In 2002, the coming of the New Year was brimmed to overflowing with the prospect of new beginnings, mixed in with a healthy dose of queasiness and anticipation. The night was clear and cold, and the downtown First Night celebration in St. Louis was active, but not yet in full swing. We walked, Michael and I, in and out of families of all shapes and sizes. The old were sipping coffee to keep warm and awake. The young had not yet descended into the space since it was still several hours until midnight. We sought shelter first in a theatre venue watching some amazing short excerpts of plays performed by member of the Black Rep Theatre. I enjoyed sitting, and a break from the cold wind. I may have been a Buffalo girl, but I couldn’t seem to keep warm in those early winter days where hormonal shifts in my body threw my temperature out of control. When the performance ended, we tried to be outside for a while but I started shivering to my bones and wanted to find another indoor event. We found refuge from the cold in an old stone church, listening to haunting Celtic flute music drift and resonate. I hadn’t been in a church for several years at that point, but this space drew me in deeply. The draw for me was not anything religious (at least, as I defined it at that time), but for the almost aching, longing I had for the melody to find its way into the recesses of my heart. Auld lang Syne. The melody begged me to remember, to never forget, to hope again, to trust again, to step into something larger than myself. So beautiful. So frightening.
But the music eventually ended, and we returned to the cold and clear night air. We must have talked, but I remember being…or at least feeling…very quiet.
I was very, very tired and we decided to leave the chilly First Night festivities before the ball dropped. First, we moved by a huge wall, with a table filled with stars begging to have wishes and predictions written on them and to be placed somewhere on that First Night tableau. I picked up a star, and we conferred about the message which we eventually wrote, in true loving yet geek-like fashion: 2 in 2002 = 3 in 2003.
I was so nervous to write that. It was like tempting fate. I was so afraid to jinx it, to find this hopeful expectation would turn into another loss. But, I rode the shirt-tails of Michael’s optimism in spite of myself. Turns out that prediction was true, as our daughter was born healthy and happy later that summer.
I think about that particular Year’s Eve, recently married and newly pregnant as I was, as an archetype of all the emotion that this particular date holds: festivity, celebration, family, longing, weariness, worry, hope, expectation, new beginnings. New Years Eve is a precipice, with one foot planted in the outgoing year and the other poised to spring forward. We are firm in our resolutions (until they too become the “same old, same old”) and we visit the paths of memory as we chant our “out with the old, in with the new” mantra. But, the path of life is often more circuitous and rambling than we often want to think about, and many new beginnings spring forth in their own time and not necessarily when the ball drops and we sip our toasts of champagne. Truthfully, many new beginnings spring forth from endings and transitions we never wanted or anticipated in the first place.
Maybe that is what makes this date so haunting: we realize that while we can reflect on what was, we can’t fully know what is yet to come. There is a mystery in that which draws us to psychics and seers, or that tests out our hopes in the stars or even in our prayers. We are trying to spring forth into a controlled newness, a hopefulness of what will emerge. But, that is not what happens when we leap. We have to acknowledge the trust fall into the unknown, and risk adventure and loss in the process. There may be tears, there may be joy and in both, we may grow more fully into who we are.
This New Year’s Eve, I think back on 2013 and realize I had so very little idea at all of what was unfolding in ways great and small this past year. In retrospect, it has been both glorious and sometimes maddeningly frustrating. Like many years, I have walked through illnesses, grief, transitions as well as joy, wonder, and so much gratitude for renewed faith, new opportunities, and deepening of identity, meaning, and divine presence. I couldn’t have written this chapter last year. I didn’t even have a blog in which I could write (and would have scoffed at the idea, frankly). But, here I am at the close of the year filled to overflowing with grace and gratitude. My heart has courage, and my soul is learning where and when to seek shelter. A vast tableau lies before me…before all of us…and we ponder what we will predict and what to write on our stars of wonder.
For 2014, I am simply planning to savor the journey and celebrate the small points of light I encounter along the way.
On my star: gratitude and grace.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give me a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.