I have always been disappointed with New Year's Day because for so long, nothing has changed. I was waiting for my life to change, for my burden to be lifted and for Good Things to start happening. And they never did, because I didn't let them. It was all a major anti-climax - the same issues, the same pain, the same life.
But this year is going to be different. I decided to celebrate New Year's Eve my own way - by letting go of the past. Well, kind of.
The last few days have brought the realisation on how I need to change. I have been more than a little introspective, more than a little detached and self-absorbed. So how to spend the Eve of the New Year by my rules? Burning stuff. Yes, you read that right, burning stuff.
When I started to clear out my possessions a couple of months ago, I came across pile after pile of old letters, diaries and memories. Reading them threw me in to a spin, took me in to a downward spiral - but all the same my first reaction was "I can't let go of this stuff because it's part of my history. This is me". Then I had my Astrology reading and was told to stop hanging on to my past, and I realised that looking at photos and reading letters and diaries that make you feel sad is probably not such a good thing after all. Why would I want to hold on to things that made me feel low time and time again? My (old) teacher told me to follow the spiritual process of burning - focus on the pain and the sadness that arises, set alight to the item and burn it from within - so I started to collect everything that made me sad, and discovered that I had been lugging around an entire box of pain from one location to another, dragging my unhappy past with me wherever I went.
If I'd owned a wood-burner or if it had been less windy in my back garden, the process might not have taken me so long. But given that all I had was a large tin foil roasting tray to sit over the sink in my kitchen and burn each item one by one, I procrastinated and the box of pain has sat in my living room looking at me. If it's possible for a box to look at you.
But last night was the perfect opportunity to start anew - At 7:30 pm I set up the tray over the sink, ripped the pages out of my diaries, muttered the Ana Bekoach prayer from memory, and put my iPod on shuffle. And started burning. And burning. And burning. Taking each page, one at a time, lighting it from the page about to burn out in the tray, catching the words from my past as they succumbed to the flames.
At 8pm I realised that the kitchen was full of acrid white smoke coming off the paper, and although it was freezing outside, I wedged the back door open with a shoe.
At 8:30 I wrapped a tea towel around my nose and mouth, realising that I was going to be there for quite some time and that my smoke-hardened throat was no match for the volumes of toxic past.
At 9pm my ears started to hurt from wearing headphones.
At 9:30 pm my back started to ache from standing at the sink.
At 10 pm I caved in to my urge to pee, and discovered that the entire house stank of burning paper.
By 10:30 pm I had learned which paper burns easily, which paper gave off the most smoke, which paper curled round suddenly and caught my fingers before I dropped it in to the tray and which paper sent shards of ash up to my kitchen ceiling, threatening to set the house on fire.
I kept going. To be honest, it didn't feel much like a spiritual process at times, standing at the sink with a tea towel over my face - the Kabbalah Bandit strikes again - hopping from one foot to the other and trying to stretch out the pain in my spine without setting alight to my hair.
But a few of the pages pulled me back to what I was letting go:
Sentences from my diary that began "I am so depressed today". Far too many of them.
Letters from my Dad sent to my sister and I when we first left him which started "I'm sorry that I got so upset again on Tuesday..."
And a page written by my Step-father in the front of a Pilot's Log Book (a flying lesson gift for my seventeenth birthday which enables me to claim that I flew a plane before I drove a car) which was probably written when he was drunk: "Fly high and achieve. Fly high with your ambition..Fly high and keep your feet on the ground" Oh, fuck off. Burn.
The last thing that I burned was a copy of my birth certificate, kept with a pile of documents from the compensation I received after my farce of a court case. The old Kabbalah Rookie is dead. Time for rebirth. I watched as it went up in flames, at ten to midnight. Mission accomplished. And then I sat on the couch until 3:30 am wondering if I felt any different.
And somehow I do feel different. Not much to see on the outside, but slightly more at peace with myself, I guess. And a little bit achy from standing at the sink for over 4 hours.
My situation is no different to how it was yesterday - same house, same crap waiting to be posted on eBay or taken to a car boot sale, same bank account (less probably a few more direct debits) - but my gratitude has grown. Gratitude for what I do have. Gratitude that there are people out there who will love me no matter what. Gratitude that I am living in a world of opportunity and can choose to make my life whatever I want it to be. Enormous gratitude for the soulmate connection with my sister, without whom I doubt that I would still be here. Seriously.
And having said that, immense gratitude for the support I have received since I started to open up on my blog. Your comments and emails have made a world of difference - with your kindness and encouragement, you have scooped me up off the floor when I needed it the most.
Thank you for being such an important part of my journey, and for allowing me to follow yours.
I wish you all a blessed 2010, because in my book (the one I didn't burn) you all deserve it.