It is the night of New Year’s Eve and all the house is silent. The rooms are dark and I can see the lights flickering on the bays of Jounieh and Beirut from my arm-chair. Then all is dark. Ah yes it is 6 PM. The room shakes, the glass rattles, I hear a roar, the lights flicker on, off, on again and die. The engine roars, rolls and 60 seconds later we have lift off. Where I live in Lebanon we have electricity four hours on and four to six hours off depending on whether the government power station is limping, lagging or PMSing on that particular day. It is New Year’s Eve and you would think the government would be generous enough for 24 hour electricity on the this the last day of the year but I think maybe they are afraid that the year will go out with a bang. Unfortunately not the big fireworks that we are so fond of here but rather the big bang of Lebanon’s electricity stations exploding under the pressure. But, our generator is powered up, the lights are on and my mother is insisting I see the suckling pig she is cooking for our New Year’s Eve dinner. My mother lives above me and since the generator is on, the lift is off. So I trudge up the stairs to stare at a suckling pig which took one hour to get into the oven. Ovens today, it seems, are not built to cook suckling pigs. God but the smell is delicious.
What a year 2011 has been for yours truly. Truly a year to remember to forget. 2011 is not a year in which I will look back in undiluted pleasure – more like acid reflux. Do you ever have those moments when you are shown a picture of yourself in a certain place or situation but you have absolutely no memory of that place or situation. You try and try and yet it is as if that part of your brain has been reformatted and there is nothing there. Yet when you look at the picture you see yourself surrounded by friends or family and you are smiling, so obviously you must have been enjoying yourself and yet nothing. That is what I want to happen to 2011. Except that I have a feeling that is not going to happen. I am going to remember this year in technicolour detail. And yet, as I think back on this personal Annus Horribilis, unfortunately, much as I would love to indulge myself in a pity party I cannot really say that every moment of this year was horribilis. It was more like the curate’s egg – bad in parts. Large parts.
Everyone says I have to look at the good and learn from the bad. But I want to stomp and shout NO! I don’t want to learn, I don’t need to learn. I don’t mean to learn but I do. I have. I learnt to deal with…well whatever is thrown my way. Especially when it comes at me all at once from all directions and in all formats – physical, mental, psychological and spiritual. Oh really you say, we all learn that. Yes we do.
My year has been much like my mother’s suckling pig yesterday morning before it found its way into her oven. It began well enough. Trotting through life unsuspecting of any looming tragedies. Back hurt though. More and more each day. My husband and I had a trip to the USA planned and we were off in the spring. So I put my back pain on the back burner, cleared my work in the office and off I went to a far green country under a swift sunrise. Oh boy, I have to lay off the Moet, I am channeling Tolkien and Queen Elizabeth II and comparing my life to that of Babe.
While in Los Angeles the Japanese suffered one of the largest disasters to hit the world this century and while watching the tragedy unfold in real time, as we do these days, I suffered my own personal medical tsunami. In real time and all at once and from all directions my dreams seemed to shatter and my back broke a second time in as many years. How? Why? Silly questions with no answers. Interestingly, when you are in pain or are suffering through a tragedy global or personal, you either feel alone or you are surrounded by people whose pain is greater than yours. Shitty I know. There is no middle ground when the shit hits the fan. It either doesn’t and you get air conditioning or it does and you get splattered and have to smell shit flavoured air. This is the point in the film when I fast forward to get to the good parts. There have been good parts. Very good parts, like making up with your best friend after a really bad misunderstanding or meeting your oldest friend’s two wonderful sons for the first time or seeing the beginnings of a moustache on your 13 year old nephew or your spouse still making your heart beat faster after being together since last century. And there have been very bad parts and parts I wish I had handled differently and parts which have inspired a new direction in my professional life. Hell yeah, it’s been one of those really interesting years – just like the Chinese curse.
The buzzer buzzes uncontrollably. That’s my Mother calling us to table. The pig is ready and the guests are here. I sit in front of the suckling pig. I look at my beloved husband carving Babe and serving him up to me on a bed of sauerkraut, sausage and sweet potato. Christ, it is cholesterol heaven. I look around the table and see my husband smiling at me with his eyes, my sister lifting her glass, my mother in law is caressing my hand, my nephews are excited, my mother is proud, our guests are salivating. The local soothsayer is droning on television about things to come and I can’t wait. Yes the year began well, was unrelentingly awful in the middle and limped to a trussed-up finish line and in the end I conquered the pig and now I am in agony again and in desperate need of an Alka Seltzer or two.
Happy New Year to all my nearest and dearest, well wishers, friends and acquaintances. I wish you all the best in 2012.