Running Into the New Year

Lucille Clifton wrote:

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises

Full poem here.

If you’re like me, you’ve been ruminating about all the usual things that come up as the year slips from one to the next. Do I make resolutions? Do I not? Maybe a word for the year? What would that be? Or should I set an intention?

Or maybe you’re set on all of that. After all, it’s just a random point in the spiral of time, it means less than nothing except that people make it into something. Bah humbug. And besides, none of that really works, does it? Not for me this year or ever!

Even knowing all that, I’m reminded of David Sedaris’ story about his mother writing her resolution every year.

On New Year’s Eve she would sit with her notes and a coffee cup of champagne, glancing at her watch and tapping a pencil against the legs of her chair.  She would write something on an index card and, moments later, shake her head and erase it.  The process was repeated until she wore a hole through the card and was forced to start fresh on another.

When he and his sisters found a box with those cards in them after their mother died, they found they all said the same thing: Be good.

And I understand, and recognize myself in his mother’s indecision, and her final choice. I experience a longing to be different more often than I can tell you. Thinner. More focused. Less judgmental. More loving. More grateful. Wiser. All of it can be wound up in that single phrase: Be good.

And here we are, running into a new year, with old habits of being and lifelong struggles caught up like wind in our hair. I tell myself and you to be gentle about it all, and to do what we do weekly in our worship: set something small, an intention for today or this week, and put something real around it. Promise to be kind to other drivers, or to slow down and look at something closely.

Even if you’re all done with the whole new year resolutions and intentions, and words and all, you can still maybe make a small commitment for this week or even just for tomorrow.