Energized for the Best

I’ve never engaged in the forced gaiety others seem to think necessary for New Years – have instead always enjoyed a few simple, symbolic activities like having pickled herring and some sort of sweet pastry to give zest and pleasure to the upcoming year. Whether alone at midnight, or with company on New Year’s Day, I’ve kept that tradition – inherited from my maternal grandfather – going for a very long time. Sometimes I’ve lit sparklers at midnight – but not this year, since I was tired and went to sleep early.

What seems to be already markedly different for me in this new year is its energy level – both demanded and being met. I seem to be coming out of a longish period of – not retirement, but a withdrawing from interpersonal engagement, a period of living in a somewhat more distant and reflective way. Friends say that I have been so busy and active that no one would perceive me as withdrawing, but to me it has felt that way. Especially as I contrast the past eighteen months with both my new job, which is pushing me into a great deal of one-to-one interaction, and with being drawn into a more active socializing via two Cameroonians, newly made friends.

I’m fixing a west African dish for supper for them/us tonight. It’s one I learned years ago when two freshly graduated students from the United World College, one Senegalese, the other Nigerian, lived with me for a summer. There are of course regional and tribal differences across the very large continent of Africa, but overall, my experience of Africans is of a warmly engaged, very active presence – two days without a phone call is rare. It can feel intrusive when one is accustomed to a more formal and distanced way of being, but it is also energizing. Radically opposite to the reserve of most Asian cultural norms, with which I am more familiar.

The UWC girls were challenged, adjusting to living in my rural home. I feel as though I have close neighbors – I can see houses in several directions out my windows. They felt as though they were in the middle of nowhere, because for them a neighbor is someone living so close by that you hear their voices throughout the day – almost as though they are part of your immediate family. To compensate for the quiet I so enjoy, they played music – loudly – until they saw my car coming up the drive. I would hear the music suddenly turned off and smile to myself. Different strokes for different folks, indeed.


It’s several days since I began this essay. The dinner on New Year’s Day was full of lively talk, appreciation for a meal “from home” with every bit of the food scarfed down. The energy level in my small house rose dramatically, seeming to be almost too charged to be contained. Such a change from its usual status as a quiet retreat.

And that has been my experience each time, since, that one of the men has been out for a visit. I’m learning (in French) about a lifestyle very different from my own, about the way old cultural customs (reading the color of the kidneys of a freshly killed rooster to determine the chances for success of a marriage) are blended with modern life. Before you question the role of the rooster in planning a relationship, consider what outside omens you look to, for guidance in decisions. Astrology? The I Ching? What page your Bible happens to fall open to?

We all seek reassurance that actions we are taking are “for the best.” We enjoy reminders of the familiar when we are surrounded by what is strange and new. As I am adventuring into new territory with my job, I see myself mentally tying aspects back to prior experiences. Coming away from my first home interview with a cliet I was happy, relaxed, feeling I had made a difference – yes, this is what I used to value when I worked as a case manager in the past, this is the reward for dealing with the excruciating, dictatorial, last minute and excessively thoughtless mandates of the State. Working with people, connecting with people, helping people is the thanks for coping with a computer data system designed by urban techies with no regard to efficiency, the limits of Internet connectivity in rural “frontier” areas, or the limits of patience of “normal” human beings.

So far, it is for the best that I continue to work long and demanding days, and late into the night hours. It is for the best, I trust, that I am simultaneously using French daily and regaining my ability to speak it without thinking, and to catch myself thinking in French as I drive through miles of open grasslands, seeing an occasional herd of antelope, and many hawks, but nary a truck or car.

Out on the Plains of new Mexico

Out on the Plains of new Mexico

And it is apparently also for the best that I am being swept up into the energetic and warmly embracing family of Cameroonians I’ve so recently met.

Accustomed to considering why things happen the way they do, questioning what I should learn from various events, I am instead, in this new year, being rushed along on a tide of activity with only the ability to hang on for the ride. I will see what it is all for, when I find out where it is that I am destined to fetch up. A new year, a new job, a renewed language, all combine to present me with a new way of experiencing my life.

It just occurred to me that there is a belief – Asian I think or perhaps New Age – in the relevance of seven year cycles in our lives. No wonder mine has taken such a different and interesting turn, at ten times seven!

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2 Responses to “Energized for the Best”

  1. Lakshani Suranga Says:

    I too, don’t celebrate New Years like others do. I guess I don’t think of them as extra special, and this New Year’s eve I too, went to sleep early 🙂

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