“He told of how the trees had grown in all sorts of conditions, endured lightning strikes and windstorms and infestations. [The boat builder] said the wood taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, but it also taught us about the reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about things larger and greater than ourselves.” Daniel J. Brown, The Boys in the Boat
Anticipation trails the greeting: “Happy new year!” The newness in the turn of the calendar somehow holds out hope of a fresh happiness, a better year. But I remain grateful to be able to maintain the status quo of a mom on duty, keeping up with the home lessons and activities, turning out the chow, running the house. Put my face on this year? Maybe! The lipstick box awaits, now organized. Host company?? I pulled off Christmas. WRITE? Perhaps I ask too much. Because I have learned to be satisfied with little, even through the homesickness for my blog. I’ve shown up here drenched, not in the exhilarated sweat of the marathon victor, but in the swells of a twelve-month winter that have finally cast me out on shore. On the heels of a year I would not repeat for any amount of money, with eagerness do I accept the well-wishings of a happy 2017. Except that though we don’t like to think about unexpected hardships, they come. In fact, they don’t take holidays, and have left me with friends and family whose Christmas season remains an anniversary of dear losses. So maybe the relief of a tabula rasa is a luxury not within our rights. Maybe we can at best just hope to survive.
That is what I got out of the book The Martian, Watney’s desperate fight to stay alive an amplified contemplation of the symphonic battle between the harbingers of death and impulse of life we call the human condition. The farmer’s labor is a prayer, dependent on forces he attempts to harness but cannot control. And there is the financier, the urban version of this struggle, in his relationship with market conditions. Life is conflict – in the community, family, ourselves.
“A protagonist is pretty much defined by the strength of the opposition he or she faces,” journalist Jack Hart quotes a writer in Storycraft. Isn’t that life? Even trees testify to the seasons they have weathered, confess their ordeal and age in their rings and core. “He talked about the underlying strength of the individual fibers in the wood. He said those separate fibers, knitted together in the wood, gave cedar its ability to bounce back and resume its shape or take on a new one. The ability to yield, to bend, to give way, Pocock said, was sometimes a source of strength in men as well as in wood.” DJB, The Boys in the Boat. There is a strength adversity builds that is of a different order than the brawn of success. It comes from just holding on and being able to look another day of it in the face. You are not capable, pretty, or smart. You just try to keep standing. Day after day.
“I continued to go [to the nursing home], and I struggled to find meaning in their bleak existence. What finally helped was an image from a medieval monk, Brother Lawrence, who saw all of us as trees in winter, with little to give, stripped of leaves and color and growth, whom God loves unconditionally anyway.” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Part of my problem with suffering is that I’m surprised by it. Why can’t it all go my way?? Well, if it won’t always be California sunshine, can I at least have my greenhouse? You have been reminded. Expect a hard year, and happiness will follow somewhere in that.
“Amazingly, some of the bacteria survived. The population is strong and growing. That’s pretty impressive, when you consider it was exposed to near-vacuum and subarctic temperatures for over twenty-four hours. With hundreds of millions of bacteria, it only takes one survivor to stave off extinction. Life is amazingly tenacious. They don’t want to die any more than I do.” The Martian
204 thoughts on “Happy Hard Year”
Wise musings to help us face the new year and inevitable challenges in our lives. Thank you Diana. And I’ll still wish for a better year, with more love, peace, and joy and a little less challenge. 🙂
“And I’ll still wish for a better year, with more love, ” Ha ha ha. Stubbornness can be a good thing. See, I knew you had it in you. =)
Ha, ha. I didn’t either. 🙂
Look out, 2017…here’s Brad 2.0.
Some years are like that, Diana. While life can be bleak, you have hinted at just enough hope to keep me going. I know the bad years make the good ones all the more joyous. I hope your 2017 is full of joy. And, I loved that Anne Lamott book!
I appreciate the sweet feedback, A. Eyeing my piece of joy…
Stay safe and hopeful, my friend. All the best in 2017,
Thank you for sharing your journey and talents!
