A ‘Postcards From Lesbania’ post by Hayley Sherman
“At midnight, where fireworks exploded around the globe, just twelve hollow clangs of a cowbell sounded somewhere in the distance, then the disappointing toot of a depressed owl. Then more silence. Happy New Year to me!”
Do you remember when we were allowed to go out and party, dance, sing, flirt, touch each other, even lick each other if the mood took us on a New Year’s Eve? Awesome, wasn’t it.
With that in mind, can you believe that just three years ago on the 31st of December, with all of those delights on offer, I spent the evening lying in a field in the middle of nowhere, making not a single sound, surrounded by the most complete darkness. And at midnight, where fireworks exploded around the globe, just twelve hollow clangs of a cowbell sounded somewhere in the distance, then the disappointing toot of a depressed owl. Then more silence. Happy New Year to me!
This year I would give my left tit to go out and see a band, be around my friends and family, hug a stranger for New Year’s Eve, but back then I had actually paid to do this. Can you believe it? I wasn’t drop-down-drunk and lost in a field; I had paid good money to spend the most sociable few days of the year silently mediating, busting quiet yoga moves and contemplating my soundless, fluffy navel in the South Downs in the name of spiritual nourishment.
“There has never been a year that has left me feeling so grateful for the incredible people in my life. In fact, this year has given me a lot to be grateful for in so many ways – I think that happens when life becomes that bit more precious.”
And the truth is that I loved it at the time. I had quit drinking a few years before and still found New Year’s Eve a challenge. Being slobbered over by pissed-up kissy lips at midnight is much more fun if your kissy lips are equally pissed up, and I hadn’t quite mastered the art of being sober in drunk company yet. To be honest, I didn’t really want to. A night out passes in a flash when you’re smirnoffyourhead, everything’s a hoot, but after a few hours of standing by the bar with a freezing lemonade in your hand, listening to your drunk mate tell the same joke for the third time, you start to fantasise about a comfy sofa and a nice episode of Homes Under the Hammer.
So – and I guess I might be a woman of extremes – after a lifetime of being so drunk that I no longer know my own name on NYE, I decided to take myself off on a silent retreat with complete strangers and enough lentils to sink a ship. Ironically, after the first few hours of downward dogging and imitating trees, I still fantasised about a comfy sofa and a nice episode of Homes Under the Hammer, but I pushed through, and it was worth it, not just for the sense of calm, which was exactly what I needed, but for the enduring memories that still make me chuckle … of an absurd, surreal argument in semaphore with a particularly angry, silent member of our group over our conflicting methods of silently washing up; of other ramblers thinking our group was a single-file trail of rude Bulgarians when our silence led us to ignore their morning greetings on our silent walks; and my favourite is the sight of my grown-up co-retreatees at mealtimes, mindfully, silently eating hummus, eyes closed, savouring every mouthful as if it were caviar laced with the very meaning of life itself. Silence definitely brings out the earnest in us hippies.
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I properly saw the surreal nature of what I had chosen for myself at midnight on the big day. Most of the other tie-dyed hemp-botherers had toddled off to bed much earlier, and it was just me and a few others, first led in a guided mediation and then left with our own thoughts about the things we were grateful for as one year seamlessly drifted into the next. And as those twelve cow-bell clangs resonated, I broke my silence to mumble a pathetic little Happy New Year to myself and I vowed that I would spend the following New Year surrounded by the people I loved. I didn’t care how pissed they were or how sober I was. I didn’t care about the lure of plumped-up furniture and TV programs about selling your home. It was going to be noisy and fun and big and wonderful. I just wanted people … A bit like now really.
Because after the shitshow that has been 2020, how incredible it would be to scoop up everyone I know, make a massive pot of lentils, drink tea together (I still don’t drink) and watch an awesome band, hug, catch up, dance, tell each other how much we’ve missed this (the company not the tea and lentils), just be together and celebrate that we got through it. I console myself with the certainty that this day will definitely come … and soon, I hope. But this year, I’m just happy to know that there are people waiting for it all to be over with me, at the end of a phone or Zoom chat, that I’m not alone, and that I’ve been able to be there for others too. There has never been a year that has left me feeling so grateful for the incredible people in my life. In fact, this year has given me a lot to be grateful for in so many ways – I think that happens when life becomes that bit more precious – so maybe this year I’ll still lie outside in the dark, in the garden on the stroke of midnight, and get Sarah to tap a spoon on a glass twelve times just for old times’ sake, and I can think about what I’m grateful for (not being in a field in the middle of nowhere or surrounded by paralytic beery voms!) and simply look towards the better times ahead.
Happy New Year xx
Hayley Sherman is a writer, ghostwriter, blogger and editor who just wants everyone to be nice to each other. Her blog smiles in the face of adversity, licks the cheek of the oppressor and generally reflects on her denial about being a middle-aged lesbian. hayleyshermanwriter.com.
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