It’s odd to pronounce a new year for the first time.

Two Thousand Twenty.

I emphasize the digits, as if I can’t quite believe the way they sound.

Sometimes I think the most lonely thing about not believing in a supernatural being is that there is no one to ask how will the new year turn out? No one to offer any real assurance that I will be able to live confidently in the present regardless of how scary the future can feel.

So scary, in fact, that when I look out the window to see a crow staring at me, I am sure it is a sign. Crows don’t typically land on my sill to stare at me, but this one turns its head from side to side, slowly, and I get this funny feeling that it swooped in to stress my point: No telling. You’ll just have to wait and see like the rest of us.

“You know what?” I say to crow, “It’s time I get back to work.”

Like a lot of people, December isn’t very productive in terms of my work. Still, you’d think I’d be more convinced of my ability to refine the tone, the phrasing, the pauses, even if it takes me a while to get to my desk this morning.

“Even if my head feels like cotton because I shouldn’t drink the hard stuff, I’m not wired for it.”

I take a deep breath.

The crow flies off.

See, the other week I got all dressed up to attend my friend’s pre-New Year’s/moving-away party. He’s off to live on the Arizona desert.

“I’m so over this,” he said, meaning long, wet winters, and it doesn’t really matter that he’s tried to leave Seattle twice before; this time I believe him.

And because his party felt like the official end of the holidays, first I fell in love with the chilled gimlet with fresh lime. “Plenty of vitamin C,” he said, handing me the spicy, scented drink. With the music in the background, I managed — thanks to gimlet number two — to outlast the only other dancer on the floor, my frined (he still holds it against me, I think), just to prove that I can still dance until the wee hours of the morning.

And this was before Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” came on.

By gimlet number three, I slipped over the edge, falling on my butt in the middle of the room. I looked around in hopes that no one had seen my fall, or, if they had, they saw that it was entirely the fault of the slippery floor.

It’s not hard to reconstruct how it happened. I tried to execute a pirouette.

A pirouette! After three vodka gimlets.

Feet firmly planted in fifth position, it began well enough. But then everything strayed too far from gravity. My balance wasn’t balanced anymore.

Earlier, I’d debated with my friend whether he should mix me another. He looked at me coolly. I think his reason for giving in was simple: He knew my hangover would be far worse than any reproach from him.

I thanked him. I thanked me.

Then I made my way back to the dance floor.

And, well, it’s important to forgive ourselves for making mistakes.

I don’t even know why I thought of that just now. I wasn’t talking about mistakes.


Okay, so in terms of resolutions having to do with my personal life, self-forgiveness will need to become this: any mistakes I make along the way — and I will likely make plenty because I say regrettable things when I’m nervous — hopefully prove that I am, at least, trying.

It’s such a delicate balance, though, patience vs. vigilance, what it takes to make things happen.

Oh, the thoughts I pared back today have been cathartic. Nearly as cathartic as dancing was last week.

And I have found the words, and the nerve, to begin again.


Mary Lou Sanelli is a writer, speaker and dance teacher who lives in Belltown. Her novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio of Yucca Springs,” was recently released by Chatwin Books. For more information about her and her work, visit