All photos in this post by Jolie Griffin

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity . . .
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
                         – T.S. Eliot (Little Gidding I & II)

Here it is: 2011.  2010 is gone . . . even though everything that happened in that upturned year of my life is still holding me afloat in this new one.  Whether afloat is a sign of surviving or a sign of still being kicked around by the tide is a matter of moment by moment opinion.  I am half gone from this city I love, half done with things I should have lined up or finished weeks ago, half submerged in a whole new unknown job, foot half out the door of the one here in Portland, half-insane for allowing myself to fall in love in a time marked only by departure and distance, half-cocked in this half-packed house that is driving one of my dogs into full-blown anxiety. I have half a dozen half-finished blog posts because I can’t seem to sit long enough to finish any given one – my mind a half-blown tool scattered too wide.  I am more than half happy and more than half sad and am unable to figure out how both of those things can be true – but find I am mostly unwilling to try too hard to unpack that puzzle. I am both. I just am. In nearly overwhelming amounts.

But I am here: standing, living, falling when I thought maybe I could no longer find that place, grieving so many things that might not even deserve to be grieved but that gently break my heart nonetheless.  My sister is alive and learning how to live.  My family is, mostly, in tact and pulling together, readying for a geography that feels a lot like love. I have so many, many friends who are each such crazy, loving, reachable people that I sometimes dizzy with the thought of all of them – swaying closer, swaying further, but always orbiting and circling and checking in.  I have so many people that I don’t know what to do with my love for them – but even if nearly overcome by it, will not bear the giving up of them in any way except the most necessary – a move away from a handful of people who have been my most tapped touchstones, my sturdiest anchors when I was seasick and green.  The ones who help me through even when they don’t lend an ear, even when I don’t ask them to, even when they have no idea that they are helping – by being, by caring, by existing.  I am the most broke I have been in a long, long time and yet I don’t, in the most cliche of ways, feel poor.
Maybe because there is too much going on, too much in my brain, too much loss and love (new and old and vanishing) in my heart . . . maybe because of all this, I let midnight on the 31st pass without my usual thoughtful reflection of the year that came before and the intentional framing of how I would face the next one. A tried and true ritual where I pause to orient myself, to understand, to make sense and then turn to face the new year. Probably because this is all I have done in the last year I didn’t even think to stop, to pause and reflect, during those last few days of December.  Perhaps I have done so much of that thinking and crying and wishing and planning and mourning so that all I have left to do is step into this year. Walk into it. As bravely and as fearlessly and as boldly as I can.  I have never been one for lukewarm emotions or lukewarm intentions – so here I am 2011.  Don’t do me wrong.  I will wear you out with fun if you let me. I will love you like mad if you just treat me right.  Listen to Pat Benatar.  She is wiser than you might know.

Last week, I drove past the patch of land that was my cafe and was taken back, physically and emotionally, to last January.  To holding the drill in my hand and setting it on counter-clockwise and reversing every 2″ wood screw out of the back wall, pulling apart the intricately puzzled pieces of doors. To climbing up on the step ladder to reach the pieces from the top of the dividing wall whose screws were stripped.  To taking the claw end of the hammer and leveraging myself, carefully, balanced precariously on a thin strip of flimsy metal, slowly ripping each wooden piece from the frame.  I could feel the weighing out of each item – to keep, to sell, to give away.  Each thing a specific memory – not simply a pale green demitasse, but the exact one I chose, bought and unpacked and washed and placed beneath a portafilter spout to watch for the perfect wobbly stream of espresso and crema – a cream tinged deep amber dancing against the heat and water and air. I could feel the exact pounds of each table as my last trusty barista and I carried them out to the sidewalk and set up to sell it all off – this place I had made and was only a little sad to leave.
I remembered feeling the weight of it, even then.  The significance of that change – pulling apart what I had made and what had failed – had failed to succeed, to thrive, to make me happy, to give me the freedom I wanted.  I knew, in every dismantling moment, that I was in the middle of an enormous shift in my life.  I was making decisions, I was making changes, I was crafting a whole new life.  I knew what I was doing and thought I knew, mostly, what was to come.  
But I didn’t.  I had no idea. Not a clue.  Events unfolded, moments happened, that flipped everything upside down and sent me sailing through the kind of choices that leave nothing unturned.  I thought of that woman, poised to change her life, and almost laughed at how little she imagined she was about to change.  I laugh at how half-ass that kind of change would have been compared to the actual tumbling of 2010 as it wore away the outer layer of pretty much everything I thought I knew. The skin rashing slide against the pavement of last year’s circumstances. The turmoil about to push that woman through months and months of gut wrenching choices.
She was ready.  For what she didn’t even know was coming.  

So I give up, this year, on guessing what will be next year. I feel much the same this January as I did last.  A lot of the very same motions as I pack up my house and my memories and my stuff – touching it all and remembering so much more than I may want to in any given moment. I stop myself when I start to imagine – as I did exactly one year ago – that the beginning of this year will be rough, will mean changes and sadness and loss, but also gain and intention and love. Yes – the beginning will surely mean all of those things.  But as to what else?  I can’t know.  And I can’t bear to think it will be a repeat of 2010 in any significant way, but I will sail forward into that possibility, unlocked.  I will walk forward – toward it – and trust that 2011 will at least be quieter.  Will at least be simpler, even if only slightly.  Will at least be as much laughing as I somehow fit into that treacherous year of my life that has finally ended. I am a weather vane without direction, but I can sway and point and shift.  I am ready.  For whatever.  


So here’s a toast to this new year:

May you laugh with me or at me or next to me.  May we cry only when it’s really necessary and then, as often as possible, together – whether in print or in spirit or holding each other through sobs.  May we drink until our toes hurt but never ever have to hold each other’s hair back – because we are, really, way too old for that.  But may we never feel so old that we forget who we were and who we can always be – those girls, those boys, those children who railed against the world, but trusted each other implicitly – with our lives, with our hearts and with our bodies.  May we close the gaps time has created and help each other stitch the cuts that appear this year, suture them for each other when it can’t be done ourselves, gently press the skin together and hold it there to make the smallest, faintest scar possible.  May we love – long and hard and fast – with all of the weight we can give it.  May we live – another year, another ring beneath our bark, another line on our face, our flesh another inch closer to the ground.  

Raise a glass to yourself – raise it to your people – raise it to the world that can not stop spinning.  Raise it to the difference you have made for me – last year and probably many before. To the difference you will surely make for me this year and so, so many more to come. Here we are, 2011. Salud.