Happy Hard Year

“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 BirdΒ 

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

  1. Great narration yet an awakening call. What does this year holds, and am I ready for it? I don’t know, but I will jump on it nevertheless, with sheer hope that though a hard year it could be, its gonna somehow work on my favour

  2. So many deeper thoughts in this post but I am stuck on the organized lipstick box! Are you kidding? Broker world peace, feed the hungry–if you can keep a lipstick box organized (mine is rather large:)), then I’m genuflecting!

    • LOL! But in all integrity I can’t stand here with your face to the ground. I’m afraid mine is a pathetic set…one that hardly earns the term “collection”. I admire the self-respect that keeps you caring how you look!!

  3. Deep stuff to ponder, Diana! Are we more like bacteria, trees, helpless and/or hapless? Yet, we still grow and become stronger as we take our stand. Maybe that is the point, we make our stand despite the circumstances. We hope, and more than hope, we expect to see beauty in the storms of life. We take another breath… and live!

  4. I’m trying to soften in the struggle, stop fighting it so hard. I noticed it yesterday as I was biking against a blazing windshield… it was so hard! Finally, I gave in, and slowed down my stride. Eventually I arrived where I needed to be. Happy New Year, D.

  5. We run as fast as we can. We try to keep all the balls in the air. We seek metaphors that describe our frenetic pace. I’m trying to see things the Mexican way: Don’t get excited. It will all work out–somehow! Wishing you a 2017 that is better than 2016!

  6. Happy New Year. I’ve stopped going into each new year with hopes this will be the year that things get better, its my experience they don’t. My hope for this year is that I can complete my Masters degree in Education and to stay on track with my writing projects. Anyway, else will be a blessing that I am open to receive,

  7. life is about the whole spectrum – you’ve written about it wisely here – every step, however we rate it, is meant to be lived as well as we can. happy 2017, Holistic Wayfarer πŸ™‚

  8. I’m enjoying your work! I want to follow you on Twitter but didn’t see your handle linked! Would love to follow you ! Mine is @ShareenM & @OTVMagazine is our new handle! I’m spending some time reading more of your posts! ❀

  9. Very sorry to hear that life is giving you a hard time.
    When things get to that point, I try to remember a scene in the movie ‘Parenthood’ with Steve Martin: He is trying to get Grandma out the door to a kids recital, and Grandma says (something like): ‘Life is like a carnival ride, some people like the merry-go-round, but I always preferred the roller coaster.’ One can go around through life with everything always the same, but those who survive the lows get to experience the exhilaration of the highs in life

  10. Diana, you say: ” I have learned to be satisfied with very little, even through the homesickness for my blog”
    I think, I can relate to this. Often I think I would like to be able to read and write more, but then I am happy, whenever I can do these things again a little bit at a time.
    I loved your poem about the flower, Diana. Our little garden patch often looks more like a jungle than a well looked after garden plot. Then unexpectedly I discover a beautiful flower in all this mess and this flower makes me jump for joy! πŸ™‚

      • I feel very blessed, Diana, in that with rather little effort I’ve been rewarded with some lovely edible things in our newly created vegetable patch, for instance parsley has been growing wonderfully., and the hot chillies are plentiful and look very shiny and fresh even in the summer heat. (They are hiding under a lot of leaves!) We also harvested some delicious tomatoes, that Peter had grown. Some lemon balm picked up again after replanting, and today we made some refreshing tea out of it.
        Here in the Sydney area we are at present in the midst of summer and the outside temperature is right now going on 38 degrees Celsius!
        A few weeks ago we had planted some sunflower seeds. These flowers have grown well and do look lovely now. They seem to survive the heat quite well. So this year the garden has already brought us quite a bit of joy, even though Peter and I are not proper gardeners, not really. Plus we are already so very old! It is still good that we can still do some things. πŸ™‚

  11. *Deep sigh* Ooooh 2016, what an absolute bugger (I’m from Somerset, I can say that!) you were!

    I’m sorry you dealt with hardships too. It seems a lot of people were glad to leave that year – well and truly – behind. Let’s hope 2017 brings us survival and joy in ‘just being’ … Those little things often turn out to be the bigger things, y’know!

    I also wish I had more time to write. I totally ‘get’ the homesickness. Gosh, I miss it when I’m away! My little haven!

    I’m just so glad I found a quiet hour to read some of your posts. You are a very talented writer, my friend. Wishing you all the very best for 2017! xx

  12. I so thoroughly enjoy your writing! Thank you for continuing to find, or make, the time and sharing with us all. God bless you tonight–and always!

      • I work the majority of my days at a local Montessori school. While I am not a wife or mother yet, the dispensation of relational energy I experience in my work week (M-F) with the kids is mondo training, lol. I will continue to encourage you because you are a champion!

      • Wow. Hats off to you. Teaching 5th gr in Philadelphia (way back in my other life) DRAINED me by day’s end. I appreciate the cheerleading even more to think you would expend remaining energy on me. =) Go enjoy a glass of wine or a warm bath before the plunge into Monday!!

  13. Pingback: Where Beauty Dare Thrive | A Holistic Journey

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