A very good year

Sometimes, I’ll admit, I’m not one for looking on the bright side.

It’s not that I’m a pessimist; if anything I’m a relentless optimist—at least when it comes to the future.

I thought about this tendency recently as I pondered the end of 2010.

It was a very hard year.

“I’m so ready for this year to be done,” I told my husband one night as we contemplated all the usual year-end obligations.

With the new year still a few weeks away, I already felt its pull—a magnetic promise toward better prospects.

My husband wanted to know why I was so ready to bid 2010 goodbye.

“Things were just tough,” I said.

Tough, indeed: I lost my beloved cat Sophie in the spring, and throughout the rest of the year we coped with sick friends and family members, money woes and a host of other exhausting, stressful problems.

I thought that would end the conversation, but my husband seemed unsatisfied.

“What about last year?” he asked. “Was that a good year?”

“No—no it wasn’t,” I said without hesitation.

In 2009 I lost my job and, also briefly, a sense of purpose and confidence.

Then my husband said something that surprised me.

“So when was the last good year?”

I sat there, nestled on my couch, and thought for a moment. 2007 definitely didn’t qualify; I had bronchitis for three months and watched close friends go through a divorce. I remember feeling very tired and very sad for months on end.

“2008,” I said finally. “I think 2008 was an OK year—status quo at least. Things were OK.”

As soon as those words were out of my mouth, however, I realized how sad they sounded.

The moment was sobering.

Way to live in the moment. Way to sum up the entirety of a year by its whole instead of its parts.

I do it every year at this time—the second half of December becomes a race to the finish line. If I can just get to January 1, I can start over: on the resolutions, the goals, on righting all the wrongs.

But what’s the rush?

Or, perhaps more fittingly, what’s the point?

What’s the point in turning my back on everything that’s made me who I am? What’s the point in stumbling toward the future if it means abandoning the past?

OK, so 2010 didn’t live up to my expectations; it tried my patience and tested my character. It threatened to bring me down. It made me feel sad and disappointed and angry and sometimes hopeless and, often, alone.

But, as I sat there, relaxing on the couch with my husband—just a month shy of the 13th anniversary of our first date—I realized that celebrating a new year isn’t just about looking to the future, it’s about commemorating history, too.

It’s about giving respect to the big moments and the small moments and everything in between.

I learned so much this year.

I learned that money comes and goes, but you can’t put a price on seeing a loved one recover from illness, on camping in remote places with good friends, on late-night summer barbecues, on drives to nowhere, on the taste of a good meal and a great beer, on receiving postcards, on forging new friendships, on the satisfaction of a meaningful job, on nestling in front of a fire as the wind whips outside your window while you watch a rambunctious 9-month-old kitten chase the tail of an older, wiser 12-year-old cat.

Goodbye, 2010—you were a very good year.