I believe a lot in the little things--the little things people say or the little things they do; a few hours that you can catch every sensation of during a really, really good day; the feeling of inspiration or of awe just as it dawns (and I truly, truly love that feeling).
I also believe a lot in little, personal accomplishments. Things you are glad, or relieved or truly contented at doing. Because I believe these things - the things that sometimes matter to no-one else but you - are so often the things which change your attitude or alter your mindset. They are the things, the tools, to really filter and sift our pessimism. (And I am guilty of pessimism, and the fear it breeds, all too often).
As this year comes to a close, I thought I'd share twenty things, twenty things which matter to me (and probably nobody else) that I am happy to have achieved this year.
(And because I am twenty - soon to be twenty-one -I also call this list: 20 Things You Have Done Whilst You Are Twenty).
1. Seen Regina Spektor live.
2. Visited Cambridge.
3. Learned to bake (and vowed, always, to keep on learning).
My sister refers to these days teasingly* as 'crimbo limbo'. They are days when everyone positions themselves in celebration, yet waits for their end. The long, languid evenings are savoured, yet their end awaited with expectancy. With their passing, a better, brighter and more beautiful start can appear.
I am included in every aspect of this. I am enjoying the rest and the physical, mental and dietary laziness** these days allow. And yet everyday I find myself storing activities in my brain - hopes, wishes, goals - I want to start in the next few weeks; the activities I want to start 2011 with, as I mean to go on.
But really, I could do all of these things now. I could exercise my brain and my body in the ways I intend; I could begin visiting the places I want to see or learning and using words I feel I have lost. I do not need the first of a new month. The date is not something I need to strive towards--it is, instead, motivation.
There is a difference, though, between realisation and actualisation. The distinction, with its differences enclosed, has never felt so prominent.
*It is a running joke in my family to pronounce my favourite words incorrectly or play on linguistical pet-peeves. Thus, 'Christmas' is shortened to "crimbo", 'specific' to "pacific" etc. I am a little bit of a nerd, you know.
Yesterday my (all-above-the-age-of-twenty) family and I spent the day in our pyjamas. We gave, we received, we relaxed. Then we giggled at a tipsy game of Balderdash and curled into bed.
I was unable to spend it, in physicality, with my love, but knowing that I am spending this, a third Christmas, with him is wonderful enough. (Having said that, I will always, always look forward to the day when we spend it together, becoming the tying ribbon between two families.)
My family and I have never had a Boxing Day tradition, so today I will spend it tidying the bedroom I have lately neglected. I have new Penguin postcards I want to stick on my wall and books I need to arrange; I have a doll's house I need to place by the wall (thank-you, my love, for the part of a girl's childhood I never received) and clothes, un-ironed, I need to put away. They don't feel like the most festive of tasks, but today, I really couldn't be happier doing them.
These few days are made up of contentment and happiness--and yet there is a swirl of emotion (of reflection, nostalgia and of not taking things for granted) that is dancing, delicately, upon the surface.
(Christmas could not be Christmas without cake. Home-made, iced by hand).
I sure hope you have had a wonderful Christmas wherever you are and throughout whatever pursuits are filling your days.
I have pretty much finished all my Christmas shopping.
I just have writing, painting and wrapping to do. Oh, and baking (quite a lot of baking). I wish I had had more time and made more effort to give home-made gifts...
This year I feel like I have been a little slack on presents, but I keep reminding myself that everyone will have something under the tree. Perhaps it is because I have restricted myself to useful presents or split the cost between others that a sense of decadence has been lost. I would rather this, though - I would rather the presents I give will last long into the year.*
This week was the first time I ever truly tried automatic writing.
And I wasn't supposed to be.
When asked to write like Gertrude Stein - with attention not to semantics, but to sound - it was the only method I could find.
And because it was automatic, I am a little less shy about sharing.
A box is made of the things inside it. No future, only past, pass, passed between times. It is the cave stocked full of prized possessions, memories too endangered to fall, fall, fall out of mind.
Nature melted and solidified, shaped and sculptured. It is all taste from one palette and texture from the sun. The comforted dilation of one nostril, a swimming tongue, a tightened tooth. Metallic sounds of a baking tray; tickled heat; diluted. There is expansion and a rise; a swell over a paper casing.
Social interaction is bottled, bunged. A staining of colour undertaken in a darkened room. Why can we not see its immortalisation? Precision reduced to a square frame captured by a sound that clicks and flashes. The senses are blurred, lines crossed, lanes swerved. We do not know what it will see or where we will be when we see it. It is guestimation, a random act of natural kindness.
A blue vein, a black bladder. Possibility poised against a paper ledger.
Jerk its movements. Repeat, repeat, repeat into the peat of a wall.
It is teak.
Or pine? You don’t know, can’t know, can’t count the rings of the trunk buried in the earth. The earth of our God, your God, my God. The earth of the earth that we both walk upon. Bare feet, two feet, six feet under.
It is brown marbled softly across a skeleton stern with your lazy effort. A posture perfected over years of doing the same thing once, twice, three times. All it sees is different carpet, tile, floor. Its legs break, never under weight, but of age. A snap and a break, splintered like the twig of the branch it birthed from.
I probably won't be posting tomorrow simply because I have two essays to write and edit in three days. (And two seminars, under-prepared for).
I promised that I wouldn't allow myself to feel festive until after my assignments are finished.
And yet, with the household Christmas tree up, a Christmas dinner and dance and the annual charity Santa visiting our neighbourhood already over, I have only written two paragraphs of one (of three) essays.
And then, as a sort of last-ditch attempt to motivate myself to cross the literary bridge to the festive season, I watched this.
I will watch it again next week, when all is handed in and work on my Christmas crafts can begin.
Today I was over-sensitive, under-prepared, naive.
I hadn't yet experienced writing criticism quite so threateningly; I hadn't heard my sentences aloud, in someone else's voice; I hadn't seen the impression that my words gave, the one of cliché and prediction and of not quite making it. And for the few minutes that followed the wrath of critical words and disappointed expression, I didn't know how to react - I didn't know what I was expected to say (do you defend or agree, contest or concede?) or where I was supposed to look.
There was a falter and a deliberation.
Because it wasn't about conceit or arrogance or even pretension. It wasn't about being awarded a higher grade or a worthier compliment, it was simply a case of understanding. Without it, no artist, no academic, no real worker can ever improve.*
So maybe in reading out my sentences, the ones which did not quite flow in a tone of voice which was not quite real, a lesson was forced. Because as much as it stung, scratching at the surface of a pedestalled dream, it showed me just how high and how sought after that very pedestal is.