Gone in Sixty Seconds

New Year’s Eve.  You either love it or you hate it.

I love it.

The haters have their reasons.  NYE creates too much must-have-fun pressure.  It’s expensive.  It’s cheesy.

I don’t disagree.  I’ve just been really lucky.  Despite the pressure, the mandatory cheesiness, and the stupid amount of money I spend every year, I’ve never had a bad NYE.  I had one super lame one (last year), but since Husband and I went into the night planning for it to turn out exactly the way it did (in bed at my parents’ house by 10:45), the lameness wasn’t the least bit disappointing.

But as much as I look forward to and love December 31st — in all its pressure-filled, expensive, cheesy glory — I’m solidly ambivalent about the last sixty seconds of the night.

It happens every year:  the moment the clock turns to 11:59, I feel this intense urge to stop time.  Or, at least, to pause it.  Of course I can’t, which makes the experience intensely unsettling.

And yet, at the same time, I also feel an internal drum roll, a crescendo, a mounting enthusiasm about the prospect of the coming year.  As the second hand creeps closer to 12, I am increasingly confident — certain! — that THIS YEAR is going to be THE YEAR.

Stop.  Hurry!  Stop.  Hurry!  I’m caught between never wanting to get to midnight and wishing it were already here.

Last night was no exception.  As Husband and I gathered with our closest friends in front of our TV, counting down the last seconds of the decade (none of us daring to raise our voice above a whisper for fear of waking one of the four babies asleep upstairs), I felt a surge of panic, followed by a rush of glee.

Then another surge of panic.  Then…

It was midnight.  And there I was, standing amidst a flurry of clinking glasses and kisses and hushed Happy New Years!, staring down at my swollen belly, afraid.  Afraid that I didn’t make the most of my childless years, the last four in particular.  Afraid that I wasted too much time with the ordinary and didn’t make enough time for the extraordinary.  The memorable.

Here’s the thing:  I’m not generally a malcontent.  I’m satisfied more often than I’m not.  I also happen to be a firm believer in self-fulfilling prophecies.  I like to like my life, and therefore, most of the time I do.  But for some reason, what I like most about my life in any given moment always ends up being the thing I’m just about to do — not the thing I’m already doing.

In other words, I completely suck at living in the now.

Not that it’s always a bad thing.  When you’re fixated on the future, it’s hard to feel stuck in the present.  You’re motivated to do and change and grow and become.

The problem is, I spend just as much time looking at the past as I do the future, and most of the time, I’m looking at it with rose-colored classes.

Nostalgia.

It’s not reasonable or productive or even accurate.  But it gets me every time.  And that’s what I’m afraid of.

The fear of nostalgia.  That’s what took hold of me as this new year began.  The fear that there will come a day in the not-so-distant future when I’ll look back at my childfree days and yearn to go back, to reclaim, to relive.  And yet, at the same time, I’m equally afraid of the alternative.  Afraid that nostalgia won’t do its rosy paint job, and that I’ll look back on the past several years and feel nothing but the ache of regret.  Regret that I didn’t do it better when I had the chance.  That I didn’t live the way I should have.  That I didn’t live enough.

In other words, I wasted a perfectly good minute — the last minute of a fairly significant decade of my life — projecting into the future my longing for the past.  So much for embracing the detour.

Hey, good thing it’s a new year.  Fresh start and all that.

So.  As I embark on all the newness of this new year, here’s what I know:  I don’t want to be a person who stands among her closest friends in the world, with a great Husband and a great marriage and a great life, wishing she could go back to a time when she didn’t have those things.  (Yeah, okay, when I put it that way, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Yet, if the right country song comes on the radio, I’ll spend at least 10 seconds wishing I was 18 again, parked on a gravel road in my high school boyfriend’s pick-up truck.  The boyfriend I spent as much time hating as I did liking when our relationship was at its best.  Ah, nostalgia.  Tricky little bastard).

Anyway, the point is, I don’t want to waste time looking back — or even forward — when there is so much to see (and so much to do!) RIGHT HERE.  I don’t want to spend this year thinking about next year, or comparing it to last year or the year before.  I can’t.  Not if I’m truly committed to this project.  Not if I truly believe in its premise — that our Right Nows shouldn’t be wasted.  That Right Here is where the magic is.

Nostalgia will inevitably come knocking.  It always does.  And there will be moments when I’ll find myself projecting into next week, next month, next year, wishing I were there instead of here.  That’s why this project is a challenge.  That’s why it’s worth doing.

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