It’s a new year, so I should feel something new, right?
I did a lot of complaining at the end of 2016 about how horribly awful the year was, and there were some terrible moments, right up until the very end of the year when my husband lost his job on December 31. (If 2016 had been a person, I would have slammed the door behind them on the way out of my house. Good riddance, I said.)
So, we’ve spent the first week of 2017 a little bit lost. What do we do now? Where do we go from here? Our kids went back to school and our weekly routine shifted. My husband and I had to find a way to work with and around each other in the house while trying also to make plans for the future. Plans that once included saving money to buy a house now have become find a job any job so we can pay the bills.
It is tempting to think that this is just the same old muck from last year, spilling into the new year. That a new year will be no better than the old year because clearly this is no way to start a new year: unemployed with no backup plan. Also, it’s winter. I don’t mind winter, but it’s easier for me to lose hope in winter when the air is cold and the sun takes its time showing itself.
While my husband made breakfast on Saturday morning–cinnamon raisin french toast–he turned on a Jars of Clay album I love, and I remembered that among the major things that happened in 2016 was my attendance at a writers conference in Nashville. And part of that trip was the chance to see Jars of Clay play a short set as part of a larger show. I shook the lead singer’s hand and we talked about writing. He wished me well at my conference. It was a magical and almost unbelievable moment. I’ve been a fan of theirs for nearly 20 years. A dream come true.
That was part of 2016. So was the Cubs’ World Series win, an event I wasn’t sure I’d ever see in my lifetime. Baseball playoffs made our fall memorable.
Sure, 2016 was a lot of bad. But it wasn’t all bad. And this is what I have to remember: some days are good; some are bad. And some days have a little of both. How I label each day–bad or good–depends on what I look for, what I focus on.
On New Year’s Day, the first day of 2017, with a new week on the horizon and no clues about our future, God answered a prayer I had breathed in frustration the day before. He provided money from an unknown, and therefore unexpected, source. It was a message: I hear you. I see you.
On Monday and Tuesday, I was battling a head cold and napped on both of those mornings. It was a gift of rest I don’t always accept. On Tuesday night, my daughter and I got to see a performance of Beauty and the Beast on stage, a Christmas present we had purchased weeks before we got the job news. It was a bright spot in a potentially dark time.
I worked on my client’s writing project and made progress while chicken pieces simmered on the stove to make broth. I am continually awed by the process of scraps transforming into something delicious.
On Friday, my husband’s final paycheck arrived. It is the last predictable income we have for the month and it is enough to pay our bills. Still, it felt like approaching a cliff, knowing that eventually we’d have to jump off of it. It was overwhelming but not despairing. A reality we couldn’t ignore. Later that day, in the mail, my husband received word that he’d been approved for unemployment. And a friend sent us an encouraging note, along with some money.
There was bad and there was good and it was all together.
For most of our married lives, my husband has worked Saturdays because of the business he was in. Saturdays, of course, are the days when our kids are home from school, so our family time has been limited to Sundays, especially during the school year. This past Saturday was our first of the new year, a reminder that my husband was out of work but that we had a chance to spend time together as a family.
It snowed in the morning and our kitchen was desperate for attention, so we spent the day washing all of the dishes in the house and tidying the kitchen. Our kids even helped for a few hours. It was an exhausting-yet-satisfying kind of day. Mostly good with a hint of bad.
The start of every new year brings with it potential, and I always want to think of that as potential for good and great. But there’s also the potential for bad and awful. If you had told me what 2016 would bring, both good and bad, I don’t know if I would have believed it.
I’m trying to hold 2017 with open hands, knowing that things are going to go how they go and not all of them are going to go the way I want.
I found these words encouraging as I look at 2017 with the effects of 2016 lingering:
You can let 2016 go gracefully but don’t forget to love the mud that brought you here.
— hb. (@hannahbrencher) January 9, 2017
2017 is still made up of whatever broke your heart in 2016. There’s something beautiful about the gold that’s coming from it.
— hb. (@hannahbrencher) January 9, 2017
I don’t always understand it. And I certainly don’t always like it. But somehow the good and the bad, as I categorize them, work together to make something I didn’t intend.
That’s what I’m seeing as the first days of 2017 pass. Some good. Some bad. All of it a part of life.