Thank you so much for the read, Rick. A safe, happy new year to you. =)
Rick, there is no way to enter your site through your avatar or username. Hope you can resolve.
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” Cheryl Strayed from “Dear Sugar”.
Thank you, Van. A lovelier echo of my reflections. Wishing you endurance toward your bridge.
so I need to build a greenhouse this year, eh? got it!
RoaR…YEP! Build me ma greenhouse! I shall be waiting, Jim.
I love the picture of the rings in the log. I have always counted the rings to see how old a tree that fell in the yard is. There is a ring for each year. Wow!
Beautiful, yes, the stories inside. The fuller description by the boatbuilder was fascinating. I loved how he ended one of these pep sessions with the college boy in this biography. In quoting poet Joyce Kilmer, he said, “Sure, I can make a boat. But only God can make a tree.” He also builds lives.
The Boys in the Boat is an amazing book. Your facing and weathering your year of special struggle is like the Boys journey. I’ll carry this into 2017 which I am dreading already. Thanks.
Oh dear, LOL, please don’t be DREADING 2017 now. So pleased you’re acquainted with the Boys and their boat. I had to get the 400-page original after reading the adapted one with T. Turns out, I actually preferred the concise version, an extraction of the heart of it. Keep chronicling your joy.
LOL! I’ve been fascinated by how truly awful 2016 really was. It’s not just me, nearly everyone I know has been saying, “may 2017 be better.” Every Christmas card, every letter makes some mention of the horrors of 2016. So many of us are like a rag tag group of survivors of some disaster that hit in 2013. What it was precisely, I can’t say, but it’s been a long slog, so 2017 comes with some wonder and still a bit traumatized, we’re all struggling to believe that it will indeed, be a good year. 🙂
I so desperately wish to believe it will get better, my friend…except for our new president. SIGH.
Or perhaps, wish for the best and expect the worst.
I like that, MB. Here I go, steeling myself for the new year…
Indeed, we all just try to keep standing. I honestly can’t find a better way to phrase it. Let’s pray somehow for a better 2017, if thats’s remotely possible. If nothing else, chow gets churned at least. 😉 Nice post. – Marty
Ha ha ha. Boy will always get his chow. (He dreamt he had a feast last night…and woke with the blanket in his mouth. LOL!!)
A toast to a better 2017! And I love the quotes you’ve chosen; makes me want to rush to the library to read those books (you know, in my non-existent free time…)
I considered a post on Boys in the Boat. My top pick of the year. It is incredible. Thanks so much for the ongoing support. Wish you a bit more of that enviable free time. -)
Thank you for sharing this lovely piece of writing.
Hi Suzanne, Thanks so much for keeping up. Take good care. Wishing you joy in all that’s up ahead.
Wonderful quotes! Much to think about! Yep, I’m looking forward to 2017, there are known blessing waiting along with the unknown challenges! Take one day at time & keep going. Here’s to the new year full of its wonder! 🎆 Christine
Yes, cling to the blessings! Thank you for having walked alongside yet another yr, Christine. Wish you more of what is good and sweet.
Thank you, Diana! 🎆
I hope you get a chance to use those lippies in the lipstick box, D. Wishing you very well for 2017. I think 2016 has been challenging for most of us. Hardship certainly is unpredictable, and we may not be able to control how we feel but we can control how we react – and live in the moment.
A good distinction, not only between what we can and cannot control, but the feelings and the reactions we commit to. Hats off to your new yr, M. =)
Sometimes the heart rules the mind and sometimes the mind rules the heart. Either way, we will lose some. Let’s hope next year will be a much better one x
D, so glad i got to hear from you before the end of the year. May you have an expectation of good for the next.
So sweet. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…
That was a great movie. He had every reason to give up hope, and he did not. I love your musings, and while this has not been a difficult year, each year brings some challenges. I hope I face next year’s challenges reminded of this post, with tenacity, not whining. 🙂
I missed the movie – the one on the big screen, at least. I wish you tenacity in your new ventures and the stuff life throws at you, M. =) Onward and upward (for me, level ground good enough this yr).
Most of us don’t start from the mountaintops.:)
Good thing. It’d all be downhill from there!
While we can always hope for everything good facing a new year ahead we need to be realistic all our hopes and aspirations may not turn out as we wished. So along with our dreams we need to temper with realism and a determination that come what may we will arrive at the end of the year smiling and grateful for what we have.
Not sure about the smiling but I’m holding onto the gratitude, Ian. Happy hard new year, my friend!
Aah Diana, those wonderful books and the very wise quotes. All profound and full of meaningful application to those of us that continue to fight each to stay alive and above water. I’m wishing you a greenhouse and one for this old gal writing here. 2016 has been one hellava, I mean heck of a year, for me and somehow I made it through to live to see 80 years last week. And you will too dear one if we manage to all live through the presidency that is about to take place. I shudder at the thought. I would like to get political here but that is straying from your topic. But maybe only a wee bit. Take care dear one and keep up the wonderful writing when you have the time. It’ll all get better after your son is in college, I think. 🙂 May your New Year be blessed. Hugs to you, Yvonne x
Wow, happy birthday, Yvonne. And look at you, going strong (though I know that’s not quite what you feel). I don’t envy you the year you’ve had, my friend. But here we are to light one another’s way and be a blessing. Our love to you and Danny.
Diana, thank you and I’ll tell my son about my blogging friend whos is sending blessings. He needs it more than I. Yvonne xxx
Thanks for this post. We are shaped and defined by the struggle much more so than the times of comfort and ease. I’ve heard it said that we must never judge a person by where they are in life but rather by how far they had to travel to get there. Keep the faith.
“I’ve heard it said that we must never judge a person by where they are in life but rather by how far they had to travel to get there” I like that. Thanks.
Posted to FB.
Thanks, buddy. =) Happy hard year to you!
Wonderful reflective piece of writing and sentiments that I share in so many ways. Yes, let’s hope for a much better year in 2017. Warmest wishes to you.
I hope that, even though 2016 has been a hard year for you, you still can summon some good memories of that year before your inner eye. So that, when looking back, there are a few rays of sunshine in the dark. And then you can maybe say, ok, these spots of light, next year, they will grow larger. They will light up the whole thing. And it will be beautiful. – I think hoping and wishing for a better future is what makes us human (as is telling stories – to quote Terry Pratchett, “man is the story-telling ape”).
I searched and searched the cellar of a year and turned up hardly any joys. Mmm….the times I got to post and heard from you all, I suppose! I’m just thankful to find the cellar now beNEAth my feet, not over my head!
So now you need to find the stairs up to the ground floor… – I wish that in 2017, you will climb up all the way to the top: roof garden with lovely flowers! 🙂
All the best for you!
Terribly sweet. Thank you. I’ll hold onto that picture.
All life is a story of survival. Today, we are the survivors.
Thank you, TJ. Here’s to the next round. Greeting it with realism, not cynicism, hopefully.
Oops! Forgot to say, love your writings.
2016 certainly has been storm-tossed: the quote about the trees rebounds with me. I have done little blogging and have achieved little of what I aspired to, but I am learning that being requires far more fortitude than doing. Thank you for such an encouraging, insightful post. Love to you and yours as the year changes. Perhaps the storms will change direction for a while?
The boatbuilder I quoted was an Englishman, incidentally (or not) =). I highly recommend the read. My top pick of the year, insanely inspirational. The winds have indeed shifted, which is why I was able to lead Cmas caroling at a nursing home for our homeschool group, play keyboard at church on Cmas Sunday, host company, and blog – all in a wk! I will continue to lift up prayers on your behalf, Julia. The trees belie not only their afflictions but also their triumphs when cut to reveal their heart.
Thank you, Diana. I will look the book up. ❤
Well, Queen Elizabeth referred to 1992 as an annus horribilis, but I think 2016 has that one beat by a mile, at least for us non-royals! There is, though, something about the start of a new year (whether it be calendar or religious or whatever) that does indeed present us with a tabula rasa which many of us view with hope for the future, esp in light of the (recent) past, so I join you and many of your followers in viewing 2017 with an optimistic outlook. 🍾
I also commend the selection of books you have quoted here, esp Boys in the Boat which is clearly appropriate for this content. I also get quite a lot of inspiration, not to mention education, from books, esp non-fiction historically set books. Generally after I have finished reading of some otherwise incredible but real feats, I think, “You just can’t make this stuff up!” which makes them even more inspiring in my mind.
At least I got to some great reads this year!! Wishing you all that is real and good,
I really like the tree analogy, D. Few things reflect the ups and downs of life more clearly than tree rings. There are fat and happy rings reflecting good years where the environment was perfect for growth, and skinny, hardly perceptible, rings where bare survival was the issue. If there is hope here, fat and happy rings often reappear after the skinny rings. And another thought: California’s Redwoods reflect having ideal conditions for growth. These massive giants reach to the sky. Bristle Cone pines of the eastern Sierra reflect a different environment: harsh, cold winters and drought filled summers. The trees are twisted and knobby. But both trees contain their own beauty— and both can live for thousands of years. My wish for you is a happy and productive new year that takes you back to writing and sharing your considerable talent. –Curt
Curt, you leave me a gem of a gift this holiday week. I love every word, and appreciate the nod to California’s beauties (although I better relate to the poor Cones!). I always said I have nine lives but let’s make that a 1000. I shall live long enough to catch up with you who seem to go stronger, running RiNGs around them trees state to state.
My love to you and Peggy,
Some very interesting quotes. I think the trees should give us inspiration to weather the different challenges each new year seems to bring. Hope 2017 is a good year for you.
Thanks. Nature and her amazing lessons. Happy hard year. =)
Diana I agree. Each end of year I give thanks for still being here (hell I give thanks for each day I survive this human condition). I give thanks that friends and family are still with me. For I know loss (none of us are immune) and I know it comes just when I feel my life is balanced and comfortable (rare). And so I have learned to take one day at a time, let go of the steering wheel and trust in this mad journey. But I still look at a new year with hope and optimism that there will be opportunities, wonderful experiences, learning and love will follow. Happy New Year enjoy, every moment that you can.
Very well said, K. Seems we are happy just to manage as we grow older. But yes, the optimism keeps us young. All the best in your creative endeavors, my friend.
Very nice words, Diana. I especially love the comparison between a tree and a person’s life. The pic with the log rings is beautiful.
Yes, throughout our lives we have good and bad times and this is what human survival is about. The sun shines but we also encounter clouds and storms on our way.
It’s always a relief to pull off Christmas, isn’t it? I think entering this next year like bacteria who will somehow survive is the steadiest course of action! Best not to think too much.
LOL. That tongue of yours, J. *mutating*
Excellent observations. Just right for going into a new year that already promises more than enough excitement and anguish to go around.
Ha ha ha, right? Ugh! My own state of affairs is difficult ‘nough. But the country’s…!
Yep! Trouble lurking everywhere! We do well to get up and smile at our selves every morning. Congratulations for making it through another year! 😊
How happy I was to find the “Boys in the Boat” quotation. I just picked it up an hour ago for our book club next month. You have whet my appetite. Yes, there are such years. And sometimes we can squeeze some meaning out of them, and sometimes we can but endure them, holding forth hope for January 1. Blessings to you as the clock turns.
I am SO glad to know you’ve got the bk, A. To my surprise, I preferred the version adapted for a younger audience, which I am still reading with T. It retains much of the original language and gets right to the heart of it. I will eagerly await your response to the bk. I couldn’t put it both versions down, and the original even after having read the adapted. Your club members will love it.
I love your words of wisdom Diana. It appears that many of us have had a year of struggle and/or loss. In fact, I know too many who are only too glad to kick 2016 out on its arse. They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Well I’m about ready to lift a park bench, lol. I’m guessing you an equal match.
Cheers to you my friend to the New Year. Wishing you peace, health, love and joy. ❤
We should photoshop ourselves in a Wonder Woman costume and post them side-by-side.
Wishing you double likewise, Deb. Keep shining.
LOl so true! Thanks D! ❤
Diana, lovely review and thoughtful comments about the close of 2016. A lot went wrong in 2016, but a lot of good things happened to me, too. I anticipate 2017 with the eagerness of a child. Traveling and a new home awaits me, and I pray no catastrophes happen. Happy New Year!
I like that. The eagerness of youth. I think that’s what’s missing in so much of adult living. New home sounds wonderful, certainly a fresh opportunity. Enjoy!
If I tell myself it will be a better year, it will be, right?
By the by, loved your Martian quotes. I think this is because I read it and I feel smarty because you quoted it. Oh, and yeah, when you said, “I pulled off Christmas.”
Very nice, a smarty who READ it. I didn’t get to the theater, though I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed it, by husband’s account. I was moved by those lines I closed with, his observation that even the tiniest suggestion of life on Mars was so tenacious. Lent me hope in the impulse of Life in our soul and body, that there is something in us that will pull through. I hope you do enjoy a new schedule soon and the sun will shine more on you, L.
Yeah, he’s right. It was enjoyable. Matt Damon did the character justice under the Hollywood circumstances. It’s funny how much they cut out though.
Thanks for the well wishes. Here’s to new beginnings in 2017! xxoo
Great post! Wishing you a “better” year… hope that’s some good! BTW, your comment on my last typos post bore fruit! Indeed, I have bogged about it! Thought you might be amused to know.
HA ha ha.
Up here in Canada, the country will be celebrating its 150th birthday in 2017… 2016 was ok but not great.
Huh. I always learn something from you!
Wishing you a greenhouse of contentment in 2017.
HA! I’ll take it!! Mine…all mine…
“Life is conflict”
I had this very conclusion on 25th Dec while driving across Kenya to see my brother-in-law who had invited me to celebrate with them. My mind wanders when I’m alone, wanders too far. And that day, as I slowed down to let two fighting baboons cross the road, I thought, ‘What do animals think when they fight? Do they hate? Are they envious? Greedy? Why do they fight?Can they justify it?’
So I concluded that the one major constant among living organisms is conflict. ‘Perhaps life is conflict,’ I said to myself. There is conflict in everything, everywhere.
That we had the same thought almost at the same time . . . It must be the truth. Thank you Diana. Happy new year!
Thanks for sharing, P. The conflicts within myself are hard enough! Stay safe.
Don’t know if this will post, but happy -17 D!
Me likes trees too, for many of the reasons you highlight. They are so resolute in their convictions!
‘Day after day’ as it were. 😉
They take a WHOLE lot. Happy hard year, J. Thx for coming.
Yay! I have released from the land of Spamelot and the isle of misfit toys.
Maybe your letter to the Dept. of Homeland Security was the final ticket to my departure from the basement where WP is keeper of the locks! lol
Blessings your way, and suffer well!
Diana, I recognise that shock and weariness when life keeps hitting with one thing after another – and I recognise that coping strategy of getting through one day at a time. But what the past 15 years or so have taught me is that I do have the strength to cope with these things and that it’s pointless hoping for perfection because life always gets in the way – and yet, it isn’t ‘getting in the way’, life is what it is and I’ve gained much more perspective and acceptance of it through the struggles. Nevertheless, I wish you a year filled with the time and energy to achieve what you want to achieve.
Time and energy. Adding them to my prayers. Thanks for the empathetic sharing, Andrea.
Once again you gracefully dance the high-wire of realism without splattering on the ground of cynicism. Thank you for sharing your brilliant writing and your deep insights. God be with you–with us all–in 2017, however “rings” the new year.
We hope it RiNGs without bells tolling for us! I appreciate the kind support. On we march, one day, one foot, at a time.
