While I have on occassion been poo-pooed for failing to get into the spirit of Christmas and the annual stuff a thon, the new year is always a time of great meaning for me. A time to review and look back and summarise and count up and contemplate and imagine things which may have been, which may have gone differently. To think about what is to come, how it might be, how it should be, what choices I have, which paths I choose.
Never does a year go by in which I do not have much to be thankful for and this year has been full to the brim with good fortune and happy times. Wonderful experiences, travel, precious time spent with the people I love. And a deepening of that love - a renewed appreciation for a partner in this crazy game, for children who daily bring me face to face with that thing that goes so far beyond words. For an extended family whose mere existence sometimes seems like a complete miracle and who at their various stages in life bring home a bigger picture, a past and a future wrapped up with my own. The opportunity to reflect on their preciousness, without the kind of loss that generally prompts such thoughts is a really wonderful gift.
And perhaps because so much of this year has been spent apart from the people who normally constitute the everyday, not just family, but friends and neighbours and colleagues and the incidental people whose lives rub up against mine by virtue of where we shop or which tram we catch or where our children go to school, because of this they have been so much more present in mind. Their lives, their news, the sounds of their voices, the things they have made and done and moments that have been frozen into pictures arrive like care packages full of sweet things in a time of rationing and we receive them with the greatest possible excitement.
New friends too have joined the feast. New bloggers I have come to know beyond the post, friends from older past lives returned through facebook of all things and new creative work and enterprises have brought with them great people with whom I now collaborate (and tweet and skype and chat) instead of just admiring from afar. There are some people who were once mere acquaintances and now are fixtures in my life and the life of my family. On this front in particular it has been a boon year and on this front in particular I feel like fortune has found me. Wonderful people prepared to put up with my various faults and idiosyncrasies, willing to listen to my apparently bottomless spring of words, people generous with their time and humour and preparedness to see the finery of this emperor's new clothes. Good people who I appreciate deeply.
I would be lying however to say there has been nothing but good. Good fortune is made all the better by the persistence of human frailty, the failings of ourselves and those around us, and the sadness and disappointment of things gone wrong. And there has certainly been some of that this year. Some relationships have faltered, there have been misunderstandings, differences of opinions and the recognition that not all people were made to get along. And while these things cause confusion, pain, frustration and anger, and have the capacity to rent the inner peace so central to life's ongoing sustenance, they too are inevitable.
Which doesn't mean they don't provide much pause for thought, that they are not opportunities for questioning oneself, one's behaviour and thought. Indeed they so often find oneself lacking. Human discord, whether it be in traffic, in the workplace, in the circle of friends or in the home provides the perfect stage on which to act like the idiot from our own worst nightmares - where all choices open are flawed and compromised beyond belief. And while in theory discord can be handled in a positive way, it doesn't seem to me that human emotions lend themselves to that very often. As is generally the case, this year managed to surprise and sadden me in this regard. Sadness that stays with me, surprise that springs fresh no matter how often I pass this way.
It would hardly be a news flash to say bad things happen, but in the second half of this year as we have been outside of our normal lives in this sabbatical bubble I have thought about things I normally stack on the shelves for another day. The less stressed, less rushed, less cluttered, less distracted life creates space for bigger thoughts and in that space the role of bad things seems clearer, if no less awful. And whether it is relationships on rocky slopes or people growing older, sickness, infertility, loss of jobs or homes or treasures, bushfires, trauma...there is no end to the number or variety of ills that can befall us. Most of the time we devote good energy to either avoiding thinking about it or convincing ourselves that we are somehow immune. But we are none of us immune and sometimes the denial feel likes a whole new level of pain. Middle age is really the end for such delusions and now that I am at the top of that hill, it seems the view is worthy of contemplation.
When I look back over 2009, both its highs and its lows, the constancy of the making stands in high relief for me. While I have always made stuff, the more I age and the more I experience of the joy and sadness of life, the more consistently I seek solace in creative work. I'm not talking about some highfalutin notion of art and self expression, but of a much more mundane mediation between me and the vagaries of the world. The sewing and knitting and cooking and dyeing and cutting and pasting have been constant companions and I am supremely grateful. It's funny to think, but I am used to feeling happy about the stuff I make or the time I have spent making it or the people I have met with whom I share the making, but it has taken me a while to get how fortunate I am to have something which provides me with a kind of rudder to navigate through the emotional landscape. And quite literally something in which to wrap myself in order to better face the world.
So now that I am looking forward to another year and I am starting it in the way I intend to continue. I had planned on proudly announcing I had completely vanquished the mending and alteration pile I had accumulated in the last year. I was looking forward to that clean slate and had in mind all kinds of new projects once it was gone. There is a list I am excited about that has been brewing and fermenting and getting ready to be made. In the last few weeks I have done pretty well at getting to that slate clean, with only only a few things lingering.
But now suddenly my clean slate and new ideas are not nearly as important as helping out with other people's needs and my mending pile has been tossed back in the cupboard along with the drafting gear and fabric stack so I can pull out the quilting fabrics. While we lay about on this last day of the year I'll get piecing and knitting and thinking about other ways I can use my making to help. Help family members in need of things and embraces and gestures of love and caring. Help me in getting onto a path I want to follow.
I will be feeling keenly my own good fortune, feeling the sadness and feeling the responsibility to use my time and resources at least in part to pursue ends more noble than my own whims. I will be doing my level best to meditate on the balance between good and bad, on embracing the good that comes from bad and accepting as best I can the bad that appears to have no upside.
I don't make resolutions as such on new year's eve, but I do plan to try and make this year one in which I am more mindful, more in mind of the bigger picture and important things. One in which I work more towards making more but having less, in which I am more creative of mind as well as practice and in which I live in a way that is less in conflict with what I believe. I hope, as always, for less conflict both near to me and far away but not at the price of participating less, and for the conflict I do experience and help create to at least serve as a lesson for doing better next time.
And to all you who have made it this far with me I thank you and wish you all spectacular new years too. For whatever reason you find yourself here, I hope sharing in my adventures is worth the time you give to the reading. I hope you find something of which you seek and at least something more you didn't know you wanted until you saw it. And rest assured that now we are on the threshold of the change of years all seriousness will shortly be over and trivial programming will resume again.