Ensuring A Better New Year.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 11.32.56 AMRather than toss confetti with friends at the end of 2013, I found myself alone in my bathroom, tossing up the contents of my stomach.

When I’d finished this involuntary abdominal exercise at a quarter to midnight, I found myself in a kneeling position on the cool tile, examining the contents of a white porcelain toilet bowl as a Greek might examine his coffee grounds in a white porcelain cup. Was vomit a viable medium for fortune-telling ? I turned on the light to have a better look. There wasn’t much to see. I’d had this bloody stomach virus for nearly three days and had eaten very little.

So much for my future, I thought. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and went to go sit down in the living room.

I reflexively poured myself a finger or two of bourbon to drink at midnight but immediately thought better of it. I set the tumbler on the table beside me, but the vapors rising from the glass were too tempting. I poured the whiskey back into the bottle. Feeling depleted, I found myself in the kitchen reaching for a small container of Ensure nutrition shake instead. Too tired to agitate it properly,  I just poured it into a champagne flute to be mockingly festive. I toasted the New Year by myself with eight ounces of viscous dark chocolate liquid which promised me nine grams of protein.

“Another year down the toilet”, I said to myself as I raised my glass to bid the year adieu. “And good riddance to a shitty 2013.” But as soon as I said it, I realized how absolutely wrong I was.

2013 was a great year, wasn’t it? Yes it was. Or rather, it was a mixed bag of good and bad, but all years are like that. For me, it was the year of being careful what I wished for.

For example, I had wanted to lose a few pounds over the Holidays and my wish was immediately granted. Upon reflection, I should have been more specific as to how I planned to go about it. But the wish fairy gave me a three-day stomach virus and presto! I can now fit into most of my pants again.

And my wishes were granted for this little blog, too. It could not have been more successful, critically speaking, than it was in 2013. In food writing terms, I hit the triple crown– an IACP nomination for Best Culinary Blog, a James Beard Award nomination for Humor, and a second, unsolicited entry into the Best Food Writing anthology. The fact that I didn’t win either award turned out to be a blessing– the experience taught me how to be a good loser (something I needed to learn) and the sheer volume of love and support I received from friends and colleagues was overwhelming and much more gratifying than any medal or certificate or blog badge ever could be. And I say that honestly.

But again, I should have been careful what I wished for. All those lovely, shiny honors have their dark side, too. To be fêted and congratulated is wonderful, but when the party was over and I saw that my life didn’t magically change, I felt ridiculous for thinking it would, and depressed because it didn’t. For a while, all I heard was “book, book, you must write a book and you must write it now.” I dragged my heels. The joy of writing diminished. I stopped doing it for myself and worried that I needed to cater to some imaginary, larger audience. I resisted the advice of more than one literary agent. I managed to talk myself out of writing the books I really wanted to write, convincing myself that they were too “out there” and would never sell.

My depression deepened; I wrote even less. I felt as if I had no real future in writing. For a while, I contemplated not doing it at all. But I forced myself to write something once a month out of fear of disappearing altogether.

But I am grateful that I have not disappeared and amused at the fact that it took me being hunched over a toilet to help me realized that. When I saw next to nothing in the bowl, my first thought was “no future”. Upon reflection, however, I think it shows that my future simply hasn’t been written. In the stars or in vomit or otherwise.

It was an appropriately cathartic ending to a roller coaster year.

I spent New Year’s Day feeling happier and much lighter and sought out the company of friends to spend the afternoon with. The afternoon with them turned into evening and all the while my head filled with new ideas, new plans, new goals. It was time very well spent. I promised myself I will write more in 2014. Not exclusively for the blog, but I will write regularly– on projects I want to do. To please myself and to help me make more sense of the world. If it pleases others, that will be an added bonus.

I’ve come out of 2013 a smidgen wiser, a little more experienced, and even a tad thinner. And I somehow managed to leave the depression of last year where it belonged– flushed down the toilet.

I can’t wish you nothing but success and happiness in 2014. That’s far too unrealistic. Instead, I wish you an interesting year. One complete with wish-fulfillment and the wisdom to successfully navigate the sometimes dangerous rapids of those wishes fulfilled.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
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26 Responses to Ensuring A Better New Year.

  1. pacalaga says:

    Lovely. May this year bring you too many interesting things to do.

  2. Smith Bites says:

    For what it’s worth Michael, meeting you ‘in real life’ in 2013 was one of the highlights if my year – really. My wish for you in 2014 is that you have many moments of inspiration, a few good friends by your side and joy – both in writing as well as life. And I do hope to see you again this Spring in CA. Happy New Year!

