so 2011, you’ve been a good year.

a very good year, really.

if i were a Sinatra, ripe with mellifluous tones and suave Rat Pack suits, this would be the “very good year” of song and story. screw seventeen. high school graduation and cheap alcool are only so much to croon about; thirty-nine was actually interesting.

(i’m no Sinatra, of course. 2011 was kind of extraordinary, by my standards, but learning how to sing isn’t on my list of achievements for the year. maybe later.)

still, a lot of what i might have hoped for if i’d actually had my act together enough to articulate specific hopes for the year IS on that list. i’m kinda blinky-eyed in the face of this unaccustomed reversal of fortune.

generally, my standards for a good year are pretty simple: have i been fed and clothed and sheltered? have i learned? have i had my family and/or friends around me?

Boney M is one of my Christmas playlist standards: has been since childhood. one year, in college, my poor roommate misheard the lyrics to Feliz Navidad . the rest of us caught her at the residence floor Christmas party bopping around in reindeer antlers singing – at the top of her lungs – “at least no one died.”

yeh, that. i wanna wish you a Merry Christmas, indeed. at least no one died.

clearly, that roommate wasn’t a whole lotta help with Spanish homework. but when the rest of us recovered from spitting up our eggnog, we adopted the line. it’s been with me ever since, lo these twenty-odd holiday seasons, as i’ve looked back on the old years trailing out behind. a good year? any year i could answer “at least no one died,” i figured i had it okay.

this year, i lost one of my tall trees in my grandfather’s passing. the song stuck in my throat the first time i lifted my voice; i caught myself. then i thought, no. he was 91. i am nearly 40. i had the strange, stark privilege of being with him as he went. and hell, he thought the song was funny as hell. so i sang it loud and with joy this last month, my eyes just a little bit crinkled and wet.

it was a damn good year, like none i’ve ever really known. shit worked this year: all the long seasons of quiet hoping and trying suddenly seemed to reap positive reinforcement all at once. federal funding for my research, Voice of the Year at BlogHer, a local literary award, published in Salon. i even cracked the Babble list. i went to cool conferences and started a new blog and discovered that i can be a social media researcher and a writer and a professional educator, maybe all in one. maybe.

or at least i can try. i can see my way clear to try.

because there was still a lot of shit in 2011 that didn’t work: submissions rejected, inquiries ignored. hopes dashed. but for the first time in my life, those did not shame me, or scare me off. i just picked up the hopes, looked around for lessons, and kept going. it felt…good. real. par for the course.

the kids are healthy: cleared of asthma and the serious kind of heart murmur, respectively. we haven’t been to the ER with them once all year. they like their teachers. they mostly like each other.

and we do too, their father and i, even ten years and a half-finished documentation project into things. he still makes me feel less lonely, just by being in the world.

and we just bought the house my grandmother lived in when she married. her Art Deco wedding china is going home, people. and so am i.

2011, i’m dazzled and grateful and a little wary, because clearly the other shoe is about to drop and chances are good it’s made of cement.

everybody else seems happy to kick you to the curb, 2011. me, i think you’re the purdiest thing i can remember.

and yet all this positivity scares the shit outta me.

i’m a late bloomer in terms of this whole concept of “things going well.” yeh, i’ve had luck in the course of my days on this earth, but my particular talents and circumstances have never especially organized themselves into a coherent pattern that looks like what our culture likes to think of as an upswing, before.

my career arc has been…diverse. my choices haven’t emphasized stability or growth. and the blessings and joys of my parenthood have been punctuated by all that slipped through my fingers.

so this whole “things are going my way” rag? is highly unfamiliar.

it stands to reason, then, that – just as things really begin to look as if i’m gathering steam in my fortieth year, hitting my stride – that the world will end.

2012 is End Times, apparently. so sayeth the ancient Mayans. and their Wikipedia entry. goody.

and i figure i kinda win either way. maybe my luck holds and the coming year is happy and glorious and fulfilling and full of opportunity. in which case my unfamiliar streak of success becomes a little more familiar, and i slowly train myself to stop expecting an abyss to open up at any moment.

or, you know, an abyss opens up. and then i have the surprisingly satisfying comfort of being right, which is almost as nice as achieving cool things you set your mind to. maybe not quite. and annihilation would kinda take all the fun out of “at least no one died,” probably forever.

so i’ll keep working on positive thinking. and perhaps…as i look ahead to 2012, i need to very literally take a page from the late great Woody Guthrie, who had some lean years and some lucky ones himself. his New Year’s Resolutions for 1942  were posted today on Boing Boing.

i’m thinking #3 – Wash Teeth If Any – is the attitude i need to bring with me into the new year, whatever it may bring.

don’t let yer head get big, there, Bonnie lass. just brush. don’t fret about tomorrow, neither, and the possible impending end of The Long Count according to Mesoamerica. just brush what you got. don’t even count them chickens or assume there’ll be teeth tomorrow: live for today.

Wash Teeth If Any.

Love Everybody.

Wake Up and Fight.

thanks 2011, for being so good to me. for giving me the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be where the grass is green for a bit. i’m grateful. i’m hopeful for the coming year.

i’m not gonna forget the abyss is there, always there. i’m just not going to assume i’m falling when i might, maybe be flying.

either way, i’ll have washed teeth, i promise.
***

Happy New Year, my friends. i know 2012 owes some of you some serious makeup kisses after what 2011 wreaked. i hope it puts out. i hope we all find each other a year from now, non-annihilated and with shining smiles, singing “at least no one died.”