This is the true dawn of auld age: when Hogmanay becomes an opportunity to sit in a grim-faced determination not to cry, as opposed to an excuse for the hoose to become party-central.
I remember my Mother succumbing to this noli me tangere- ness – and feeling this boiling impotent rage with her that she could be so selfish as to waste our (my) party-feeling.
It’s crept up on me. Gradually seeping into the cracks and crevices left by regrets and sorrows and just the sheer weight of memory.
Until it is now this deep, backward-looking sadness that consumes.
So I spent the hour before midnight feeling embittered. Twisting in an incomprehensible wrath about life – life that dared to take people I loved and that seemed hell bent on proving that there was no hope.
That’s what New Year is, increasingly.
I’ve reached that mental fulcrum – the tipping point where there is more stretching out behind than stretching out before. It’s an accumulation – an accretion – of loss and of memory. I’ve done more than I can ever do again. The largest part is gone. And whilst I’m not advocating shuffling off I’m aware that there is more painful loss ahead. That makes hope a bit of a bugger to cling onto.
But I do. I did. Eventually.
Megan and Robert pressurised me into going down to the Square for the Bells and fireworks. I went with a bad heart.
And stood on the cusp of the crowd, feeling like the unwelcome witch at a christening; the ghost of Christmas past; a ghoul. The deliberate cheering and toasting happiness surrounding me triggering only a deep resentment and increasing this sadness. I was dark and brimful of spitefulness and just wanting to be gone up the road. When my aunt embraced and kissed me with the traditional ‘Happy New Year!’ I felt the surging want to cry or run away.
I think it was for Iain who was gone. Iain who could be a bastard curmudgeon but was precious. It was for Erin who smiles through her leukaemia – but it is not fair, not fair at all that she has to suffer. It was for the end of a difficult year.
I’ve heard – too often this year – that it is darkest just before the dawn.
One of those cliches said when we don’t know what else to say or how else to console.
In so many ways this year has felt like one long night.
All the things I’d previously held onto being carried away in one long powerful egress. Like the things that made me me had been exhaled. Spat out.
I’m ashamed now by the faith with which I’d held onto ‘political solutions’. By my refusal to accept that there was not one perfect answer out there, somewhere which would prove our social saviour – if we (I) just looked hard enough and thought long enough. Or by what surely is just a wilfully stubborn refusal to own and accept the inevitable: that our children have to make their own way and in doing so they move on, leaving us behind.
Or even just by the everydayness which I allowed myself to escape into.
I know there’s a time for us all (numerous times for us all) to take stock and to review. New Year’s as good a time as any. Though I’d much prefer getting rat-arsed drunk and rolling into bed around 7am (as we’ve always previously done).
The walk to the Square was enough to shake me out of the miserableness. Though it was a deathly quiet one we all had. Dougal first-footing us at 1.30am and staying until 3am.
There will be other times I’ll feel as angry with myself and the world. It would be daft to think there won’t be. And those times have their uses.
Today I sit in a cold house, hugging the oil-filled radiator (because if I light the wood-burner it’ll smoke me out of the living-room), writing this between work calls and feeling old but grateful.
Because that review was also an accounting.
I am alive and like the world. What I have or face – well, it is of my own making. And I’ll be dead for long enough.
So now is for living, not lamenting.
Plenty folk will have sung out the old year with Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’. This ‘Selkirk Grace’ is attributed to him – and it fits my mood (if not my belief system).
I am thankit.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.