by Cathy Arden on December 31, 2012

It’s the night for a party.  And I’ll be going to the same party I’ve been going to for many years now.  It’s the party that saved me.  Well, it saved me a number of years ago from this time of year, which seemed to be dark, darker, darkest in every way darkness falls, always in December.  Breakups (of the most life altering variety), illness, death.  And the biological father I was estranged from my whole adult life had a birthday every January 1st.  That, too, was never far from my mind. And this time of year was always in the Eastern USA cold, where I lived, where traumatic events that are filled with grief had always taken place for me.   Then – my friends in LA and a party I’d travel 3,000 miles to.  It worked.  Escape sometimes works.   And now it’s a place of friends and love and comfort and familiarity.  Stress free. California is now the place I live and work in. I don’t have to travel 3000 miles to find comfort anymore.  It’s right here, most mornings, starting with the sun in the morning in Santa Monica.  And I haven’t dreaded New Year’s Eve for many years now.  Still, the memories persist.  Which is why I’m drinking a cup of tea right now, in advance of the party, to soothe and revive myself for the night to come, for midnight, for the New Year. In the past, in New York, wherever I ended up on New Year’s Eve, I’d either hide in a bathroom to avoid midnight, or rush home in a taxi before midnight hit.  I avoided it like the plague.

Admittedly, it’s still a bit of a struggle for me to take off the bathrobe, put on the makeup, slip on the sparkly clothes and the shoes that I can stand in but really not walk in.  I will somehow make it to the party and join the festivities. And at 9PM Pacific time, I will call my grown children in New York, their midnight, wish them Happy New Year, and tell them I love them.  Then, I’ll turn back to my own party, my own life, and sip champagne until my own midnight arrives.

It’s been almost impossible this December to find comfort or to celebrate anything after the Newtown shootings.  When I heard the news I was in my car and I began slamming the wheel with my fists in anger and hopelessness.   Fucking guns, I kept screaming until I cried.  I haven’t been able to think of anything else since then except for the murdered children, their parents and families.  Nothing else.   Searching for a path out of grief, I found a poem I wrote a number of years ago.  It must have been that I was searching for a path out of grief then, too.  First the poem. Then to the party for midnight.


The chrysalis, glistening
lime, green satin
a shimmer of gold
gold leaf, gold jewels

scrape the gold line
those points of the miraculous
off the throbbing pouch
the butterfly will still emerge
but the patterns on the wings
will be all wrong

the gold spots
are the right notes
we are designed for more than flying
into new worlds and out of the old ones

you say the caterpillar is programmed
I say it is willing
to lose its skin
its feet
the shape it entered with

There is the wing beneath
the frail skin
a point of entry
an escape
our secret design

touch what you dare to touch
save your breathing for later
roll yourself up into a “J”
and hang there for awhile

the cascading butterflies
edge the world


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Iris January 1, 2013 at 4:17 PM

I am also still reeling from the shock of Newtown. You articulate so well what many of us feel about this time of the year. But today is a new day. Happy New Year (hope springs eternal).


Steve Howard January 1, 2013 at 8:30 PM

It was a comfort to see you briefly last night, Cathy. And, I am moved by your story, your openness and clear, quiet sharing. You and I will always be connected by events at this annual celebration from a couple years back. I am proud and glad in my heart that we are friends. Keep writing. Love, Greg, I mean — Steve


Austyn January 2, 2013 at 1:57 AM

Thank you Cathy for being fully and completely you. Authenticity shines so brightly. You looked stunning last night. These thoughts may be within you, but one could never tell from the outside. 😉 Austyn


Brandon January 23, 2013 at 8:39 PM

Am very sorry for your New Year’s-related hardships, and am glad and relieved to hear that California has yielded a more favorable dynamic for you at that time of year.

Also, it’s admirable of you to end the blog entry on a note of hope and perseverance with your beautiful poem. Found the poem inspirational; thank you for that.


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