Maybe Next Year

I can only let go by degrees. I can only accept change slowly. I think that is normal. There might be some superhumans who can adapt more quickly, but I imagine many of us are built in the same way; that we process change piece by piece, one thing at a time. For me, it has been best not to know all at once how much I was going to have to let go of this year – all those events and traditions and celebrations that stud our lives like jewels. But, as the dates in the calendar came and went, and what had been written into the diary was crossed out and abandoned, I told myself – maybe next year.

We have all lost our footing, our timing, as 2020 has taken a stumble. It is tough being unable to share (other than remotely, or in very small groups) in the joy of celebrations, or the togetherness of loss, or the camaraderie of hardship. Last weekend, I was supposed to be in Glasgow to see and hear Barry Manilow sing (judge all you want, I don’t care!) – but I trust he’ll keep his music warm, make it through the rain, and be back to see us next year. This week I should have been back at the homeplace, on the north coast of Ireland, for a big family celebration and next week I had planned to go on to Dublin to see my friends and to hang out at the Dalkey Book Festival. Yet again the dominoes keep falling, all arrangements toppled. Plans, big and small, washed away like chalk on a pavement: a trip to the cinema, a graduation ceremony, a football match, a wedding anniversary, a funeral, afternoon tea with granny. Shall we be so quick to take them for granted in the future?

Yesterday, I walked around Edinburgh’s empty streets with K. Our route took us up the Grassmarket, around the back of the castle to the West End, through Charlotte Square and along George Street. I said I found it sad, eerie. She said she thought Edinburgh was enjoying having time off; that the city was having time to breathe. She’s quirky, is K., but her take on it gave me another perspective. We’re all having a breather from schedules that might have been too overloaded to begin with. There was – wouldn’t you agree? – a lot of tearing around, an excess of fifth-gear-living that we mightn’t return to with such alacrity. It’s all bitter-sweet. And if you think you can’t afford to lose this time, to be stopped in your tracks late in your career, well, try to see it as a breather.  There’s always next year.

Send in The Clowns, Stephen Sondheim

Isn’t it rich?

Are we a pair?

Me here at last on the ground,

You in mid-air,

Where are the clowns?

 

Isn’t it bliss?

Don’t you approve?

One who keeps tearing around,

One who can’t move,

Where are the clowns?

There ought to be clowns?

 

Just when I’d stopped opening doors,

Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours

Making my entrance again with my usual flair

Sure of my lines

No one is there

 

Don’t you love farce?

My fault, I fear

I thought that you’d want what I want

Sorry, my dear!

But where are the clowns

Send in the clowns

Don’t bother, they’re here

 

Isn’t it rich?

Isn’t it queer?

Losing my timing this late in my career

But where are the clowns?

There ought to be clowns

Well, maybe next year

 

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