Oh, I get so stressed at New Year's. What to do, where to go, who do I go with, what party should I attend? And that's the least of it.
Everyone seems to ask me what my resolutions are going to be.
Resolutions? What are my resolutions going to be? Oh, God, leave me alone. I don't want to make any resolutions. They're so exhausting. So inward. They make me take stock of myself and see all my frailties and DANG! I don't like that. I AM NOT PERFECT, OK?! It's all so heavy. ...
... and speaking of heavy, I know what I'll resolve to do: LOSE WEIGHT! Yes this will be the year. 2018, the year I stick with it. Eat less between meals. No snacks. Cut out sugar. Sign up for the gym. Walk more. Take up running. Maybe I'll roll out the bicycle for regular rides -- in the spring, of course -- but, gosh, by then it may be too late, I may have already failed ...
See what I mean. Depressing. It's like we just give ourselves a free burden, a task we are doomed not to keep. I do not need another goal to not reach, thank you.
But the whole resolution thing has taken over my brain. I wake up thinking about it.
Even yesterday, when I was in Montreal. We'd gone up for a viist, a bit of fun, but I woke up early thinking about, well, you guessed. I decided to go out and find a bakery. It was bitter cold. Those who were out were bundled up, puff balls with stiff arms and legs; even their noses were covered. I walked on, head down, checking my map to see how many more blocks I had to go to what I knew would be warmth, aromas, coffee, croissants. I turned the corner into an alleyway that seemed to be a short cut ...
... I was aghast at the sight. The little street had no snow. It was cold, but not bitter cold. The alley was crowded with people but the men were wearing tophats and long black coats, the women long coats and full dresses. Some had walking canes -- ornamentation, not necessity. A couple of ruffians leaned against a wall of a building dressed in leather with widebrimmed hats and dark black moustaches and beards. They eyed me closely. Hand-carved wooden signs hung above the entrance ways of several shops, a millinery, a barrel maker, even a blacksmith. Then, in a darkened doorway, was a woman bundled in a tattered blanket, sitting on a wooden crate. Before her was another crate on which were boxes of Grove's Chill Tonic.
"One dollar," she said.
What the heck?
"One dollar, sir, and you will find happiness."
One Canadian Dollar? That's 79 cents.
The woman continued to speak to me; she was speaking French, yet my brain somehow translated her every word.
"It is just the thing for you, sir. I can see your worry, your angst, your concern. This is just the thing." She turned her head and coughed. "This new tonic will make all things right in your world. It will help me, too, sir. I have three young children at home, and we have need of money for food."
One dollar. One Canadian dollar. I took off my gloves, reached into my pocket and removed a dollar bill. She looked at it oddly.
"No coin?" she asked.
I reached in my pocket and was surprised to remove an old silver coin. I gave it to her. She looked at it quizzically. She bit it and then slipped it into her pocket and handed me a box of the tonic.
"Take it right away," she said.
I continued down the alley. In a doorway, I carefully opened the box, removed the bottle, pulled the cork stopper and placed it to my lips. I drank. It indeed had no taste. Not at first. But then there was an explosion of spices and herbs and sweetness. I felt a warmth go down my throat into my belly. Suddenly the whole world seemed warm. It was sunny. It felt like a great burden had been lifted from me. Joy. My thoughts of a New Year's resolution vanished, it seemed so unimportant. Suddenly, I just felt the world had settled down, was well, was happy.
I was so overcome with joy at the thought that maybe we could all stop paying attention to Twitter and the Orange Man, that we could not worry about nuclear weapons and global warming and inequal opportunity that maybe we could all just go to concerts, and read books and enjoy movies and just, well, talk and listen. Maybe each of us would sit down at the ends of our weeks and figure out how we could send our excess money to help those in need and how we could ...
I decided I simply had to thank the woman for this wonderous elixir. I turned to walk back, but an even more remarkable sight lay before me. The crowd had vanished. The alleyway was filled with snow and a worn, black path of footsteps in the center. There were no shops. And the woman was nowhere to be found. Where she had sat were too old, wooden boxes, discared, misshapen and split. All about them was trash.
But in my hands was the container of Grove's. And in my mind was a resolution to help the world just be chill.