Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Thoughts on year's end/year's beginning

Happy 2014! This new year crept up on me. It's not that I was unaware it was coming, exactly, but that it seemed to arrive so quickly.

I saw out the old year and rang in the new in my pj's on my friend (and former roommate) Pam's couch. Her boyfriend still being out of town with family, we spent the night talking, drinking wine and snacking on cheese, fruit and (not at all healthy) Totino's pizza rolls. We watched a movie (Admission, with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd -- one of the rare occurrences where I think a film adaptation is better than the book), pausing it to see the ball drop in New York, and finally exchanged Christmas presents.

It was a completely comfortable way to celebrate. Not that I dislike dressing up and going out (sometimes I very much enjoy it), but being an introvert, was very content with a stress-free New Year's Eve.

I couldn't possibly have foreseen this year just past, which was both difficult and wonderful in ways I would never have imagined: that I would move again courtesy of  a landlord who let our rental go into foreclosure, travel to Puerto Rico (a time with my best friend and her family that I am so grateful for) or lose a parent.

My dad dying from cancer is something which I certainly hadn't anticipated for 2013 when the year began. There are still people who, when they ask me how I am doing, ask it gingerly, clearly more uncomfortable than I am, as if I will crack and crumble beneath the weight of the question; who get this almost comical look of sorrow on their faces or are sadder than I seem to be when they talk about it, while I, on the other hand, could easily joke about the fact that the hardest person on my Christmas shopping list wasn't going to be a problem this year (and then, naturally, quickly found three or four things he would have loved). Yes, it makes me sad that he's no longer here and some songs heard in the car still (and may always -- Philip Phillip's "Gone, Gone, Gone" comes to mind) make me teary. I have had a few more serious crying jags about it and I would - of course! - much rather have had to struggle to find him a present than not. As with other family members who have passed out of this life, I will miss him until I see him again. But am I distraught most of the time? No.

Why? Because he has been born into Eternal Life and is someplace better than I am. I cannot be disheartened by that. And because all the struggles and hardships he faced, all the stress - some of it admittedly self-induced - and pain of depression and his cancer are gone. He was ready, a man of faith who struggled all his life and sought to truly believe in hope despite trials, who had doubts, but oh, how he prayed!

There was joy, too. Of an unexpected new pope, Francis, of seeing family at our family reunion, of witnessing friends wed and welcome children. Of small things, like discovering new books and TV shows (yes, I geeked out over "Doctor Who" this year. I'm not ashamed). At the beginning of this year, inspired by something I saw on Facebook, I took an old glass jar and began filling it with scraps of paper, jotting notes of good things that happened, written on the backs of receipts, envelopes and even a scrap of Christmas wrapping paper. I opened it last night and read them again. Some of them are ridiculous and fun: "Talking to Sarah (best friend) and having her reassure me that I'm not a total idiot & spastic girl" (which, by the way, is somewhat untrue. I can be both an idiot and spastic, sometimes all at once), another noted the birthday of a former crush had passed without my remembering it as "some sort of victory" and laughing over the fact that my mom called "randomly to tell me about a kooky dream she had." Although it's not in the jar (my post on it likely wouldn't have fit), I also knew the joy of and outpouring of love and care that I received from family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances in the wake of dad's death.

Other notes in the jar aren't joyful but rather fact-filled, including some scribbled down during phone conversations about the progress of dad's illness. In one, early on after he was diagnosed, I wrote down a few things he said: "It's in God's hands," and "Don't let it ruin your day," which I remember made me laugh when he said it, because here he is with cancer and he's telling me that, and "It's nothing to get down in the dumps about." Even now, the incongruousness of it made me smile again. On the back of that paper, I also wrote "Had a good, albeit short, cry to The Beatles 'In My Life.'" I cried a bit again last night reading it. You see, I'd always had this idea that I wanted to dance with him to 'In My Life' at my wedding reception, since The Beatles were his favorite. Anyway...

At a certain point, I just became too busy to write things down and put them in the jar. Other than a program from our mass at my family reunion in Illinois over July 4th weekend, the only thing dated later is the ticket from the Audrey Assad concert I went to in St. Pete in early November (which was amazing). After July, everything went so quickly with my dad's health. And then in August I was helping plan a funeral, then sorting through a life worth of things (which still continues), but that time with my mother and my brothers (frustrating as it sometimes was) I would not trade.

I'm thinking on doing the jar again in 2014. Unfolding the scraps of paper having forgotten what was on them was a neat activity. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them now. Perhaps paste them in a book. Although, in that case, I should just go back to journaling. I think I'm less spastically idiotic when I do. :)


I am occasionally quite lonely. I was afraid for a while to even admit it, as if it were a weakness, but have found peace with it in recent months. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, either, as someone once told me that loneliness is simply the Lord yearning for more of you and your attention. You never know. There may come a day when I am surrounded by noise and family and yearn to have all this time to myself back again. :)

Also, I am stronger than I sometimes give myself credit for being.

In the books read in 2013 department, I read fewer books than in 2012 (51 to 61, although I have five I haven't yet finished, one a devotional and another I started only on Dec. 29th). My one concrete reading goal I've set myself for 2014 is to actually read all of JPII's "Theology of the Body." Arleen Spenceley, an acquaintance/fellow Catholic journalist, invited her friends on Facebook and Twitter followers to try reading two pages a day with her in order to complete it in a year. As I've tried reading the daunting-yet-rich tome twice before, and heretofore failed to complete it, two-page sections a day seems manageable.

Naturally, there are just stacks of other books I want to read. Listing them would take too long, I think, and this post is already lengthy enough.

Every year, at year's end/beginning, I have a tendency to write that the coming year will be better than the last. It is a sign of hope, an evidence of and faith in things not seen. I, like most, make some sort of resolution. Usually it's to write more, up the days of the week I exercise, daydream less or to be more spontaneous.

This year, I make none. It's not because I'm not setting goals, or that I don't want to be a better person (or write and exercise more) in 2014, or that I'm without hope (because I have ever so much hope!), but rather I am trusting that God will hold me and guide me in the best path regardless of what promises I make (or even subsequently break) to myself. And thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary, and her patron saint generator, I will be praying 2014 with St. Alphonsus Liguori.

Finally, on this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, I also ask for Our Lady's protection and prayers for the year ahead. Here's to what's to come!