The Relative Crappy Okayness of a Relatively Sober/Aware New Year’s

What’s it like for a party girl to be sober/Aware on New Years? I wish I could say it was magical and so much fun but it wasn’t that. Not this time at least. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve had way more “so much fun” times while rip-roaring tipsy. Yes tipsy, let’s keep calling it that.

The main reasons for the lack of amazing fun, I’ll guess, were: a) I’m recovering from some kind of mild winter-blues depression (yes, let’s keep calling it that — you know, that kind of indescribable, inexplicable depression that averagely-privileged people get), and b) my usual lack of planning.

We did enjoy the evening though. It was quite unusual in that we ALL (including the kids, aged 7 to 14) stayed up till midnight, and we ALL pretty much did what we wanted, but sort of together. T and W watched a sci-fi movie at top volume on T’s laptop, with T’s crazy surround-sound speaker system cranked to max. I didn’t get PO’d about it. Yay me. X, Y, and Z played Minecraft together and then came down to hang out with us. They’ve been learning a couple of neat Minecraft build tricks from the Minecraft guy on Jam.com.

I talked to my mom on the phone, for an hour or so. I also wrote an impromptu year-in-review blog post and was surprised to find that I had actually accomplished a few things, in my personal and family life, at least. (I highly recommend this writing exercise, even if you just do it privately. Particularly if you think you haven’t accomplished anything. You’ll likely surprise yourself.)

I didn’t write about the things that I didn’t accomplish, of course (although I have written about them before). The fact that I failed my Creative Writing Master’s program application, the fact that I failed to get a “real” job (mainly because I failed to try), the fact that I failed to do a ton of myriad things like deal with the awful mess that I’ve let our home and office filing systems become. The fact that I failed to actually get published, as a writer, “for real” (— perhaps mainly due to the fact that I stopped trying to get published “for real” — and just started hitting “Publish,” instead). The fact that I didn’t cook more family meals that didn’t involve just soup/salad, bread and cheese, veggie pasta and/or freezer pizza. (But hey it’s French cheese and freezer pizza, yo! With French veggies! That’s something, people.)

And I didn’t write about the fact that I failed to actually contribute, to the publication that actually invited me to contribute (you can contribute too, if you’re artistic/creative/literary and are familiar with Git; do check it out).

But hey, there’s always next year (—correction: THIS year!—) right?

There’re also a lot of good things I didn’t mention. I helped some neighbours and friends in ways they needed help. I supported other artists, writers and authors. I supported our kids through their own kid-related trials and tribulations, and celebrated their accomplishments. I talked to my overseas mom a lot, on the phone or via FaceTime. I read a handful of actual, complete (nonfiction) books. Yes, it’s possible, folks. We can (sort of) overcome reading ADD. 🙂

Revival and Beginning of a Pet Project, and Brief Buddhist Interlude

I also revived an old project that I’d wanted to do some years back. I’ve (sort of) even begun it. The project is doing a re-write of a book I love, called The Science of Getting Rich (or SOGR as I call, it for short). It’s the book on which the famous/infamous Rhonda Byrne based her book, The Secret. If you haven’t heard of SOGR already, and are turned off by the title, yes I agree the title is… well… terrible, and yes I know the The Secret was… well, you know, secretive. But I love love love the principles in SOGR. They have such an uplifting core message and I believe it works for attaining ANYTHING – whether love, happiness, success, health, whatever. In fact, the author, Wallace D. Wattles (weird name as well, and he made the last name himself, changed from Walters; yes it’s a marketing disaster), wrote a bunch of other books on those other topics (you can look them up on Amazon, some of them are even free on Kindle) — but it’s my belief that you can just read this one book of his — SOGR — and swap out “rich” with whatever you like, to get whatever you like.

Anyway, crazy-sounding or not, I keep coming back to this book, out of all the myriad self-help systems I’ve peered into. I notice a lot of poverty, struggle and strife in the world and that’s because I was trained to notice poverty, struggle and strife; mainly by my super-compassionate war-remembering mom. Maybe that’s why I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of becoming “rich.” Me, I always wanted to become “happy.” At least that’s what I’d always told myself, and everyone else, in the past. But what I am slowly learning, the more I look at poverty, is that in order to become truly “happy” we do need to become “rich.” Rich in resources, rich in available time, rich in knowledge, rich in health, rich in friends and family, and most of all, perhaps, rich in love and awareness, for other human beings, and for the planet, in general. And it all starts with satisfying those good ol’ base needs, on good ol’ Maslow’s Pyramid. You know, food, shelter, warmth? And guess what, you need to be rich to have those things. In other words, you need money. And to get the next level up on the pyramid, you need more money. To be a respected member of community, and get an education, for example. And so on and so on.

I’m not saying you need to be kazillionaire-rich, though that’s fine too if it works for you. I’m just saying you need to have enough money to buy, do, or become the things you want to buy, do, or become. (I think those are WDW’s words.) All the while wanting the same for everyone around you. That’s all.

