A new year is just around the corner… time to reflect in silent meditation on the past months and conjure up resolutions for the new year.
What is a new year’s resolution? A decision to do or not to do something, to accomplish a personal goal or break a habit?
Have you ever had luck with keeping up new year´s resolutions in the past? I haven´t, and I don´t think I know anybody who ever stuck to their resolution past a few weeks. Lose weight, exercise more. No more alcohol. That one tends to stick till Valentine's Day, and then: pop goes the champagne.
If you ask me, new year´s resolutions are nothing but a catalog of our own personal dissatisfactions.
Let me rummage my drawers of last month’s ruminations. In many languages, the word for suffering and love are the same. I don´t know if the way of words can ever really be pure. Language is just a dream of movement, and I struggle to catch the words.
I have been feeling stagnant and stunted through the last year. If I may release my ego´s need to defend itself a little (it fosters a need to live in alignment): there´s still a virus going around spreading sickness and even death.
I might want to give some thought to areas of my life I have to infuse with energy. Open my mind and explore new ideas.
No! No resolutions for me this year. Instead, I´m making an intention to focus on passion and authenticity. I am ready to break free!
I´m never where I want to be. I always have the feeling somehow that I should be somewhere else. Right now, I live in a country, it turns out, as foreign to me as Uruguay or the planet Mars. Well, it´s more here, than on the red planet. Or maybe the comparison is wrong: like comparing a strait waistcoat to a panty girdle.
No kindred spirit around. I feel isolated. There are days where I wish I don´t understand the language. I could assign the shortcomings of my assimilation to a trick of grammar instead of what I know is to blame on my stubborn, unmistakeable, unfailing me-ness which hangs over me like a bald neon diner sign.
I never think of myself as particularly anything specific, but here it seems to be my most defining character trait.
I take sideway statements of sarcasm head-on. (In earnest, I never have been able to appreciate sarcasm). I laugh too loudly and too long at offhand comments. Somebody asks how I am; I answer in a stream of consciousness. (Too honest, too eager, too keen to share.)
At restaurants I am considered a minor nightmare: I want my sauce on the side, substitute fries, and may God forgive me: send the steak back if it´s bleeding, which in this country it almost always is. (I truly and honestly cannot help it).
I go out of my way to be utterly oblivious to the subtle judgemental statements that pass around me, yet terribly obvious when I make my own. My goals, all of which, of course, are unattainable and unseeingly to discuss. No need to go on about self-improvement.
Once I thought of myself as shy and quiet. The observant type. But here I translate into a brash and demanding person. Let me recapitulate that for you: I am deluded, egomaniacal and a dreamer.
I should have had a guide to the covert intimacies of the Germans. It would have made my life easier. I was baffled by the ease with which they categorize each other before they ever speak a single word. You won´t probably believe this, but I have seen – with my own eyes- somebody correctly predict across a room, another’s educational background. (From childhood onward). The upside-down language they use to indicate approval “Das wird reichen” (This should do) or disdain “Sie ist total lieb” (She’s so sweet), tended to get under my skin, but I learned to ignore that.
Lately, I got to educate myself in the paradoxical mix of socialized medicine and affordable education, in a society that never stops to emphasize the importance of knowing. (See covid epidemic.) And! Sticking to one’s place.
I found a book on a bookshelf once. The brief back cover on the paperback promised sweat, sexual ecstasy, anguish… I went through the novel, too outdated to be back in fashion, out of boredom. And believe it or not, I was shocked into recognition. In the narrations of the lines of every chapter, I read my own choices. I could even hear them. I saw a shape of my longing and confusion. The eternity of out-of-pattern decisions, the dangerous hunger for uncertainty, constant measurements of distances.
An ambitious heroine can never derail if the tracks are not laid. The writer didn´t believe in principle, more I believe, in instinct as a principle. And if I follow the same philosophy as the book, my living here, cannot be described as the accidental tensions of women whose education outpaced the range of their choices. An accidental catalyst of life moved into alien territory, but a result of character. I think the writer didn´t believe in free will as such.
This book from the 1970s sparked something in me. An idea of what I long to become.
Did I come to love the Germans? No, not really. I slightly upgraded an appreciation. (Just don´t let them hear it).
The more likable ones often hide their flaws in a confusing blur, which used to drive me mad daily. I came to look upon these glimpses as bright spots against a grey sky, a delicious barbarism. A vision of another world, where violent emotions transform into a thing of beauty. Where this ever to break the dams, it would put my bravado to shame.
I came to realize that my me-quality, I have blamed my sense of isolation on, is, in fact, a distraction from another experience, a more common one in women of my age, or any age for that matter: the urge to fight and disturb the mold of one´s life as it sets.
My ambitions now are to become the patron saint of sudden confidence. That little book helped me keep faith in those momentary illuminations of German feeling and make me come to terms with the two edges of the same sword: the feeling of being trapped, displaced and untethered. I started to be aware of the small payoffs you get if you´re a woman in any situation you have chosen for yourself, impossible or otherwise. At least from time to time that I would never get where I not so displaced: the momentary illusion of a ship signaling in the dark.
Maybe it´s self-soothing or compensation. Or it´s a lesson in learning to love the inevitable.
My purpose is not to pander for validity or likability, and certainly not to keep people comfortable- nor is it to wear myself down or to shrink.
One day in Nürnberg I met a street performer, with a guitar in his hand, performing his routine. It was very hot that day. I stood by in the crowd and watched him play, His music reached out to me. I made my way through the crowd and dropped some change for his effort in an open guitar case. He looked and smiled at me with gratitude. After that, the melody of his music changed. It was magical! I closed my eyes and was transported to bourbon street in New Orleans with its jazz and risqué floor shows, conjuring up unbridled passion, engulfed in the scent of jasmine coming from the Bayswater. Such a delightful, sweet fragrance. I let myself sink slowly into its depths and all my worries and voices in my head went silent.
I was swept back when he stopped playing. But I hummed his tune for the rest of the day.
No resolutions for me this year. I intend to be my most authentic self. It is my intention to live in a way that makes sense to me: to dance, even when the world decides to turn the music off!
Happy New Year.