Solar Halo (January 30, 2011)I am writing in bed to accommodate the snoozing puppy in my lap. Outside, the air is crisp and bracing, exactly the kind of Kentucky weather I long for — though I wouldn’t mind a little snow. The house is on its way to being cleaner than it has been in months. The decorations are down.

Though it doesn’t have the sexiest reputation, there is something exceptionally peaceful and hopeful about the month of January. I never look forward to it, but when I am in the midst of this time of year, I am reminded of how grounding it is. Simply, it is so refreshing to get to turn the page on a new year. You get to leave your failures and sadness behind and simply look forward to what’s to come.

For myself, I was happy to leave 2017. Professionally, personally and for my family, extended and otherwise, it was a hard year. I will say I learned a lot, but that knowledge was coupled with hardship. The biggest lesson I learned is that sometimes in life you have to relearn things that you thought you already knew. You have to face yourself and realize that something essential in your character or ethic or drive has slipped under the surface and it needs to be recovered. And recovering that lost thing can take a while.

I don’t mean to speak in code, but, really, what do the details matter anyway? Don’t we get just entirely, entirely too many of them in this day and age? To me, that was part of what made 2017 difficult. There was just so much bloody information, so much seedy minutiae, out there. At times, I actually felt myself hunch over in preparation for what I was going to hear or read next.

As for what I hope for in 2018, I have a long list. First, I still haven’t mastered discipline, something I feel I had a better handle on when I was younger and have yet to figure out how to rediscover. I want to eat a thousand vegetables a day and then, hello, I don’t. I want to exercise until my body is powerful and then, hello, my knees hurt. I want to drink only one glass of wine a week and then, hello, I’m thirsty.

But maybe that’s taking on a lot. Maybe I should take a hint from writer Sean Dietrich, who wrote this in his blog the other day:

“So my purpose in life. I still don’t know what it is. But I can tell you my aspiration: to be nice.

That’s it.

I don’t have any grand plan. No big ideas. I just want to be the fella who smiles more than he doesn’t.”

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? I tried it in Kroger the other day. I gave right of way to other carts, I smiled, I chatted with the cashier. And you know what? It felt great to let kindness dictate my schedule.

With Gabrielle driving and nearly launched, I also would like to resume volunteering. I’ve long wanted to get back to teaching English as a second language, which is such an incredibly enriching experience. And yet, I haven’t even looked into whether or not there is a local opportunity.

Whether I succeed in these pursuits or whether I continue to fail at harnessing myself, I do know one thing: January will forgive me. If there is a month in the year that’s an underdog, it’s this long, uncherished one. And the thing about underdogs is they tend to be willing to absolve.

And so I’ll continue to write on the bed and look outside and be thankful for the cold and this puppy and this new, fresh year. And figure out how to be my new, best self.

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