Ring out the old, ring in the new, and for some of us, ringing in the ears on January 1. These things happen this time of year.
I have a love/hate relationship with the changing of the year. The finality of it scares me. This year, 2012, comes to a close, and all those goals I set last January go “poof” on the stroke of midnight. Another chance to judge myself for not living up to my own expectations.
On the other hand, after a good night’s sleep, I look out the window and the sun comes up. If you’ve watched the Rose Parade, you know that Southern California looks particularly good in the beginning of January. Most of the country lays dormant under snow or at the very least, copious amounts of mud. Not L.A. The sky has beamed a beautiful cerulean every year but one for all the 123 Rose Parades that have taken place so far. (Weather.com predicts sunny with a high of 63°F for the 124th.) Rain or wind has banished the smog to oblivion, or at least the Inland Empire. The mountains stand in clear relief, guiding your eye up to the heavens. (At least to those of us who look beyond the baton twirlers walking the parade route dressed in spandex.) The very air smacks of possibility.
;/0 (comment added by Zoë, who just walked on the keyboard.)
Okay, so Zoë thinks I’m being overly dramatic. Perhaps she’s right. This year, I looked back at my goals from last January, and the usual depths of despair (thank you, Lucy Maud Montgomery, for introducing me to that phrase) threatened to overtake me. My score is one out of three. I told myself that I would finish my third book (not even close), publish my already-finished novel (no activity there, either) and step outside my comfort zone. The last one, I give myself credit for. Travelling to Europe on my own was daunting, and not something I would have tried ten years ago. Now, I did it, met no major tragedies, and have a host of fabulous pictures and memories to show for it. (And a pair of socks with shamrocks on them, because everyone should have one.)
As fabulous as that last accomplishment made me feel, I quickly abandoned it for the other two failures. I told myself I was going to make my writing the first priority in 2012. Clearly, this did not happen. What is wrong with me? I wondered. Am I going to set the same goal this year? If it didn’t work last year, why should I try again?
Somewhere during church this past week, God answered the question: Because that’s how life works.
All of a sudden, I saw the past year with greater accuracy. No, I did not spend the entire year on the couch napping. I started work with a new company in February, and my workload increased threefold. (Maybe a little exaggeration there, but maybe not. It was a struggle, but so far, my head still clears the surface.) I travelled a fair amount – to London and Dublin, to the Bay Area, to Portland three times. I joined the Praise Band at my church and began singing on a regular basis again. And oh, okay, maybe I spent a little too much time learning my way around the iPad.
In that same year, however, I still managed to write. I did some demolition on my current novel, wiping out about ten thousand words that I felt had veered off the wrong direction and starting again. Measuring how much writing I did is difficult, because I like to write longhand, and much of it hasn’t been typed into the computer yet. (Another project, until that glorious day when either a) I can afford an assistant or b) I can teach Zoë to type. On second thought, I’ll have to stick with the assistant. Zoë would do her own editing, and everything I wrote would end up sounding like a Chekov play with a tuna theme.) I cranked out my favorite short story yet. And last but certainly not least, according to WordPress, I wrote 58 blogs, including a travel series that, aside of hopefully entertaining others, will help me savor my English/Irish vacation for years to come.
My former counselor, Gloria, used the image of a guided missile. It looks like it’s flying straight, she told me, but in reality, Mission Control is constantly checking on it and making slight alterations so that it stays on course. Contrary to being a lesson in failure, New Year’s can be a great time to check in with your goals, or, as I like to think of it, realign yourself with your true north. I strayed from the path? Not really. Maybe I just walked parallel to it for longer than was productive. Now is a great time to make a slight correction, so that I’m heading in the direction I really want to go.
My BFF Kimberly once pointed out that for addicts to give up drugs, they can’t just give them up once. On average, the addict who sticks with sobriety will have tried seven times. (I can’t find any hard statistics on that. The Caron Treatment Center website just says that addiction is a chronically relapsing disease. In any case, they agree that relapsing is to be expected.) That means trying six times, falling off the wagon every time, and deciding after that sixth bumpy landing that you have a reason to try once more.
For most of us, success does not rush in to meet us the first go-round, and you can make a good argument that it shouldn’t. Success that comes right to you is really just luck. We all get some of that, and it’s nice, but it doesn’t give you the bone-deep job of an accomplishment that you truly earned.
So, this New Year’s Eve I will be drinking a glass of bubbly with friends, secure in the knowledge that trying again is not only worth a shot, it is probably the most worthwhile thing I can do for myself.
Instead of thinking what you’re going to do differently, I offer you a new challenge this year. What are you going to do again, hopefully better? Me, I’m going to write.
Kimberly wishes you all a wonderful 2013, surrounded by love, peace, and snuggles. Just promise her you will avoid the temptation to drug pets, children or significant others in order to achieve this.