This has been a quiet year, a private 2011, a passage of time tucked away, mostly. And already here is 2012 – to keep making this life, to gather new bits, and to figure out what matters and what doesn’t as best I can.
I self-servingly love year-end retrospectives for their future use, to see where I was in a moment long gone. To examine the ways that I was different from me, now, and what caught the light; whether it still catches.
There’s a line from Anatole France, about change and and its inherent melancholy, “for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” We all from time to time want to dichotomize in this way – to cleanly sever who we are now from who we were then. We’re shamed by our greener selves, we selectively remember the bits that pit us against her, we may wish away the actions (and inaction) that led to here. This space provides a record to guard against false memory. I’m kinder toward who I was a year, two years, three years ago because I kept note. Having time in writing shows that while last year’s me was someone else, I can’t dismiss her. I still carry a lot of her inside.
Here are some ideas that caught my light in 2011. As always, thank you for reading along another year.
Some things I wrote in 2011
From dime stores spring prehistoric wrapping paper and notebooks filled with family history. Stuff, unexamined. We assign value in the game of toss or keep, but value is driven by meaning and context and future memories. Objective assessment is impossible. How do we separate the trinkets from the treasures, so the best recipes don’t get thrown away?
But nothing is shameful about setting goals and starting anew, however arbitrary January 1 is as a beginning. In a way, I think my humble, pared-down kitchen fare has been an unintentional resolution of sorts: to eat simply, to make uncomplicated and delicious food, and to honour my body.
Perhaps it is a product of my particular breed of introversion, but I don’t dream of becoming a mom like many women I know. If anything, the notion of responsibility for another life makes me want to run far, far away from the opposite sex. I have terrible fears of dropping babies or stepping on them or the worst case: not knowing how to love them right.
Our teenage protagonist might attend a concert and end up backstage, where the lead singer sees her through the crowd love-at-first-sight and whisks her away, happily ever after. Teenage dreams, with lots of adjectives.
Have you ever followed closely someone’s movements – watched how he lifts a utensil, the way he switches off knife and fork, or how he places the napkin when he leaves the table? That we each cradle a water glass or clink to a toast differently?
But it is helpful that most days I’d rather grocery shop and cook and eat what I’ve made at my own table. Cooking is really the best hobby, no? I mean – we have to feed ourselves, anyway – usually three times a day. Three occasions to satisfy our needs exactly as we please. That’s pretty fantastic.
Train 79 (December)
He will smile and wink and tell you he’s not supposed to refill your coffee cup. But he will anyway. And you thank him, because the coffee on Train 79 is not the murky dishwater that non-train-takers would expect to find aboard.
Some things I read in 2011
All the Single Ladies by Kate Bolick, The Atlantic (November)
What my mother could envision was a future in which I made my own choices. I don’t think either of us could have predicted what happens when you multiply that sense of agency by an entire generation.
Do you Suffer from Decision Fatigue? by John Tierney, The New York Times Magazine (August)
Remember that Jewish Israeli prisoner who appeared at 3:10 p.m. and was denied parole from his sentence for assault? He had the misfortune of being the sixth case heard after lunch. But another Jewish Israeli prisoner serving the same sentence for the same crime was lucky enough to appear at 1:27 p.m., the first case after lunch, and he was rewarded with parole. It must have seemed to him like a fine example of the justice system at work, but it probably had more to do with the judge’s glucose levels.
Healthy is not Enough by Allison, Always Something (November)
I was eight both the first time I called myself a feminist, and the first time I cried because my stomach stuck out… My mixed ideologies meant I would be a modern, working woman who was empowered, but I would also be thin and lovely.
The Possibilian by Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker (April)
If Eagleman’s body bears no marks of his childhood accident, his mind has been deeply imprinted by it. He is a man obsessed by time. As the head of a lab at Baylor, Eagleman has spent the past decade tracing the neural and psychological circuitry of the brain’s biological clocks.
What Kind of Happy are You? by Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts (December)
It’s not an exultant kind of happiness. It feels more like a marveling at the fragile beauty of the human condition, and a pleasure in having someone articulate it so sensitively.
The Wedding by Shannalee T’Koy Mallon, Food Loves Writing (November)
…and I held his hand and I looked at his ring and I called him my husband and he called me his wife, and we knew this was big, this day, this commitment, this new family we had made. And just like that, it was over. Or just like that, it begun.
Champagne flute in hand – see you in 2012!
Previous years-in-review on anthimeria.com
Warm thanks for the above images, all on Flickr: