Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year Thoughts

On New Year's Day, it's difficult to avoid some bit of contemplation about what is forward, about the possibilities when looking out at the new year. In his essay "New Year's Eve," Charles Lamb nails it when he describes the significance of the day: "No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left." Similarly, in George William Curtis' essay "The New Year," he notes that the coming of the year is done so with "relentless punctuality...old Time, who turns his hour-glass with such a sonorous ring on New-Year's Day...." I am not indifferent to the beginning of 2013, reflecting back a bit on what has recently passed and what I desire in the coming of new.

I also am very aware of what the beginning of the year holds for many. A friend welcomes in a baby, her first-born, an intentional act of love with her partner, making me smile to know that she and him are showered in love as the year kicks into a new beginning for them. I spoke to my uncle on the telephone on this first of the year, and for him, 2013 holds a definite end, more of a saying goodbye and letting go rather than a looking forward. When I awkwardly tried to make conversation, not really knowing how to essentially say, "it sucks that you have cancer and are dying," he understood my stumble of words. Never being a very talkative uncle, he interrupted one of the silences during our brief call with, "I know it's hard to find the words." We ended with an exchange of "I love you," knowing that we might not speak them again to each other. Today, I also spent a fair amount of time on the telephone with my great uncle who is 96 and writing a memoir about his life as a publisher. For him, the writing is what he lives for, what keeps him going into the new year. "I wouldn't know what to do without this writing," he told me today as we talked about pieces of the memoir draft he sent me in the mail.

As I turn into the new year, I am reminded of my responsibility to be as present and grateful as I can for this fortunate life I live. While I can be a bit pollyannish at times, I wouldn't trade that trait, happy to see forward most of the time, even when darkest days hover. This past year felt very blissful. I am thankful for so many things, but here are some that stand out:

  • Being more present in my teaching. After a couple of years of breezing through my job because I am skilled, because I needed distance from the politics of where I work, I challenged myself with an entire new class (all new prep/material/assignments), new approaches in classes, and doing more than just showing up. Connections with students brought more joy, and I found myself again looking forward to teaching.
  • Finishing several pieces of writing, feeling good enough about my craft to send them forth into the world of publications. I also finally felt strong enough to open myself up to the rejection process of submitting. And while I did receive a few rejections, I also had two pieces published and one recently accepted, shortly to be published. I am so very very grateful that my writing is being read. 
  • I am surrounded by lots of love. It's the steadiness of Sasha who hasn't stopped following me around the house all day after 12 days of separation due to my vacation. It's the 12 days of vacation shared with two of my closest friends. It's my partner who is so happily much a part of my world and reminds me of how grateful I am to "measure a year in [my] life" with love. 
On the new year, I'm not much for resolutions, always knowing that I want to exercise more, read more, be present more. I am, though, heading forward with some intentions.
  • Be more active so that I can stop obsessing over a menopausal middle that is taking over my body.
  • Finish more writing pieces and send them out into the world for possible publication.
  • Embark on a 90 day promise (inspired when attending a Junot Diaz talk this past fall) to write for an hour daily. What makes this a real intention is that Diaz framed it in such a way that it's easy if you simply look at it as reading for an hour a day, with a pen and paper nearby, jotting things down when inspired (which always happens) by the reading. For today, I have spent more than an hour writing this blog.
  • Keep challenging myself at work. It's a good thing. 
And for everyone, as the year begins, I hope that you find New Year's Day as Edith Lovejoy Pierce did: "We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves."

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