I had full intention of writing this column for last Sunday, the inaugural day of the New Year: the ideal, even premier day for columnists everywhere to ramble resolutions, offer advice, share lessons and insights learned during 2016.
But instead, I cleaned out my spice cabinet.
I found tarragon that had expired in 2006, oregano that smelled like marijuana and an empty bottle of vanilla extract. I didn’t stop there. Crouching underneath the sink, I discovered rubber gloves with fingers missing, stainless steel pads covered with rust and two chipped coffee mugs I couldn’t bear to part with.
The mindlessness of it all was so satisfying later that same day I tackled the medicine chest, my shoe racks and the linen closet. Single-handedly.
This was the best I could do after a grueling year of losses – one after another after another – ranging from friends and extended family to celebrity icons whose music, lyrics and lives inspired and spoke to my soul. I woke up one morning reeling, feeling disjointed, disillusioned and in disarray – wandering in search of some shred of hope to escort me into 2017.
Heading straight for my closet, I stood in a daze before zeroing in on the underwear drawer, where I sorted through socks, deriving wicked pleasure from filling a Vons bag with strapless bras and pantyhose I knew I’d never wear again.
Saying goodbye to snagged knee-highs and sachets whose fragrances had long vanished was effortless, therapeutic and much easier than finding appropriate condolences for the monumental and sudden losses of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Earlier that week I had come unglued while reading these devastating headlines. Sadly, I understood firsthand how a child’s passing could make a mother’s heart stop.
I revolted. Went off the grid. Dan and I left town to regroup and recalibrate. I had doctor appointments in Santa Barbara to scrutinize my health status following a bout with pneumonia and the pair of mysterious seizures that had stopped me in my tracks last spring.
Not even Dan knows (he will now) but during the entire drive my mind quietly rehearsed names of former presidents (in descending order), a question I knew I’d be asked by neurologists. I also counted backwards from 100, subtracting by 7s, a test I’d watched my mother take on numerous occasions.
I memorized the day, month, and year; my birthday; city and state – even my mother’s maiden name – all the while praying no one would quiz me on computer passwords. Failure was not an option. Nevertheless, preparing for the worst-case scenario and noting a hint of self-imposed paranoia, I wondered what the future might hold.
Does Top Ramen expire?
I hope not because a few hours before leaving I found myself back in the kitchen with hands caressing a 10-pack hiding in the bottom shelf of the pantry. My stash of college-born comfort food. It was about this same time I noticed my throat on fire, sinuses congested, the sudden onset of an unwelcome virus. Seriously?
Goodbye, be gone and good riddance 2016.
Despite scratchy throat and noisy cough, our getaway turned out to be positive on all accounts. We slept in, did a lot of nothing, received promising doctor reports and even managed a night out with dear friends.
Ordinary but extraordinary. Mundane, yet magical.
I grabbed a cocktail napkin and jotted the adage “Without your health, nothing much else matters.”
The minute we returned home, I had a yearning to watch old black-and-whites, return to that time in life when no one, at least no one I knew was sick or dying – when hope and optimism turned up around every corner. The natural choice was “Singin’ in the Rain,” whose lyrics I’ve decided will serve as a mantra for the New Year.
I’m wild about musicals. Even when the sky is falling, someone manages to break out in song and dance. At first it’s awkward, but by the second verse or reprise, a glittered, fluorescent moon appears while someone swings happily on a star, rescued, of course, by the medicinal powers of love. I’ve decided I need more Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly moments in 2017.
I had planned on writing a brilliant, thought-provoking column but opted instead to clean up my act. Not to be bragging, but I also revamped the glove compartment and trunk of my car. Who knows what I’ll tackle next?
With any luck, I’ll eventually get to the “creative abandon” and “finding my happy place” chapters of my personal story – the part where I hunt down new and improved versions of myself.
But for today, I’ll settle for lounging in sweats, filling a few garbage bags, and “singin’ in the rain.”
Armen D. Bacon of Fresno is a writer and co-author of “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship” and two collections of essays, “My Name is Armen: A Life in Column Inches” and “My Name is Armen: Outside the Lines.” Write to her at email@example.com, @ArmenBacon.
‘Singin’ in the Rain’
I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain.
What a glorious feeling; I’m happy again.
I’m laughing at clouds, so dark above.
The sun’s in my heart, and I’m ready for love.
Let the stormy clouds chase everyone from the place.
Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face.
I’ll walk down the lane with a happy refrain.
And singin’ just singin’ in the rain.