The week between Christmas and New Year's is always a little strange for me. A little sad, perhaps, because all of the excitement and anticipation of Christmas is over (it already feels like ages ago) but there's still the expectancy of the New Year's celebration, though much smaller in comparison. This week marks the end of something and the beginning of something else (namely, the year). But will 2012 really be so different from 2011? What exactly happens between December 31 and January 1? We are caught in a cycle of years, regardless of how we mark them, so what's the big deal? I guess maybe it's not so much the big deal as it is just the deal: our lives are marked by rhythms, ends and beginnings. Sunrise becomes sunset. Sunday leads to Monday. January moves into February. Life, eventually and inevitably, becomes death. I'm thankful for these rhythms, these patterns that dot our lives. Some days, it's all I can do to make it to sunset, ever grateful that tomorrow is a new day. And other days, weeks, or months, are filled with such joy (like Christmas) that it is only the end of that thing that helps me retain my joy (just think if Christmas was forever - what would our joy be like then?).
I am not one for resolutions in the classic sense - they can sound so much like rules, expectations begging to be broken and disappointments waiting to drop in. There is too much unexpected "life" that can happen in a year for a hard and fast decision or rule to be made about it within the early stages. But the spirit of resolutions I can appreciate - longing for something better, fuller, healthier in life, imagining that things could be different and implementing change, a fresh start, a new beginning...
My "resolutions" look a little different, more like "hopes." Sometimes they are fairly realistic and attainable, like taking a multivitamin. Other times, they are less specific, like my wish to be a better listener. So, in anticipation of this weekend's events, I dug out my journal from last year and read over my list of "Hopes for 2011." Here are a select few:
-Travel: visit Sam in Alaska (check! see September post Into the Wild)
-Don't buy unnecessary "things" and get rid of useless crap (still in progress...)
-Sell or giveaway some artwork (I sold a painting this year to some Aussie mates, gave several away, and have recently been commissioned for a large painting)
-Volunteer at Missionaries of Charity (I spent the first part of this year jobless, so I found my way back to the Sisters of M.C. here in Chicago, who have taught me the essence of humility. I haven't been back for months but recently have been hanging out at our local food pantry.)
-Make more homemade things (My mom and I ventured a bit of laundry detergent and household cleaner, and I continue to bake breads but I have visions of much more!)
-Plant vegetables (my vegetables consisted of herbs, time and space is not in my favor)
-Learn to play the guitar (hmm...well, this one is a bummer)
-Write something: start a blog, memoir (check!!!)
-Eat vegetarian (well, fish is still in my diet, but I'm reading a book right now that is challenging even my moderate fish-eating)
I discovered a couple other notes from the end of 2010. One documenting the news of a dear friend's miscarriage. She had written to me, "The Lord gives and takes away, still my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name." Their daughter, Hazel, was born just before Christmas. I had also scrawled a note on "the theology of place - what about this idea of praying towards a place in the kingdom, and a peace in that place, rather than a job or a school, etc." I find myself thinking much the same as we enter a new year, and I can't help but wonder what I've been doing these last 365 days, wishing I'd been more attentive. Last January I was also meeting regularly with a group of friends who decided we each needed to pick a "word for the year." The last page of my journal bears "My word for the year: holy longing? small wonder?", a friend's address, the name of a song I liked, a recipe for Sweet Potato Souffle, and this quote from writer Molly Wizenburg:
"Well, there you go. This is what you write about. Exactly what's happening."
That is, essentially, what I've been doing, writing about what's happening. I'm only sorry I've missed some of the living in between, or may have "lived" at the expense of others. Which is why I'm grateful that we can begin again.
I'm working on this year's "hopes", with maybe a few dreams and reflections in addition. But I like to give myself the first bit of January to determine these things - we need time to think, reflect, and hope outside the confines of a holiday or the pretense of a season. I'll keep you posted. In the mean time, enjoy these last moments of a year of plenty.