I've got this tradition that I try to do every New Year's Eve.
Every year since my divorce I've been alone on December 31st. And by alone I mean in a spiritual/romantic sense. I simply take that one step further and become alone physically as well. I'll walk out of the party, or the bar, or even my own home, and just get a little privacy.
Only twice since 1991 have I had to change that tradition. As 1996 arrived I was followed out of the bar by a very sweet girl who wanted to give me (and be) my first kiss of the new year. When 1999 turned into 2000 I had several people at my house and we went out on the deck and popped these little bottle-shaped plastic thingies that shot streamers out.
On every other New Year's Eve that time between 11:55 and 12:05 has been my own. I like to reflect on all that's happened in the old year, imagine all that might happen in the new year, and just generally relax and let my thoughts flow.
I'll usually give each year an informal grading - 1991 and 1992 were very good years, 1995 and 1998 were very bad - that kind of thing. I try to be fair. I try to remember everything important (good or bad) that's happened, not just those things that are still fresh in my mind.
I do this on New Year's Eve because it provides a fairly obvious division between time frames. I suppose my birthday would serve just as well. Dates that I can point to on a calendar and say "On this day I noted the end of one era and the beginning of another."
On December 31st, 2004, I expect to be alone again, and I expect I'll seek some privacy, when the time comes, to say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new year as I've become accustomed.
This year though, there'll be something different. I not only expect to be alone as the new year arrives, I expect to feel alone as well. This will be something new for me.
I've always been quite able to enjoy the pleasure of my own company - In many ways I've preferred it.
This year will be different. There will be an emptiness accompanying me outside, and I have to say I'm not looking forward to the uncomfortable silence between us.
I will welcome the new year though, as I've welcomed them all. I don't yet know what grade I'll give the year 2004 but it'll certainly get an "A" for effort.
Actually the grading isn't really important. The important part is the serious reflection. The grade is just the end to the more important means.
So why am I writing this entry now, on November 4th, instead of waiting for late December like a sane person?
Because New Year's Eve is man-made. It has no more significance than any other night except that which we give it.
Sometime during the past few weeks I passed a milestone that out milestones anything that an artificial holiday nearly two months away could ever do.
I've seen great changes both externally and internally, and reflecting on these changes has made me (painfully at times) quite aware that this Fall is indeed the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.
Whether it's marked the beginning of a new emotional growth spurt, or simply the end of my sanity, that remains to be seen. All I know is that this is important and I will give it the consideration it deserves.
So tonight, when normal people are getting ready for bed, I'll be out on my deck.
Just enjoying my own company for a while.
Tomorrow I'll start a new era. One that will encompass its own events. One that will probably, for a while at least, look an awful lot like the era it replaces.
After that, who knows what will happen?