Cognitive Dissonance

January 1, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance or Nostalgia Revisited or New Year Blues - yes, this is one of those posts, sorry, happy new year, and thanks for reading. 

I welcomed the new year sitting in my home office with the space heater on, huddled inside a shawl and a fleece blanket, mulling with my sister over whether my baby's plush sofa should remain here or go back upstairs to the living room. We decided to keep it downstairs. I want to have a welcoming space here for my daughter to come and play while mummy works. It's a coveted reality - this image I have in my head. It inspires me to work harder and better. The only time she has been here while I worked was a few nights ago when she proceeded to painstakingly take apart a post-it pad and stick post-it notes all along the coffee table edge. 

Photo by Rebecca McCue
I have been a little unnerved by the text messages, phone calls, and Facebook announcements of how people are ringing in the new year. "Good bye, 2013. Helloooo, 2014!" I am unable to muster the same enthusiasm. The thought I have had for most of the day is not that I have been through a great year (which is true), and I must welcome another one with hope and excitement, but this, "Dammit, only 5 more days off before life resumes." This is why when the clock struck midnight on the West Coast, long after the East Coasters had posted photos of fireworks and wine glasses and the-obligatory-kiss-at-the-end-of-the-countdown, the biggest problem in my life was deciding whether a turquoise baby-sized sofa will remain in my office space or not. 

Now, about a quarter of an hour into 2014, I am thinking why I become so defensive about my disinclination to celebrate the milestone of having lived through another year. During my childhood, this used to be one of the most celebrated days of the year. My mother used to love visiting the tombs of saints on new year's eve. Even close to midnight, we used to find traffic on the streets. We used to buy garlands of huge wild roses to hang on the doors of the tomb. My mother would distribute food among the homeless and poor in the area. We would then go to a local ice-cream parlor to share a ginormous sundae (no joke). After coming home, I would sit for hours listing my resolutions for the year, first with a lead pencil on a piece of paper, and then in pen, transcribed neatly on the first page of my brand new journal (probably stolen from my father's stash of diaries - I did that a lot, and got caught constantly). 

I am so different now - surprise, surprise! I prefer to stay in and watch fireworks rippling through the great expanse of black sky over this city. From my vantage point, I am also able to see the lights sprawling all across the city. It is breathtakingly beautiful, but my heart is not in it. To me, this is just like any other day. I am spending a quiet evening in my home with my favorite people. My daughter has thrown a tantrum today, which is out of the ordinary, but it was short and she was back to her smiling self in no time. That was the most notable part of my day. It is just another day, another good day. I have caught myself so many times today from spiraling into a thought maelstrom- why are people celebrating, what is happening, am I missing something, it's just another day, justanotherday, justanotherday...

Photo by Rebecca McCue
Perhaps if I were in that city, you know, the heart of which sells rose garlands on cold December nights, where men cook rice and lentils in large cauldrons so visitors to the tombs of saints can purchase meals for the poor, where steaming sugary chai is sold in chipped ceramic mugs on roadsides laden with fog, where ice-cream shops stay open until 3 in the morning, where a stack of journals old and new is maybe waiting for me still...perhaps I, too, would celebrate, because who cares if it's just another day, right? In Lahore, you celebrate everything, every day - or at least that was the Lahore I grew up in. Is it still the same, I wonder as the sound of fireworks dies away in the distance. The sky above me is dark again. What does it look like in Lahore? Just another day, just another day, justanotherday...