Happy. New. Year!
New Year’s Day. A new beginning. It’s peaceful and calm in my realm. The house is solid and warm. We have electricity and hot water. The dog is content after our morning mile in the wind and cold along the rural gravel road where we live. There is little over which to fret or worry, here in my small corner of the planet.
It hasn’t always been like this. There have been the years of sadness and difficulty. Moving to far-away places and floundering until I got my bearings. Deaths of loved ones. Divorce. I’ll even share that there were, in my younger years, multiple times when clinical depression wreaked havoc on my psyche. Hard things can (and do) come into each life. Always. It’s a rule. But one thing I finally learned was not to hang on to them, or the memory of them. When you let go, they fade back. If you let them, they recede. Eventually, if you choose to allow it, the day at hand can be bright of its own accord. It’s not the prevailing winds of your life that dictate the direction you go, but how you set your sails. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I learned this.
Every reader and most writers know that any good story must necessarily include conflict or struggle, some sort of issue to resolve, something difficult to overcome. But I prefer reserving all that for stories, not for my daily life. I’m grateful for this great sense of calmness around me, the good health I enjoy, and, at this stage of my life, the ability to dig in and work hard without the grinding necessity of having to do so in order to survive. I am a lucky woman, and I know it. I honor it. It’s never something I take for granted.
When I zoom out from my small life and begin to take in what there is to see on the daily news or on the internet and discover what people nearby are contending with, I am even more grateful for this good fortune. The emotional, physical, financial struggles here in my own community are very real. They rise all too readily on the local radar. Nonetheless, right here there’s no one being stupid with drugs, or alcohol, or firearms. I choose to avoid those who seem never have an upbeat or positive thing to say. People who seem to need a lot of drama in their lives aren’t invited to my space, or, if they show up, they don’t end up staying long.
When I widen my lens to take in other places on the planet, I see refugees in Syria and northern Africa, the southern US border. Famine. Slaughter of elephants for ivory-lust. Devastation. Pollution and detritus and blood money. I see people with lives shredded by natural horrors: tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones, blizzards, floods. In too many places, there is armed conflict, and the abuses of power inherent to such times. Oh, don’t get me started. There is a lot of evil in this world.
And there is a lot of good. We are raised by protective parents who caution us, “Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t play in traffic.” I can’t cure world hunger or create world peace, but what I can do is realize that I can have an impact, small but true, every day. In my work (which does, in fact, involve playing in traffic and talking to strangers), people have shown me over and over that goodness may not make the evening news, but it does impact their worlds, and mine. Thank goodness for the good people, too.
So I relax the lens back to this one simple life of mine. The freshness of a new year is a time both to reflect and to anticipate. In the sixty-one new years that have come to me, I have learned that it matters to honor what has passed, and also to be grateful for the chance to make a good year out of what lies ahead. Intentions, predictions, resolutions: these do not need to be empty exercises over drinks on December 31. Yes, January 1 is, actually, just another day. The dog needs her walk. The dishes must be washed, the bills paid.
The new beginning this year happily coincides with the beginning of this, my blog named “Generally Write.” As the Buddhists say, Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water; after enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. This saying helps me. It is a touchstone reminding me that I have both the chance and the need to plow ahead in this life of mine, to grow this day, this here-and-now, the best way I know how. It’s a start. It’s good enough. Happy new year!