jason Mraz at the PNC (yeah right, Garden State) Arts Center
  • the day that started with the most exciting text I think I've ever gotten, when my dear friend Hope said she had a very strong feeling she was going to have a baby that day and the beautiful Lilian Jane was born!


(Has thoroughly mastered side-eye already.)

September

  • the beginning of my failure to fully move back to Staten Island after so much of the summer in Jersey (I still haven't technically unpacked my last suitcase yet)
  • my friends Dan and Emily welcomed the adorable Megan Elizabeth into the world
  • NYC Ballet : Scherzo à la Russe, Divertimento from "Le Baiser de la Fée," Danses Concertantes, Firebird
  • my first gooey, disgusting sickness that took me out of commission for most of the month

October

  • James Iha and Milagres at the Mercury Lounge
  • NY Philharmonic : Tchaikovsky's Little Russian Symphony and Nielsen's Flute and Violin Concertos; Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducting Symphonie fantastique
  • Otello at the Met
  • NYC Ballet: Two Hearts, Les Carillons
  • The Walkmen at Terminal 5 for my birthday (thank you, Penelope!)
  • I got to see Hope and Kristian and meet the little LJ in Brooklyn!
  • my second gooey, disgusting sickness
  • Hurricane Sandy, ugh.

November

  • my 31st birthday (see above) and my brother's 33rd
  • the tremendous and wonderful reelection of Barack Obama!
  • Le Nozze di Figaro and Un Ballo in Maschera at the Met
  • David Bazan at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Aerosmith at MSG
  • that awesome day when Toledo Edison restored power to my parents' house and we had a Diana Ross dance party to celebrate
  • Thanksgiving at my Aunt Jeannine's, where we were all truly, deeply, intensely thankful to be together
  • my third gooey, disgusting sickness, this time much less severe but no less annoying than the previous two

December

  • La Clemenza di Tito at the Met (and Les Troyens will be on the 29th)
  • a benefit concert for Sandy relief at Terminal 5 featuring Cults, The Antlers, Grizzly Bear, and Sleigh Bells
  • delivery and assembly of my beloved new elliptical machine!
  • a lovely and thought-provoking visit with my friend Andrew from Florida
  • A Christmas Carol at the Count Basie, followed by a day of cookie baking and tree-trimming, which put us all thoroughly in the Christmas spirit
  • NY Philharmonic : André Watts and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2; Handel's "Messiah"

I realize there is still a little bit of December left, and it would be cynical to throw the towel in on the year already. I can see that there were a lot of really great things that happened this year while I was preoccupied with the handful of very heavy ones. I can also see that at some point I got overwhelmed and stopped taking pictures, which is as frustrating as it is out of character. I need to either fix my good camera or sort out my issues with my current roster.

I learned a lot of friends were pregnant by pictures of occupied uteruses on Facebook, which is honestly never going to stop being weird to me. I learned other friends were getting engaged by Instagram photos of their rings, which don't benefit from nostalgia filters if it's shiny new news. All snark aside, I've seen family and friends find the loves of their lives and pair up in ways that restore my faith in the universe. And some people in my life have had years about as difficult, or shall we say challenging as mine.

Every year I say I'm going to be better about keeping track of things, organizing my time and space better, paying attention to small moments, connecting with people. I'm always sincere when I say it, but I usually know in the back of my mind that my resolve will peter out and I'll end up drinking too much and sleeping in front of the fire mulling over regrets.

So I make no promises except that I'm going to try harder to find the beauty in everyday experiences. To find some glimmer of joy and fascination in every day, and to try to figure out what's going on in my heart that it keeps feeling choked and closed.

All things considered, that's a pretty big challenge for 2013.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Vicki published on December 24, 2012 12:30 AM.

The Return of Bitchin' Fridays was the previous entry in this blog.

False dichotomies as handy personality sorters is the next entry in this blog.

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