How To Start The New Year.
First, a word of probably-unnecessary warning: any essay claiming to help you start the new year is at least a little facetious. Technically, you don’t need to do anything. The year will start on its own. Most modern years include a simple push-button or touch screen interface in case of accidents, but you might need to turn the crank on the front, or push it for a few feet. Even if you don’t do either of those things, there’s a better than fifty-fifty chance that the year will have started by the time you wake up tomorrow, if you live in the continental United States. (If you live elsewhere, your results may vary.) Also, sometimes there’s no crank and it’s not a push-starter, so you have to find the pull cord, or the ignition key, or on truly vintage models, the jackknife switch, though why you’d be starting a year that old, I have no idea.
Technical details aside, the beginning of a new year is a useful if arbitrary point conducive to self-evaluation and improvement. The hoary tradition of New Year’s resolutions is a prime example of such examination, but by following the steps below, the acknowledgment of the past in hope of improving the future can be made more involved and complicated, not to mention less covered in gray or white hair. And a little facetiousness never hurt anyone (though a lot of facetiousness has been proven to cause cancer in lab animals).
So let’s do it! Let’s start your new year!
1. Consult your script.
A draft of the new year should have arrived at your home by the middle of December. (If your script hasn’t arrived yet, consult your physician, priest, or cable television provider. Which one, you ask? You’ll figure it out.) The manila envelope will contain a treatment of the year to come; a “bible” containing back story and your life’s mythology, to ensure that your words and deeds remain “canon”; and the parts of the script you will need to memorize. While most of your life is improvisational, some candid moments need to be timed and worded in a certain way so that they occur in proper sequence and appear “realistic.” Scripting also allows for cameo appearances, though the details may be redacted to maintain the surprise. For example in March, when the only thing nerdier than highlighting blacked-out passages so you can read the “secret” message is making a specific typographical style to create blacked-out “secret” messages and then referring to the style in a needlessly metafictional blacked-out “secret” message. The main theme of my script is “geeky.”
If the concept of receiving a pre-written script of your life in the mail is alien or even distasteful to you, 1) are you really so naive that you think the gubmint hasn’t plotted out your entire life for you in advance and 2) how do you handle the crushing anxiety of never knowing what will happen next? I’m betting the answers are 1) “yes” and 2) “booze.” Regardless, the rest of these year-starters will be helpful even if you still believe you are master of your own fate.
2. Conduct a thorough personal inventory.
Start by moving everything out of one of the rooms of your house, apartment, trailer or modified shipping container. Remove all your clothes and stand in the center of the empty room. Look at yourself. Scrutinize every component of your person, physical, mental and emotional (you may pick the order). Look at the scars you’ve received over the past year. Memorize their shapes and colors. Identify areas where you’d like to be scarred in the coming year. Mark those areas with dashed lines in felt-tip pen. For emotional scars, make a brief list on your left forearm.
Once you’ve finished scrutinizing yourself, bring a mirror into the room and, one at a time, every other item you possess. Look at yourself in the mirror while holding or using the item. If you get a bad vibe, discard or (preferably) destroy the item. Repeat this process with relatives and friends. (Pets, if you have named them properly, do not need to be evaluated.) After standing in front of the mirror with everyone you care about, put your clothes on and leave the room. (Note: you will probably need two mirrors, so you can evaluate the mirrors.)
3. Write your ideal year.
Having dealt with the past, it’s time to plan your future. Create a narrative of the next twelve months in which everything goes exactly as you want it. Be as unrealistic as you like, because frankly, this ideal year of yours is not going to happen. Consider this an example of “aiming high.” Include whatever level of detail will make the ideal year sufficiently real to you. Don’t just copy your script. Once you’ve finished constructing your dream year, summarize it as succinctly as possible. Boil it down to one word if you can. Write that word or phrase or sentence on a separate sheet of paper, then eat the original ideal year narrative. Take the one-word version and, using parts of the letters of the word, create a graphic symbol. This is called a sigil. Redraw the sigil on a separate piece of paper and then eat the rough draft. Carry the sigil with you wherever you go; you might want to get it laminated so you can bring it in the shower. Meditate on the sigil for at least fifteen minutes a day. Visualize the sigil while eating, exercising, and having sex. Visualization at these times energizes the sigil. Visualize hard. If anyone asks “What are you thinking about?”, say “I’m potentiating a psycho-magical manifestation of my ideal life.” That’ll learn ’em.
(Note: I bet your ideal life narrative didn’t say anything about eating a bunch of paper.)
4. Stare yourself down.
Some time after your personal inventory, lock yourself in the bathroom and stare at your reflection for as long as possible (clothing optional). Make eye contact to maximize the disturbance quotient. If having a self-staring contest doesn’t come easily to you, try a “time trials” approach: stare at yourself for five seconds, then ten, and so on. Keep trying to beat your own record. Stare at the mirror until you can see yourself as a (very creepy) stranger would. Make a note of your facial expression and avoid people who look at you that way.
5. As the year progresses, keep a journal of “what should have happened.”
That won’t make you petty and bitter. Oh no no no no. Or alternatively:
6. Don’t think in terms of years.
There is only now. One now after another, in an infinite and immutable chain. No single now can be removed from the chain, each now is discrete and self-contained and intimately linked to every other now you have ever experienced or will experience. The new year doesn’t start at midnight. The new year already started. The new year never ends.
The Hairy Skeleton