I got a new planner today. I filled in every date I could remember for this upcoming year. Crisp white pages and black lines. Pen and pencil and highlighter almost-but-not-quite smudged. I haven't used a planner in a few years. While I was thinking of it, I updated my google calendar and deleted old categories: classes, study group, exams, gym. I decided I didn't need them but then thought twice.
Yesterday's 5pm coffee; a rambling, panicked email; and finally the meltdown that had been brewing all day. A mini meltdown, but only because she knows how to defuse them - she has years of practice - years of Decembers and Mays. Almost a decade.
I have old-time comforts now. I fall into them without noticing. That playlist on repeat, vanilla lattes rather than seasonal specials, three squash soup and corn bread from Whole Foods, that old hooded sweatshirt. The hours of the day blend with the days of the week - I shower at almost midnight only to wash away anxiety and throw my wet hair into a bun. Disheveled.
One December, six years ago, I hung holiday decorations, planned thoughtful gifts, made Christmas cookies, wrapped presents, talked with Santa at our holiday party. I spent my evenings with carols and Delilah's everyday miracles. I sent cards that year. That felt like a miracle.
I haven't since. Done any of that. Felt any of that.
There is peace, though, that comes from my own December traditions and rituals. The coffee, the soup, the nights that consist of only a few hours, the days of marathon writing or studying. Accidental traditions and rituals but nonetheless orienting. A final push before calm and then change.
It came again this year. Unplanned and unexpected. A December closer to anxiety-filled Decembers of the past but also closer to the familiar, the known, the soothing comforts than I have been in months. A soft reminder that these years, these Decembers, strung together built a life. I built a life. This December, that feels like a miracle.
I'll over caffienate and undersleep. The cashier at Whole Foods will worry about my blood-shot eyes and incoherent greetings. It has really only been a few days. It will only be a few more. But I've already settled into it, welcomed it back like an old friend stopping by for just a cup of coffee while passing through town. I have to ask, though, will you return again, soon? This time, maybe for good?
My planner and I would like to know.