  3. Epiphanies can come at the oddest times. If a little (alot) of barf and a glass of Ensure is your crystal ball, so be it. Isn’t it amazing how much we can accomplish and still find ourselves thinking about what we didn’t achieve? Is that human nature or endemic to our Bay Area culture or our U.S. culture? I don’t know but here’s hoping we can keep our perspective in 2014. I wish you nothing but continued success and many interesting adventures.

  4. Jamie says:

    Michael, the more I get to know you and read your words, the more I think you are my male alter-ego. Really. I could have written this. One day we need to laugh and commiserate over a glass of something (though please not Ensure).

  5. Annie says:

    Please don’t change the way you write! That’s what makes you so fun to read; you’re different than the pack. Who wants to appeal to everyone?

    • Oddly, I’ve never really wanted to appeal to everyone. I happen to like my audience– they have the miraculous ability to translate their thoughts into complete sentences. And for that I am truly grateful.

      As for changing the way I write, I think that’s inevitable. And by that, I mean that people (and their skills) grow and develop as they mature. But I promise that any change which might occur will be organic and not to conform to the tastes of the general public.

  6. Alles says:

    Isn’t there a joke along the lines of making the universe laugh by telling it your plans? I love your writing, your recipes, and most of all your insights. Please don’t change your unique voice to pablum by writing to “that” audience. We’re here and we love you the way you are.

    By the way, there’s a reformed whorehouse in Williams, Arizona called the Red Garter. I chose my room because it was eponymous with a delectable treat you shared: Big Bertha.

    Wishing you much love, magick, & joy in 2014 and beyond!

    • If there is indeed a joke about telling the universe one’s plans, I think one might need a plan to divulge. I am currently attempting to formulate one, so I think I’m safe for the moment.

      And I love the idea of you selecting a room in a (former) whorehouse based upon something I did. I accept full responsibility most gladly.

  7. Alles says:

    Ooops! You really need an edit function. That reformed whorehouse is now a hotel. Context remains everything.

    • I understood the context, but I still prefer to conjure up the image of you in an empty whorehouse, waiting for something to happen, and fingering nothing but the dust on the window sill.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Oh, dear. I had a similar catharsis over New Years, though it didn’t involve a toilet. (Thank god.) It’s amazing how these seemingly awful circumstances can yield untold growth that might not have happened any other way? Whether it’s deep depression or a death threat from a psychopath, you never know where the storyline will take you.

  9. Pedge says:

    For what it’s worth, I really looked forward to reading your blog in 2013. I do hope you will add a post every now and then in 2014.

    • Pedge– Thank you. And I promise I will serve up more posts than I did last year. It’s so lovely to know that there are people in this world who look forward to reading me.

      Here’s to a more fruitful New Year!

  10. Lene says:

    Happy new year and congratulations on such profound insights. Imagine that they originated from an empty toilet bowl!

    I can relate to the sense of pressure to write something Perfect, right-now-this-very-instant and the worry about finding an audience. As a convert to being an indie author, I can highly recommend it. Remember that you already have an audience and a platform. Write the book you want to write. Publish it yourself via Amazon or CreateSpace and get 70% royalties.

    And yes, that sounds like a sales pitch, but it isn’t. I wrote for the hope of a publishing contract and then I switched to doing it myself. Best thing I ever did. Check out Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran and think about it.

    Thanks for all the terrific posts that always make my day. Hoping 2014 is magical for you.

    • Lene,

      Thank you for the suggestions. I had considered the self-publishing route a while back, but realized that the books I want to do really need the power and expertise of a publishing house behind them. But for the smaller, more personal stuff (like unillustrated short stories and the like), I think self-publishing might just be the way to go!

      Cheers and thank you again,


  11. Sharon says:

    Cheers to you! Congrats on the limelight, the insights from your toilet bowl, and all the heartfelt recognitions from those of us who truly savor your wonderful writing. You’ll make our 2014 interesting, for sure.

    • Sharon,

      (Oh how did I miss this week-old comment?) What a lovely thing for you to say. I thank you heartily. I am now extra-grateful that the limelight was not upon me as I gained my toilet bowl wisdom.

      I will do my best to make 2014 interesting. I hope you shall, too.


  12. Riya says:

    May this year bring too many things to do.

  13. carole chase says:

    Hi Michael- Somehow I missed this wonderful article when it came out but I couldn’t not tell you this: I work at a cancer center and the Boost and Ensure folks send me a case here and there to give out to patients with poor nutrition. They recently came out with butter pecan flavored Boost and the 1st thing I thought of was “That’s gotta be good with some Captain Morgan.” 😉

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