Offerings to the New Year pyre

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This isn’t a resolution, but a destination — the travel to which has taken me nearly a lifetime.

For years I conducted a New Year’s exercise. Anything “bad” from the previous year was written on small slips of paper and placed in a paper box or envelope. The writing, usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine, took the better part of a December evening.

On the first day of January, I’d carry the package to a fireplace, outdoor grill or other suitable site for a solitary pyre service.

It was a very tangible way to let go of useless baggage — lost opportunities, past misunderstandings and personal shortcomings made frequent appearances. I’d physically feel lighter watching the smoke rise, the paper blaze its way into gray ash.

For the past few years, however, I’ve neglected the tradition. I can’t say I’m better for it.

The Boeoegg, a snowman made of wadding and filled with firecrackers, burns atop a bonfire in the Sechselaeuten square in Zurich. As the bells of St. Peter's church chime six o'clock, the bonfire below the "Boeoegg" is set alight and mounted guildsmen gallop around the pyre to the tune of the Sechselaeuten March. The faster the head of the "Boeoegg", the symbol of winter, catches fire and explodes, the warmer and more beautiful the summer will be.
The Boeoegg, a snowman made of wadding and filled with firecrackers, burns atop a bonfire in the Sechselaeuten square in Zurich. As the bells of St. Peter’s church chime six o’clock, the bonfire below the “Boeoegg” is set alight and mounted guildsmen gallop around the pyre to the tune of the Sechselaeuten March. The faster the head of the “Boeoegg”, the symbol of winter, catches fire and explodes, the warmer and more beautiful the summer will be. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

I have, for instance, been holding a grudge against a person I’ve not seen or spoken with for nearly two years. Although my continued anger is easily justified — the person was uncommonly and purposefully vile — it’s past time to let it go and direct the energy toward positive pursuits.

All the memories and hurt associated with that person will be placed on the 2016 pyre. With slips of paper covering several years, let’s hope the usually small pyre doesn’t become a bonfire.

This past year, you see, my life not only moved forward, but shifted onto a new track.

As the youngest in a large family, I’ve always had something to prove to someone and have been very attuned to what others think of me. In some ways it’s served me well. Determination to best older siblings in academics, for example, led to high test scores and, ultimately, a college scholarship.

My first newspaper job — launched under the hallowed words: “I’m desperate. You’re crazy. I’ll see you Monday” — quickly turned into my first editor position due to a little talent, a lot of hard work and a personal pledge to keep my age under wraps.

When I was 20, I behaved and dressed like I was 40. Too bad I didn’t have the foresight to consider what would happen when I became 40 and still took external cues to heart.

The charade has become too tiresome and, truthfully, I’m done accepting unsolicited advice. So that one guy’s assertion last year that I needed breast implants is written and headed for the pyre. I’ve placed it next to that other guy’s recommendation that I have them reduced.

Sounds crazy after all this time, but I’m finally ready to own these breasts — just as they were issued to me.

While this sentiment has been building during the past few months, 2016 is taking it full tilt: This is my life, to be lived according to my specifications.

No, this doesn’t mean that I’ll show up at your cocktail party in cutoffs, or that I’ll start piercing body parts. For those who have read the Jenny Joseph poem, 2016 is my “purple” year and I plan to own it.

I still have a few things to prove — all to myself. The pyre can have the rest.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on January 1, 2016. Photo credit: Amd Wiegmann/Reuters