Look-Backs, interrupted

Naturally, a day that comes around only once every four years is a day that gets people thinking about where they were in their life the last time this day came around. I've seen some great posts about it -- particularly this one from Mandy Hubbard, a must-read for writers (especially those of us on submission) -- but the funny thing is, I simply can't remember. Previous Leap Days seem to no longer be stored in my brain. I do Look-Backs a lot. I had a particularly vivid Cinqo de Mayo one year, and I remember marking the moment in my head that night and wondering where I'd be the next Cinqo de Mayo, how my life would be different; if. I have this compulsion to track progress, to say things like, "Here I am today, which is weird, because there I was at this time last week." Like this past Sunday at 7:15pm when I looked at the clock and noted to myself that it'd been exactly a week, to the minute, since I got mugged. "Remember those moments before it happened?" I thought. "Remember how different I was, just a week ago?" (The answer: not very.)

Anyway. The strange thing about today is that I can't do a Look-Back to last Leap Day. Because I don't remember marking it at all. In fact, I have no memories of any earlier Leap Days whatsoever.

So, to rectify that:

  • I wore a new dress today, thinking I'd be at a luncheon that I ended up skipping. It's gray and smooth.
  • I smiled a goodbye to my sleeping boyfriend this morning, who looked so intensely comfortable it made me hiccup.
  • It's raining, and already feels like spring, and the corner bodega was selling small cartons of tulips in pastel foil wrappings, and it made me think of my mother.
  • Tonight I have a girls' dinner with my favorites, and we'll huddle under a roof and toast ourselves.

There. Now I can remember this Leap Day for when the next one comes in 2016.

Goodbye, hello

I'm back in New York today, and it feels like an abandoned library, quiet and dusty, like someone forgot to put out the “closed until the New Year” sign on the bridges and tunnels. And I am okay with that. I love working the week between Christmas and New Year's. Really. I turn on some music and clean my office – physically and digitally – and try to shore things up and get new things started. So maybe this is the emo music Pandora is playing for me right now (live "Landslide" cover from the Dixie Chicks…live "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" cover from the Indigo Girls…you understand, surely), but I’m feeling…pensive? Contemplative? Moody and swoony at once?...as I try to nail down the feeling this time of year always brings.

Last week I finished something big, and am using this time to catch up on the rest of my life, on the books I can rarely ever read without guilt (I should always be doing Something Else with my time, after all), the shows I kept DVRing, which forced me to dodge spoilers on Twitter, the clothes I kept meaning to put away, the floors I kept meaning to sweep, the emails I kept meaning to write. This week, I shall do All the Things.

Meanwhile, I will wait for it to get cold. I want to see my breath puff out in the shape of my words. I want to wear my puffy coat. I want to start longing for warmth.

And meanwhile again, I will send a little thank you to the stars for making 2011 a year to remember, and I'll start suspecting that 2012 will be the best year yet, because they all seem to just be getting better.

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The art of letters

As with most things in my life, I go through phases when it comes to writing Christmas letters. This year, I'm back on the horse, inspired by some beautiful cards I found at a shop in Hoboken, where three separate sales clerks asked me in a span of 75 seconds whether I needed any help (the answer all three times was no). I've spent the past few days choosing my list, choosing which card goes to whom, choosing my words. Choosing, at its most basic, whether I wanted to be sentimental or not; whether this was a time for saying I love you, I miss you, thanks for a great year, my life is complete because of you. I bought a silver pen, thick and fluid, which looks amazing against the red envelopes but a bit dim on the white ones. I am sorry to those of you for whom I chose the white cards over the red. You are missing out on some gorgeous ink.

There is something about writing things down on paper that feels more risky than it used to. Several times I started a message and then went to erase it before forgetting I couldn't. I am so used to writing on screens and deleting at will and never needing to commit to my words until I'm ready to hit the Send button that I froze; the meanings I meant to convey may have gotten muddled as a result. But the cards are stamped and sealed, and I don't even remember what I said in them, and there's now no way for me to check.

How did we all used to survive like this?

As I was scribbling them the other night, I told B. I wished I had been a Victorian lady so I could write letters all day, just spinning exhortations about missing friends and lovely years and taking turns around the garden, which I would surely have if I were a Victorian lady. After a beat, he burst into laughter and told me that was the most untrue statement I've ever made.

I think it was a compliment.

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It's the most wonderful time of the year

I am sitting here researching pie recipes for Thanksgiving. The house across the street has twinkling lights strung up over its windows. This week I'll drive out to my sister's place in PA, which feels like such a holiday thing to say, where a big group of 20+ of us will enjoy each other's company (and, hopefully, enjoy some delicious pie) and toast our gratitude and shower kisses on the babies.

I am an autumnal, wintry lady, one who feels most like herself when the leaves have turned and begun falling; when frozen sparkles have formed on car windshields and my scarves have formed a messy burst of colors on the floor of my coat closet. (Or, perhaps I just need to clean out my coat closet.) So this week and next, this line between one holiday and another, one season and another, has always felt like it was meant for me. I float through it, hug everyone a little tighter, and hurt my cheeks from smiling so much.

I have a crazy amount of things to be thankful for. That has always been the case, but it feels even more true this year. Yesterday I was speaking at a conference for students and stumbled over my words for a moment as I tried not to say "Well, I'm just a lucky person" while explaining my career path. Because, while I believe that's true, there's also work involved, and an attitude, and a required perspective. K. likes to enforce the Thanksgiving rule of everyone announcing one thing they're thankful for this year before we break bread, and if we do that this year, I will have too much to say and will have to skip my turn.

Plus, it's always hard to top my cousin J.'s answer from 2006-ish. "What am I thankful for this year?" She said. "One Tree Hill. It was a great season."

Let's see what show she invokes this year.

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