Two days before flying home for a good ol' Texas Christmas, I lit my shit on fire at a winter solstice party in LA.
Not literally, of course.
Winter solstice marks the longest night of the year and brings with it the opportunity to participate in an array of deep spiritual ceremonies, many of which encourage you to play with fire.
Burning rituals. Not since getting busted lighting matches with my little brother under the family station wagon had I dabbled in burning rituals.
But on the night of the winter solstice, after hours of nibbling carrots and swigging wine in celebration of the return of the light, we all switched to bubbly and sat down to scribble for the fire.
On small scraps of paper, we wrote things we wanted to say goodbye to from the past year and things we welcome in the new.
Some people kept it simple: Bad. Good.
I had two sheets of paper. I tore one of them into three jagged pieces and wrote the following:
On the other sheet, I wrote: holding on.
Four bits of paper. One glass of champagne. I crumpled my scraps in a single fist and went outside.
The fire was dancing. People were singing. I, I will be king. And you, you will be queen.
One by one, we fed our vows to the fire — the goodbyes to the flames, the rest to the smoke to be carried up, up and into the new year. Welcome.
The next day, I logged on to Facebook to check for any sketchy photos that might've slipped through the crevasse in my privacy settings. There was a message from a guy I dated briefly in high school. "I should start by saying I'm not on my death bed or completing a task in a 12-step program."
"I just want to say I'm sorry."
The last time a guy from high school said those words to me, I'm certain I invited him to endeavor upon sexual intercourse with himself, having little patience for the antics of boys when I was but a girl.
But this guy? This moment? I was fresh off of a burning ritual! His timing could not have been better.
Live gratefully. Love generously. Forgive easily.
Was I being tested? If so, it was easy peasy. I had no idea what he was apologizing for. Was it so bad I blocked it? Did it matter?
I replied. I told him my memory of him was limited to what he taught me about how to treat people. During my junior year, I accepted an invitation to the Homecoming dance from a boy who was not my first choice. I was hoping another boy would ask me: Facebook guy. And then he did. So I dumped date No. 1 for FB. And FB, upon hearing what I'd done, dumped me right back.
We can be heroes, just for one day.
Such integrity. My young loins ached.
He had forgotten all about that.
It's been, um, a few (handfuls of) years since Homecoming. Seems we're still holding on to stuff. Still chasing forgiveness. Still playing with fire. But we're also letting go, reaching out, inviting change. Loving more generously. Living more gratefully. Forgiving more easily. I haven't told anyone to go screw themselves all year.
Follow Jessica on Twitter @sicaleigh. To find out more about Jessica Leigh, and to read features by other Creators writers and comics, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.