When I was at the Buddhist monastery with my kids last summer, I saw that even the monks and nuns are rich. Not only spiritually, but also in terms of money. Rich enough, that is. They don’t value possessions or materialism, though. So how does that work exactly? Well, I saw that they are rich because they work very hard to build systems and places that support community. They begin their day at 05:00 or earlier at end it around 21:30; they keep to a schedule, they work constantly together. And what is their mission? To bring awareness, peace, compassion and harmony to all beings. Wow. Does it get much better than that?

What do they have, in return for all that hard work? Well, the nuns and monks that I have seen at the Zen monastery in France, at least, have shelter, simple but comfortable beds, delicious, healthy, hot or fresh vegetarian food (which they buy and/or make themselves), enough clothes to keep warm and dry, and then they have art and creativity. They have the bell, the amazing bell in its tower, which they sound and sing to every evening “to bring awareness to, and end suffering for, all beings”; they have their old stone farm buildings which they constantly work to maintain and improve, so that more and more people may share in what they have; they have their beautiful stone Buddha statues, which add beauty to the rooms and to the gardens; they have their fruit trees which they use to make and sell jam and other preserves; they have their calligraphic sayings, which they print and hang on the walls as constant reminders for how to live well and peacefully, and they have their books and other artwork, which they sell in their shops to provide their livelihood. They also have their incredible lotus ponds. And most of all — like a hive of honey bees — they have each other, and the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping the world—not hindering it—in its growing evolution. And they experience and generate these riches, as continuously as possible, through the continued awareness of the richness in each present moment.

Anyway, Back to Sober-I-Mean-Aware New Year’s

Last night, at midnight, while missing my old friend crémant de Limoux, not to mention missing the friends I used to drink it with, I tried to install a new tradition for New Year’s. It didn’t quite work out, but hey, you have to start somewhere.

First, we employed my mom’s old Dutch tradition of making olie ballen, which the kids loved (what kid doesn’t love deep-fried pastry with icing sugar on top)? That was thanks to Super-T, our resident Head Chef. And thanks also to me for talking about it and obsessing over recipes until he finally just up and did it. (I talk, or write, or read; he takes action. I could take a tip or two from that guy.)

T. Was drinking beers, of course, and though certainly not drunk, he was perhaps tipsy. I was trying not to drink the last glass of wine in the bottle of crémant that has been standing in the fridge, with its metal champagne-keeper clamped on top, since Boxing Day. I don’t know why I don’t just dump it. I think it might actually be keeping me Aware somehow. My last drink was not on a binge night. It was just with family, around our dining table, after our holiday meal. But I guess it was the fact that I so wanted to finish that bottle, after everyone had left, and then even imagined opening another one, and finishing it, as well, that made me not drink that remaining glassful. And I want to be reminded of that craving, and how obsessive it was. For now, at least. Maybe that was why I keep it. I’m still not sure. Maybe I’m hoping to use it as vinegar in a few weeks, to clean the tub. We’ll see.

We opened my parents’ xmas parcel – it was “the world’s most challenging puzzle,” which W. immediately got busy with; and there were pencils with little glass builder’s levels inside, and xmas socks. You wouldn’t think techno-boys would be into xmas socks but they truly were, and they put them on right away. X. and I did a weird techno dance to loud music, wearing socks on our hands, and posted that to our “CanaDutchies” family WhatsApp chat. Good news is that most of my cousins probably assume I was high-functioning “tipsy,” as per usual on any party night, instead of momentarily high on life, but anyway.

I was thinking of how lame our New Year’s was, and wanting to improve it somehow (even though T. and the boys mostly thought it was fine). Then I had a wild, crazy, stupendous idea, and it didn’t even have anything to do with looking cool on social media: I suggested that at midnight, we do this revolutionary thing where instead of making noise, we all go outside and stand completely silent, listening to the twelve strikes of the village bell. If we listen well, especially on a misty evening, we can hear the village bell, about 3 km away, across our little valley, and the sound is something that I feel is under-appreciated and taken too much for granted, especially by us, the only immigrant suburban Canadians in the land. It’s an 800-year-old, beautiful, deep, tolling sound, for lack of a better word, that I feel connects everyone who hears it to one another, in that moment. And that’s what I wanted to achieve, for our family. I wanted to give them this gift of quiet connection that I have sometimes felt, when I allow myself to be quiet, and if I am very lucky, to also listen to the bell.

I explained it to them all, which took a while, since there is a lot of shouting, monkeying and wrestling that goes on in our little kitchen when we are all together. It also took a bit of shouting on my part, to be heard, over the din.

Some were reluctant and eye-rolling. But I said that after we listened to the bell, we could make as much noise as we want: bang pots and pans, shout “Happy New Year” and whatnot. All right, good. We had a bargain.

