When 1999 turned to 2000, our family rang in the New Year on St George Island in Florida. Given that we were a family of two tired parents, a troubled teen, a nine year old and a five year old, we were not exactly partying like it's 1999, but it was a good thing to do that year. Some good friends were also at the beach and we spent New Year's Eve with them. Their family included a grandmother and two boys, seven and three, in addition to our friends the husband and wife. Someone (not of our party) placed huge, tinsely cutouts of the number 2000 on the beach and we have some cute photos of the boys peeking out among the zeroes. The kids went out and looked at the stars (which are not usually very visible in the city where we live) and watched the dads play with sparklers while the moms poured apple juice and champagne.
At some point in the evening, the adults played a game in which we wrote down two New Year's resolutions, one real and one silly, put them in a hat, and then as each was drawn out and read, the rest of the group had to guess who wrote it. I don't remember what my serious resolution was (no doubt it was like most people's resolutions - lose weight or do better at this or that) but my silly one was to build myself a beach house entirely out of glass block and beer cans. I was disappointed that my family and friends were unable to guess that this was my entry. Did they really know me so little?
That was the last time I even remotely wrote down a New Year's resolution. They're always the same and they serve little purpose. I'd always like to be better/do better at this or that, and I'd always like to lose weight. There's an endless cycle to it all that feels depressing.
Besides that, we have many times of new beginnings, as I have written about elsewhere on this blog. There's the new school year that begins in late August or early September that many of us seem to adhere to at least psychologically long after we are done with formal education. There's the new liturgical year beginning with the first Sunday in Advent. There's the new time beginning with Easter when we recognize that all things are being made new in light of the resurrection. And yes, of course, January is the epitome of the time of new beginning, when we turn the calendar page and embark on a journey into a new calendar year. We always hope it will be better than the last year, either in our having an even more wonderful, productive, rich, satisfying life or to say goodbye and good riddance to a particular annus horribilis. The point is, though, some people, and I am among them, do more frequent stock-taking and adjusting/readjusting and find it more useful than once a year resolution-making.
The last year has been a year of "interesting times" for me and my family. I wouldn't call it an annus horribilis, as it truly has been interesting. But like the proverb, "interesting" has more than one meaning. God forbid that I should ever get to the place where I don't find life interesting. Some of our more interesting times this year have resulted from deliberate steps taken, while others were unintended. The unintended ones have been particularly difficult to learn to live with. Still, I believe that risk-taking is an essential ingredient in an ultimately faithful and satisfying life, and I have taken risks this year which have been the source of growth and deepening faith and spiritual health for me, even though not all have not worked out as I had hoped. But occasionally one wishes for more peace and joy than is present, at present.
My wish in the coming year for you, my readers, is the same one I have for myself, that you will find your life interesting this year, too: that you will find and hold on to peace as you find it; that you will find and hold on to joy as you find it as well and that no matter what, you will laugh a lot; that you will be be open to God's work in the world, to recognize the new things God might be doing, and then to go stand there with God; I wish for you an appreciation for mystery and a refreshed sense of wonder and awe as you walk through your days; I wish for you the courage to take risks that will ultimately bring you joy and probably make the world a better place.
Also I hope you get to the beach occasionally.
Happy New Year!