Auld Lang Syne

This is the way the year ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

OK, today is also the end of the decade, apparently, but that’s too big. I can’t begin to process the last 10 years of my life collectively.

But, tonight, 2009 will end.

A year ago, at the stroke of midnight 2009 began about as well as any year ever has for me, and I knew exactly how the year would end. And I was very very happy with that. And very very wrong.

Even just a few days ago, I thought I knew how the year would end. Not exactly the same, but perfectly and redemptively nonetheless. But I was apparently wrong again. No good deed goes unpunished, it seems. (Not saying I’m not open to God pulling off some last-minute poofing, the sort of thing that happens once in a blue moon.)

But the year will end nonetheless, as years tend to do.

And I am very fortunate that the one way God has blessed me has been with a wealth of friends. Two years ago, I was dreading the end of 2007, and was just hoping to find some way to not be alone at the end of the year. This year, I hadn’t really been looking since I thought it was covered, but, even when that fell through, I still had multiple options of how to ring in 2010. And for that, I’m grateful. And the main two wouldn’t even have been options a year ago; God has really broadened my world over the past year.

But that’s about what I’m doing with New Year’s Eve. I’ve still been dealing with what I’m doing with 2009.

To be sure, this year has definitely had its moments. The STS-125 launch. The Ares I-X launch. Rock-climbing for the first time. Going to Six Flags. Book signings and lectures. Two great Ole Miss football games. Some horizon-broadening concerts. Celebrating Hall of Fame inductions of two good friends. Going sailing for the first time in way too long. Good times with great friends. In some ways, this year has been a transformational one for me in that respect, in that it’s marked a transition from saying, “Man, I would love to do that” to “Yeah, I’m GOING to do that.” And that change in 2009 has already laid the foundation for the same in 2010 — I’ve already bought tickets to, in the next couple of weeks, go to a B.B. King concert and go to Las Vegas. Kinda cool.

On the flip side, yeah, in the biggest of ways, this year was not remotely what I hoped it would be. And that still sucks. I had really hoped it would end in a way that would be redemptive, or that would make sense of that, or would provide a fitting coda to it, or something.

Instead, again, barring the unforeseen in the next 12 hours, it will simply end.

In a way, that in itself is not unfitting. As I’ve written on here before, one of the big lessons for me of the year is that of surrender, or, perhaps better, yielding or living unconditionally. As the year ends, the things I would most like to change, I have no power to affect. And that’s probably good for me, no matter how much I hate it. But, you know, it’s easier than it was a year ago. And I’m increasingly able to trust that solutions don’t require me bringing them about.

Another, lesser lesson of the year for me has been, “It’s just a day.” I have always had a preternatural ability to remember and track anniversaries of significant days. And, as a result, I want to mark them appropriately somehow. I wrote about that, though, in mid-October, about how the 15th was both the two-year anniversary of my divorce and the one-year anniversary of seeing my book for the first time. And I wanted Oct. 15 to be significant this year somehow. But, ultimately, it was just a day.

And so is today. Granted, it’s a holiday, so it will be a bit different. I’m taking off work. I do plan to count down to midnight in good company. But, tomorrow, life will go on.

My coworker Heather gave me a good analogy for it yesterday. The current contract we are on at work is ending, and so we’re in the process of transitioning to a new contract. This will be my second contract change, and those of us who have gone through it before have tried to reassure those who haven’t. As I explained it, last time, one day I was at my desk, working at my computer, doing my job. The next, I was sitting at the same desk, working at the same computer, doing the same job. There was just a different name on my checks, but that was really the only difference.

Ultimately, that’s today. Tomorrow, I’ll live in the same house. Have the same friends. Do the same job. I’ll just write a different year on my checks.

So, in that respect, it’s just another day. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t try to enjoy it. And if today doesn’t end in a way I think it should, if this year doesn’t end the way I’d like, you know, there’s always tomorrow.

Hope you and yours have a very happy New Year!

(And I feel obligated, having made the T.S. Eliot reference at the beginning of the post, to link to this strip that we wrote 13 years ago.)

New Year’s Day

“New Year’s Day,” by Carolyn Arends

I buy a lot of diaries
Fill them full of good intentions
Each and every New Year’s Eve
I make myself a list
All the things I’m gonna change
Until January 2nd
So this time I’m making one promise

This will be my resolution
Every day is New Year’s Day
This will be my resolution
Every day is New Year’s Day

I believe it’s possible
I believe in new beginnings
‘Cause I believe in Christmas Day
And Easter morning too
And I’m convinced it’s doable
‘Cause I believe in second chances
Just the way that I believe in you

This will be my resolution
Every day is New Year’s Day
This could start a revolution
Every day is…

One more chance to start all over
One more chance to change and grow
One more chance to grab a hold of grace
And never let it go