Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year

If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. - Lao Tzu
Everywhere I go, people are breathing a big sigh of relief that 2009 is over. The news anchors claim there is a general feeling across the country that this was an especially bad year. Was it really? It's like there is a magical wall over which we can climb at midnight and escape the imagined curses of the past.

For as long as I can remember, the new year has always brought a response of, "Thank God!" I really cannot remember a time when this was not the case. As a child and a teenager, this declaration came mostly from adults and maybe some kids imitating adults. Children don't usually look at all the bad things behind them; they are too busy being interested in the next few minutes. Teenagers are thinking about the immediate future. Young adults start to get scrambled, coming up with a mixture of concern for their future and trying to grab everything they can in the now.

So why is this year making the news as an exceptionally bad year? What makes a whole year a

tragedy - Disappointment? Illness? Loss? War? Death? Natural disaster? Unrequited love? More tears than we think are normal?

I am absolutely certain that there have been 365-day blocks of time in the history of mankind that were much, much worse.

It would be infinitely more helpful to think of what we are grateful for over the past year. Not so we can hang on to the passing year and revel in it - so we can bless it and let it go. Even the smallest thing to be grateful for is worthwhile, because that small, positive thing could just as easily have been another disappointment.

My father was a humorous curmudgeon. People would say to him, "Why can't you be more positive?" He would reply, "I am positive. Positive everything will go wrong." He had the philosophy that if he expected the worst, he would never be disappointed. I do remember one or two times when he declared a whole year a wash and gave the big sigh of relief and the "Thank God it's over," declaration. Those instances, however, involved the tragedies and misfortunes of others, people he cared for, because for himself he had accepted that everything would always go wrong. One year, to him, was no different than another. "You've seen one bad year, you've seen them all." The closest thing to gratitude I ever heard him say was, "It's better than a kick in the butt."

I'm not going to pretend that I don't have my own gripes with the events of 2009. In the interest of avoiding a "whine-fest" I won't get into what those gripes are, or were. I can honestly say, though, if I were to make a list for every year, put all my concentration into thinking about the unpleasant things that have happened in my life, the lists would vary in length only slightly from year to year.

So, what is there to do? I think instead of a disappointment list, I'll make a list of satisfaction. I'm sure if I think about it enough, I can come up with a pretty long list. I bet I can make my satisfaction list longer than any of the disappointment lists. Lets see, where to start....

1. I am alive.

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