From Tufts to Ashes…Happy New Year!

January 1, 2011

I sat in the car and looked at the doleful and derelict landscape on the drive back from Viroqua to Chicago. It wasn’t actually derelict. It just looked like it. Because I was in the funk.

The weather has been pretty warm the last couple of days, melting the snow and allowing grey tufts of grass to poke out of the now illusive snow sheet. And then there was the fog. Thin enough to allow sinister silhouettes to creep up the forlorn scenery. I could almost pretend to be in Cormac McCarthy’s purgatorial setting in The Road. Of course being in the car with four other individuals confabulating with each other did not help. Nonethelss, I noticed that if I held my nose between my thumb and forefinger and blew hard enough, I can almost entirely block all sounds (since I already don’t hear very well). Incidentally I could have also blow my eardrum out, but it seemed worth it at the time. If I squinted, the grass tufts easily turned into ashes and the fog into smoke. It helped that the car air was impregnated with the usual smoky scent – a skill car heaters seemed (to me at least) to be particularly proficient in.

The car ride was actually rather pleasant and delightfully uneventful, but I was in the kind of funk that turned tufts to ashes. You see, it was New Year’s eve  and I knew I was about to spend it alone in my Chicago apartment. When I first came to this realization a week or so ago it brought tears of self-pity to my eyes. I quickly however reconciled and decided to enjoy my time in lovely rural Wisconsin with the Agars and view my New Year’s ordeal as a challenge. Yesterday, the day before The Eve, in my desperation I texted a bunch of friends to see if anyone was around the Chicago area for Tonight. Some weren’t, some were. Of those who were, one replied asking if I would like to join him for a movie and some fireworks-watching afterwards. I said I would love to and felt slightly better knowing that I wasn’t going to be entirely alone.

That said, during the car ride today I realized I wasn’t actually looking forward to the hassle of rushing home then rushing out and being stuck in downtown mayhem. I was relieved because I had a story to tell for how I spent my first New Year’s in Chicago. But the truth is, I would much rather stay at home, watch a movie, possibly two, order a pizza, dance a little, and write this entry. But then an image of a tsk-tsking Nary clapping one palm against the other in exasperation and disbelief, as if she was brushing dirt off of her hands, popped into my head. It’s New Year’s eve ya dina, you’r in the US and you’re staying home?!?!?! Go to a party, go out, do something! I would imagine her saying. Nary’s voice echoed in my head and with it the voices of Ahmed, my brother, and most of my friends who would think the idea of my staying home on New Year’s insufferably lame.

Waves of shame doused the former thrill of my stay-in plan and a state of mental abomination ensued bringing forth the funk that turned tufts to ashes.

The inner struggle continued until I realized that if I actually do end up going out, I would only do it because it would sound cooler, or at least less lame, than saying I spent my New Year’s alone in my apartment. Especially when, in this neck of the woods, Par-tay seems to be everyone’s modus Vivendi. I would have had fun if I was in sokhna with my family and close group of friends swimming and playing Bocca in the morning, Boggle and Pictionary in the evening. We would go for walks and chat, joke and reminisce and maybe even do fireworks. And that I wish I had right now. But I refuse to compensate for that by just going out with anyone and doing anything, at the expense of my comfort and my enjoyment, just to say I did something and because what I actually felt like doing is considered lame by other people’s standards.

And so here I am. In Chicago. And thrilled to be here too. No funk. Tufts and ashes gladly joined forces to write this entry making me a happier me. I unpacked, ordered a pizza, danced to the booty-shaking beats of The Cat Empire, watched The Road (which is a brilliant but bleak story about a nuclearly-bombed future where cannibalism proliferated and humanity did not. Not super New Year-y but I felt like it and so it was. I liked the book better.) and am writing this entry. And I have never felt better. OK fine that’s a lie. Clearly I’ve felt better at other points in my life. I miss my family and friends and other people. But still. I am perfectly contented. And I even have a new year’s resolution. I never do resolutions but a certain car conversation brought it to mind and I decided to do a silly, but (I think) important one. Being a timid and socially awkward being, I have never really danced in public (except in Kazakhstan where no one knew me and I knew no one so I was free to evolve beyond my self-inflicted limitations. I also had a bried period of belly-dancing in my early adolescence, but I don’t want to talk about that. I can’t even believe I wrote that on my blog). Point is, I have always been self-conscious to the point of absurdity. So I decided that this year, I should, at least once, dance in public in front of people who actually know me! I’m flushing just thinking of it!

It is almost 11 pm now and I still have an hour in this year. And I’m going to go spend it blissfully watching a light-hearted animated movie that I have never seen before (Cars) and thinking of all the people I love and am grateful to have in my life, if not in my vicinity. Happy New Year everyone!

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