The days between Christmas and New Year’s provide an intermission, I think, a necessary break in the drama of life between the big productions of the current year and the coming attractions of the year ahead. During this interlude, I slow the pace, even often having time for quiet conversation over a glass of champagne, just as theatre-goers do in the lobby between acts at a Broadway play.
Actually, I do more than have conversations and champagne, though my activities are generally quiet and contemplative, and mostly solitary. For instance, this is the time when I review last year’s New Year’s resolutions, evaluate how I did, and formulate new ones for next year. I review finances, close out year-end bookkeeping and revise the budget. I mark new dates on a new wall calendar (yes, in addition to the calendar on my smart-phone), noting what appointments and services I need to arrange. Oh and yes, I write real, hand-written thank-you notes for Christmas gifts.
And then I start cleaning out. For some reason, these days after Christmas find me especially intolerant of clutter; I guess it’s a prelude to wanting the tree down and all the decorations stored so I can have a clean start for the New Year. Anyway, as I try to put gifts away, I am irritated by already full-to-overflowing shelves and drawers; as I file away notes and cards, I am annoyed by the paper, pens and notebooks that spill from my library cabinets; as I put away holiday dishes and special china, I am bedeviled by the challenge of fitting things back into the cupboards from which they came. Finally, as I begin to corral holiday decorations, I am disgusted by the full bins of making-merry decor in my garage that haven’t seen the light of Christmas Past for years. This stuff really needs to go, a lot of it anyway.
Having just been through the chore of emptying out my Mother’s house and moving her up here, I am perhaps more aware than ever of the accumulation of “stuff” that comes to define our lives and the enormous culling process required to determine what is really special, much less necessary. For the most part, our stuff means little to anyone but us; it is an encumbrance while we live, and an overwhelming burden to those who live after us. The paper, the photos, the furniture, the knickknacks, the keepsakes, the collections, the artwork, the diaries, the books, the tools, the crafts, the clothing, even the fine wines — all need to be reevaluated regularly. If something has value or meaning to someone else, give it to them now; if not, turn it into cash or dispose of it yourself and save others the burden of the decision.
All this cleansing creates a rhythm of sorts, moves me into my own intermezzo, which is an operatic term for a short musical movement between acts. The musical interlude may be calm, even light, but it does not offer the full time-out of an intermission; rather, it becomes a bridge from one completed section to the beginning of another for which the crescendo can only be anticipated.
I try not to anticipate too much, but instead to slowly build the energy and momentum needed to sustain a productive, but not frenzied, New Year. Maybe the softer melodies of an intermezzo will stay in my mind’s ear for a while as soothing “background music” to my life. Maybe if I turn off the news and tune out the noise and distractions, I’ll be able to hear it. Maybe this season of transition from drama to intermission to intermezzo will bring me a new resolve and peace of mind with which to face whatever comes in 2018.