to a new year.

peace love balance

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an art but a habit.” — Aristotle

Yesterday, we woke up early, at 6:20 am, again. Lu is an early riser, happy upon waking, ready to play. We read several Mercy Watson books and danced the routine Lu choreographed the day before and watched something silly, she snuggled on my lap, then walking the balance beam on the back of the couch while holding my hand.

I left the house after breakfast to lift weights at the gym. I’ve come to love that place, after a lifetime of loathing it. Early in the morning, it’s me and the 70-year-olds, who chat with each other as they press their arms up, continuing to build muscle. I listened to the new Beyonce album — I’m certain I am not the imagined audience but damn that music is good — while I lifted and pushed and shoved heavy things around until I was pleasantly sore. The new year didn’t start for me this morning, but back in July, when I shifted my diet, started to move, and changed my life. I’m the healthiest and strongest I have ever been, thanks to a few new habits, applied every day.

(I imagine I’ll write more about that sometime. But not today.)

Afterwards, I cleaned the kitchen and read more books to Lu and sang along with her to Mary Poppins while Danny went to the gym for his workout. The smell coming from the oven made everything better. When Danny returned, our dear friends Tita and John came over for lunch. We shared roasted pork shoulder, potatoes roasted in duck fat, mushrooms that had been marinated in an herby sauce, and a big salad with a pomegranate-lime vinaigrette. Lucy ate with us, then danced off to the living room to tell stories to herself. We sat with Tita and John, talking, the same way we have for more than 20 years now. Thank goodness Danny has been there for the past 7. Nothing extraordinary, except that it all was, in the moment.

More books and stories and dancing. Tea with my dear friend Michelle while her two girls played Little House on the Prairie with Lucy, complete with bonnets and aprons. That playdate morped into dinner when Tony came home from work. Leftover pork, another big salad, Thai chicken cakes, and twice-baked purple potatoes. And then we left the house to dance.

At the island New Year’s Eve dance:

Two djs in their 40s and 50s, wearing a giant feathered pink top hat and a bicycle helmet lined with red and blue LED lights. Green strobe lights and pastel confetti squares on the floor. A woman dressed in a full flamenco dress, another in a cowgirl outfit, another in a red plaid nightshirt and nightcap. A young man flashing his moves, doing handstands, dancing with himself, then running around the giant room and hiding in the red velvet curtains. Throngs of small children, dancing with each other, trying to break dance, going behind the lit screen to watch their own shadows, laughing and running around the floor, discovering new friends after bumping into adults’ knees. Danny and I dancing to Saturday Night Fever and Ray Charles and Michael Jackson. Standing on the side with Michelle and Tony, noticing everything, and laughing. Finding the room with gymnastics cushions piled high and swarms of children jumping off them, Lucy first in line. Fizzy water and magic wands. Tired children after the celebration of Chicago’s New Year. A small hand in mine as we walked toward the car in the darkness, then the feeling of her head nestled into my shoulder as I carried her the rest of the way, and she fell asleep.

Danny and I fell asleep before midnight, as we have every year since Lucy was born.

Happy New Year.

And today, the first day of the year? The fresh start, the new beginning? It will be more of the same.

Lucy woke up at 6:20 am. I read her Mercy Watson books on the couch. Danny and I clutched our cups of coffee. I’m going for a long walk after I write this. We’re having a potluck with 10 families we adore at our kitchen studio this afternoon. There will be music, dancing, and laughter. I’m certain we’ll all be in bed before 10.

* * *

This last week, we’ve been watching Lucy learn to ride a bike. She was tentative at first, then determined, wobbly, concerned, and scared she would never be good. She kept pedaling. We take her to the parking lot of the elementary school to ride for another 15 minutes, every day. We stand back and let her make her mistakes. She’s getting quite adept now.

Habits last. The hard, daily work of making a habit can lead to lasting change. We’ve been working on our habits around here.

I have no resolutions this year. I find that the relief of that — of feeling that the last day of December is pretty much the same as the first of January — is enormous. There’s no guilt to shed, no feeling of parts of me being too much, or too little.

I’m here. And I’m grateful.