Yes I knew there would be other sounds: dogs barking from far away, fireworks in the distance, perhaps even remote, isolated groups of people like us, cheering, and so on. But I wanted us to just be silent, together, taking all that in, including any distant, surrounding noise, not made by us — for 12 seconds. Twelve strokes of the bell. Was that too much to ask?

It wasn’t too much too ask — we can never ask for too much — or can we? Either way, it was more than I would receive. And like the more-quasi-than-actual, attempted-awareness freak that I am, I got all PO’d and annoyed when T. (the only other adult, of all people), shouted, on the third strike of the bell, when all the kids had stopped shuffling and complaining, “Hey, there’s fireworks!”

But after my PO’d snarky comment (“Just 12 seconds. JUST TWELVE SECONDS!!! Was that too much to ask?!”) I went into the house to grab a bunch of pots and pans so we could all make noise, which is a Canadian tradition, or at least it was in my odd and fun little family of origin.

In so doing, and in my haste to get back to see the fireworks, I wildly grabbed a small pot off the stove which I’d thought was empty (we sometimes leave the pots to dry, on the stove, after washing them) and in so-doing, inadvertently flung a quart of oil onto the counter, the floor and onto my sweater, thereby proving myself clumsy even when not tipsy. It was the deep-frying oil that T had used for the olie-ballen (—long-cooled, thank goodness). So I missed most of the fireworks while cleaning that up. The floor looked nice and shiny afterwards. T. would be happy, I thought. Win-win.

I made it back out for the tail end of the fireworks, and handed out pots and pans, which the kids reluctantly took, at first (“uh, that’s lame,” said their body language) and then promptly went nuts on. And we stood on the street and banged with appreciation for the new neighbours, 1.5 km away, who had made such a brilliant fireworks display. And we banged so loud and cheerfully that they let off a few more, by way of encore. At least we like to think that’s why.

I must say that I was very annoyed by T’s out of tune singing at the top of his lungs, “We… want more fiiiiirrrre-woooorrrks. We waaant more fiiiiiiirrrrreworks. We want more fireworks…..” I didn’t mind the fact that it was out-of-tune, but I minded the fact that it was loud and obnoxious, so much so that I couldn’t fully enjoy the particular tonalities of the loudly banged pots and pans that I was banging on. But then, I am very sensitive to noise and have been, since childhood. I have a hard time tolerating anyone’s raucous noise except my own, turns out. So for me, even the pots-banging felt like another irritating “sober New Years’” disappointment. And yet, for some weird reason, I did NOT long to be at our old drinking buddies’ place, pounding drinks and laughing raucously around the bar. I swear I didn’t. Well actually I did. Pretty damned badly. But I knew how that ended as well. The night just devolves after midnight and yet I never want to leave, it’s never enough, and then in the morning it’s bloody hell, in my head.

What’s my point? My point is that our kids had olie ballen and banged pots and pans. These are cool kid things to do and they enjoyed it, even if they tried to act all cool about it. They were awake at midnight — and it wasn’t because mom and dad were partying with friends downstairs, while they played Minecraft upstairs till the younger ones begged to be tucked in. And that’s because I was allowing myself to suffer in the present moment, rather than allowing myself to escape it (and later regret the side effects).

Besides spending the actual moment of New Years present, or at least trying to be present, with my kids, here are the okay things about my newly “Aware” New Years:

Today, New Years’ Day, I don’t wonder ashamedly, worriedly, if I’d spilled deep-frying oil all over the place because I was tipsy. I am not cringing at the weird things I’d said or done socially (including posting that ridiculous dance video), whether face-to-face or on social media, the way I would have if I’d been drinking — not because they were much different from what my non-tipsy self did/didn’t do, but because instead of doing(/not doing) them or saying(/not saying) them through liquid courage (or cowardice), while “tipsy,” I’d done them or said them (or NOT done/said them) while fully “aware.”  No matter how boringly and irritatedly so. And, major bonus: I don’t have a headache to start off the New Year. And hey my chances improve for remaining free of cancer (particularly throat cancer) when I’m older. And hey my kids might learn that drinking to combat social anxiety at every social event, or even drinking to combat loneliness in the absence of social events, or to combat “boredom”/FOMO, doesn’t have to be the norm.

We can do hard things. We can have hard feelings and transform them – regularly or even permanently, not just fleetingly and drunkenly. And for now, anyway, we can avoid social situations if they make us anxious, while we attempt to get more Aware.

One last crappy thing though: I discover, the next morning, upon looking at my frighteningly midlife face in the mirror, I still have giant bags under my eyes. Welcome to the world of blogging addiction.

So there you have, it, folks: the combined crappiness and okay-ness of an intentionally sober/Aware New Years.’

How was your New Years’? “Aware” or not, I’ll love to hear about it. As long as it sucked at least a little. 😉

Xo Love n


Image source: knowyourmeme.com

Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. If you wish to contribute and/or show appreciation, please recommend/like and/or comment — or send a quick email via the contact page. Thank you for reading. 🖤

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