“Hope” is the thing with feathers - That perches in the soul - And sings the tune without the words - And never stops - at all.
This is the time when the resolutions begin to wane. About a month into the New Year is when the treadmills at the gym start to open up again, the cookies leave the shelves of the grocery store more readily, and the resolve breaks down. I always begin the New Year with some sort of strange hope of a clean slate, as if I’d spent the last day of the year wiping down the blackboard and then pounding the erasers
. And then about a month in I find myself staring at that slate, wondering what on earth I was thinking. Most days I cannot even find the chalk for that board.
I have a friend who has developed and cultivated the habit of spending the last day of the year looking back and reflecting upon the many blessings, trials, and occurrences of the previous 12 months. She and her husband turn down invitations to parties and gatherings and instead spend that night praying, reflecting, making goals and resolutions and gratitude lists. They are very together people. I like them a whole lot. I confess that every year I marvel at this reflective practice and nurse my secret jealousy, while couching it outwardly in admiration but secretly wishing I had done that too.
I’d love to say that I was contemplative and prayerful, grateful and motivated as I navigated into the deep unknown of this New Year. I think this would be an excellent habit. I find I am way too scattered for it, though. And then about a month in, I get into circular thinking filled with “if only” and “I should have” and pine that maybe if I developed a habit of reflection on the last day of the year I would not be so scattered after all. I would not be staring at this blackboard, waiting for it to be filled. But each year that resolution comes too late and just crumbles into regret.
I admit, it always sounds good in theory, and it looks fruitful when I see that practice modeled by my friends. Certainly, I wouldn’t recommend my current method of scrambling around with hair on fire and then feeling bad about it later. This method only leaves me with a number of “I wish I hads.”
I wish I had kept my temper better.
I wish I had eaten healthy.
I wish I had worked out.
I wish I had remembered to pay the gas bill. I wish I had taken the Tupperware off the stovetop before turning on the burner. “I wish I had” is a nearly useless statement, and, in fact, my ongoing life isn’t a blackboard erased and waiting to be cleaned and then filled again
. It is a landscape; rising up into mountains, dipping down into seas, filled with edges and ridges and tall grasses and trees.
Regrets for the way I’ve traveled the road so far have its place, certainly, but sitting here, on the edge of a New Year, feet dangling and looking into the canyon before me, I know that carrying a list of regrets from the wide expanse of land behind me isn’t going to make my flight off the edge into the future any less dangerous or any more enjoyable.
Even a month in, making resolutions seems to be the natural response to “I wish I had” but being “resolved” carries a lot of weight too. Resolution feels like a pair of big heavy iron shoes stomping all over that landscape of my future.
Frankly, I’m not sure that the edge of the unknown needs me stomping into its crevices, heavy boots, feet pounding, voice raised in an act of forced confidence.
Instead, of “I wish I had” I think I’ll approach this New Year with “I hope I do…”
I hope I do more to love people.
I hope I do keep my temper.
I hope I do remember how loved I am.
I hope I am always aware of the beauty around me.
Hope is this: not a stomping around in heavy shoes full of resolve but rather standing at the edge and looking out, arms open and lifted and waiting. “I hope I do” is a great winged suit, ready to fly
. It is not without danger, the rocks below, the fickle wind patterns, the hot and shining sun above, but hope is its own reward in this landscape, always present tense, always in the moment. It’s only about a month in. It’s not too late to take up that winged suit and fly.
Angela Doll Carlson
Angela Doll Carlson is a poet, fiction writer, and essayist whose work has appeared in Thin Air Magazine, Eastern Iowa Review, Apeiron Review, Relief Journal Magazine, St. Katherine Review, Rock & Sling and Ruminate Magazine, among others. She has published two books, “Nearly Orthodox” and “Garden in the East.”
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