03 January 2011

A New Year

Whenever New Year's Eve is imminent, I typically have trouble remembering what I did the year before (not because I've had too much fun, but because we typically don't do anything memorable). Did I do anything fun? Did I stay awake until midnight? Was I at a party? There have been a few such eves that I remember: five or six years ago, a girlfriend of mine and I went to Vegas and rang in the new year at the House of Blues with the Goo Goo Dolls. This year was one I'll remember as well.

Every year in Seattle, they hold New Year's at the Needle. Radio stations and TV hosts come out and in a crowd of tens of thousands, the new year is ushered in with a fantastic fireworks display from the Space Needle. I've never gone before, not being one who enjoys crowds or the crush of people pushing and tugging at each other. My sister had talked about going and since we live so close, we figured this would be the year to do it.

We came equipped with layers of long underwear and thick wool, hand warmers filling our pockets with a toasty heat that was welcome in the bitterly cold 22-degree weather. We wondered at the sanity of those who we guessed were half our age or a little more, wearing tiny strapless sequined things and stiletto heels. Finding our spot on a patch of lawn with a good view, we waited with everyone else for the countdown to midnight.

I still wonder at the appeal of a new year since it might also be regarded simply as one day passing into another, one minute becoming another, just as it has all the year before. But for so many, myself included, there is something about one year passing the baton on to another that is fraught with expectation and something like hope. It's as if a slate is wiped clean and a new beginning is offered to those in need of one.

I wanted to remember this passage in particular, to mark it in a way that would stay in my memory. And I do sense something a little like hope on the horizon. I say that without even really understanding what it means. "Hope" is one of those words that I've used without a concrete idea of what it implies. I hear it a lot from other people too, and given the year we've had, I have to ask -- really press the question: What does that even mean? Hope in what? For what?

There are a lot of Sunday School answers that would get a gold star and an approving nod from the teacher, but after a year like we've had, they are just not cutting it. I think that if I hope for things to get better in the here and now, I'm going to be terribly disappointed. If anything, I guess I'm hoping that what we've been through is not and has not been in vain, that it will make us stronger people, that one day, there will come a time and place where we will be satisfied.

But it is not here. It is not now. Hope or something like it is on the horizon, a light that has pierced the darkness and illuminated everything around me. It is not because my circumstances have changed, but because I have changed. 2010 taught me many things. It taught me a lot of what matters, about what I really need and how much I don't. It taught me that being blessed isn't so much about getting what you want, but getting what you need -- even if it hurts like hell. So much about me was burned away -- things that needed to be burned away, things that were binding me, things that I'm better off being rid of.

It's never been clearer to me than it is now how this place is not my home. And so I put my hope in heaven, for the return of Christ, for the resurrection of the dead -- because quite honestly, that is the only thing I dare put my hope in anymore, and the only thing that can satisfy me now.