Old Cookies

I’ve been chatting with my girlfriends about the new year.

Two dear friends I met while living in Africa are now living on two different continents, while I live on a third, yet the wonders of modern communication keep us in regular contact. They are both scheming about what this new 2013 will bring. Nora is evasive, promising only “big changes and surprises.” Lanni is more forthcoming, promising career and financial improvements. Of the three, my prognostications are the least interesting. I expect more of the same, which is fine with me. Right now, my biggest ambition is to finish off the last of the 2012 cookies which, as far as I know, may well have an end-of-the-year expiration date and pose a danger to those with a less robust constitution.

I remember a time, not that many years ago, when I had a relatively long list of wishes for the new year as well as a fierce determination to make significant changes in my life. Part of becoming a little older and a bit more at peace with myself is looking at the new year a little differently. Instead of a series of challenges to overcome and changes to enact, I look at the new year with a renewed sense of wonder.

The past year was filled with so much— both pleasurable and painful— and very little of it was anticipated. A year ago, I didn’t know I was going to school, much less how that would feel or what it would look like. While my old persona of student slipped on like a well-worn glove, the new identity of teacher was more exciting than I ever imagined it could be. My ideas of the Southwest were vague and romantic; they are now detailed and specific. My struggles to find comfortable accommodations, the curious process of being accepted by fellow students half my age, the quirky, annoying, and delightful people that have crossed my path— all this was unanticipated and all has colored and enriched this full and fulfilling year.

Now, back in the Midwest dutifully polishing off dangerously-old Christmas cookies, I wonder if it is too late to have a resolution in this untasted new year. It seems as if I should have at least one.

Unlike my two girlfriends, I am not contemplating new jobs, new homes, or new relationships. I don’t have any really terrible habits that I am longing to quit or new ones I am eager to take up. When I think of the year past, I can’t imagine how any self-improvement plan would have altered or enhanced the experience of the year, or made it more meaningful.

So, instead of trying to change myself this year, I am going to resolve to keep my eyes open and simply pay more attention to what is already surrounding me every day. I want to see the changes and surprises as they happen— whether welcome and unwelcome. In 2013, I want to give myself permission to savor the new, the unexpected, the never-before-experienced. I want to grieve the disappointments without a barrage of “what if”s or “might have done”s clouding the experience of loss. I would like this year to be less about conforming to any idea of what it should be, and more about really seeing the new year for what is: the incredible privilege of getting one more year to cavort on the planet.

And now, feeling newly resolved, I think I will try to fully savor one more leftover Christmas cookie— before it’s too late.

Till next time,

—Carrie

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