Life truly must be God’s greatest gift. For no matter how great the trials be that burden it, I still look to tomorrow. As Archbishop Sheen said: “Life is worth living.”
p.s. A Happy New Year, Diana!
Alan, I don’t think my comments on your blog have been going through. I checked again just now and don’t see the one I’d left about a wk ago under your most recent post.
Diana, You’re right. I got a like but not a comment.
I left a comment the last few visits.
The next submission that I post I’ll respond to your like. And see if you can comment to that response.
I’m sorry Diana that 2016 has been so tough. It has for me too and my sincere wish is that 2017 brings us both much peace and comfort no matter our circumstances. Oh yeah, a little more JOY would be nice too. 😉
I appreciated your reference to The Martian. I loved the movie but have heard the book blows it away.
Happy New Year to you! And me, and everyone else.
Onward and upward…or at least not back underground!
The glorious writer in you still burns with a profound and luminous light, D. I do not know you other than through the gifts you’ve dare to share here on your blogspace. But having said that, I’m certain the Universe in all Her wisdom granted you this particular light for a reason. Best wishes to you and yours in the coming New Year. (K)
What does one say to such praise? Ha ha ha. As affirming as ever, you are, K. Thank you so much and I am pleased to see you spread your wings out here. Light and love to you in the new yr.
Nothing need be said, Diana. We all know its Truth. Thanks for the wishes. See ya in the new year, kid!
Three tough years in a row and I really really wish the culmination happened in 2016 …
It was a turbulent year with lot of stress and personal losses, but by the fag end of it, things started getting better …
I hope 2017 is the one I have been waiting to turn things around 🙂
I really would like to thank you for your support during my blogging journey, also wish you and family a very happy, peaceful and successful new year 🙂
Thx for sharing, SN. Drought and famine never do keep to a restricted timeline. Sometimes they go on and on. I think that’s all the more reason we seek beauty – what you do with your camera.
Enjoy the New Day over there.
A fine selections of books you have here ~ The Boys in the Boat, “Something about infinite beauty, about things larger and greater than ourselves…” is the feeling I wish to take into the New Year. Thank you for this post, and I do like the idea of expecting hardship and difficulties as it puts the mind in the right state to overachieve for the year 🙂 Maybe that is why I am such an optimist. Cheers to a relaxed and special year for you and your family, and look forward to your words and the gift of your writing in the year ahead.
There you are, R. I was waiting for you to post, chkg in time to time. Ready to overachieve…LOL…Tiger Mom likes that. Oh, The Boys in the Boat was my top pick of the year. I would love you to chk it out. You will thank me. =) Heh heh.
🙂 As a kid who grew up in the NW and did a little rowing in my 20s on the Willamette River, The Boys in the Boat will be a book I will read again, and again. It has been great to get back to reading (both books and blogs) after a brief absence…although the next couple months chaos will likely return 🙂 Will 2017 be a year to over-achieve…? I will follow your lead 😉
LOL. Between the inspiration from the bk and your thoughts on overachieving (not even on my radar this long, long season), Ive run to the back of the line to watch you go. =)
Ha, ha…maybe we just sit in the back of the bus for the first part of 2017 🙂
LOLLLL. *Takes out guitar*
This post definitely resonates with me. I can almost apply everything you said to what was happening to me. Well, my personal health struggle started at the end of 2013, so it’s been 3 bad years in a row with 2016 the worst of all. I have a reason to believe 2017 might be better, I’m just afraid now to hope and to expect too much. I’ve been writing about this a lot on my secondary blog https://inesepogalifeschool.com/
Regardless of what has happened, I wish you a much better 2017!
Thanks for sharing, I. Empathy somehow makes it more bearable. Hold onto wisdom and beauty.
Maybe you can paint lots of trees. =)
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I trust your 2017 is brimming with euphoria. Furthermore, I adored that Anne Lamott book!
Not, in the spirit of the post, euphoria as of yet. But I AM relieved ’16 is behind me. Bird by Bird was all right. I know many liked it a lot. It’s always nice to share a reference. =)