Happy New Year?
Of course, we wish each other happiness, health and prosperity in the year ahead. We all give thanks for the passing of the previous year, when we were, at least occasionally, sad, broke, and sick.
We forget that twelve short months ago, we welcomed in that year and trusted it would relieve us of the fardels of the year before.
No year ever does.
But we keep hoping.
At midnight three days ago, my husband and I threw the mandatory bucket of last year’s water out the window and ate twelve fat grapes to symbolize the fullness and sweetness expected of the months ahead. Since he doesn’t like champagne, we shared a bottle of some bubbly apple/grape concoction which looked wildly festive, making no comment about the fact that its taste was foul. We were thankful we had someone to kiss, and even more thankful to celebrate the occasion at home, in our jammies, without any obligation to entertain or feign amusement at the antics of our friends and loved ones.
I think I fell asleep in my chair. He watched reruns until he got bored enough to go to bed.
That’s what happiness looks like at my house.
That’s what it looked like last year and the year before.
Were we happy to see the old year pass?
For once, I really wasn’t.
In many ways, it was a happy year. We had our home and our kids were well. They were loved and employed, with many prospects for continued success. Yes, one of them suffered a nasty romantic hiccup, but it was healed within months.
I had a very fulfilling year creatively. While I didn’t blog regularly, I did enjoy writing my little essays… transmitting the observations of a chatty mind. I also painted ten or eleven portraits. What a joy it was, after so many years, to pick up my brushes and attempt to replicate the features and expressions of the faces I love!
There were very sad and scary moments, too. We lost our cat Hermione, after seventeen years of delightful and devoted affection. We almost lost her granddaughter, my beloved Pewter, who became suddenly and seriously sick. She has mostly recovered, although she has lost her sight; we are more grateful than ever for her sweet companionship.
We had our ups and downs financially, of course. We always do. We were thrilled and grateful for an unexpected gift, and we were relieved to be able to cover surprise demands on our purse. We had debts we couldn’t pay, and they followed us into the present year. Big deal. God knows we’ve been there before. However, we did experience something new: professionally, we had such a lousy run that we’ve decided to accept we’re both retired.
This means we will have to fall into new patterns of filling our days, creating opportunities to be both alone and together.
But you know what I like best about the year that just passed?
We didn’t pass with it!
I never used to think about that, but it’s really bothering me now. My mom would have been 100 years old this year; on my next birthday, I am going to reach the age at which she died.
Do I expect to die this year? No. That would be scary and lugubrious. I am, however, aware that it’s more likely than it was last year, and will become even more likely should I see another New Year’s Day.
Once upon a time, that would not have frightened me, but now it does. My Episcopalian conviction in God’s certain forgiveness is increasingly being pierced by my old Roman Catholic fears of eternal damnation. After all, I am not particularly generous, or kind; I am certainly not observant, and too questioning to be considered obedient. I may need to take action in order to earn salvation.
Can I still change my ways?
I don’t know. Gravity pulls on me much harder now. My mind isn’t as quick, and I don’t breathe as well. I find it hard to think about munificence when I spend so much time concentrating on movement.
I also sleep much more than I used to, so any acts of goodness and kindness have to be squeezed into tinier periods of time.
I don’t know if I can do what’s needed.
I’m simply going to have to trust in the mercy of my God.
If He grants me a full new year, I hope He’ll make it a good one. If it’s not quite twelve months long, then I hope to find forgiveness at the end of it.