Be of good cheer

New Year’s Day is generally a non-event for me. Sure, if I’m with people, I’ll enjoy whatever rituals and traditions they have, but I don’t expect to feel that life has been ‘rebooted’ and is all bright and shiny just because the calendar says it’s the start of a new year.

This year, though, I haven’t been neutral, but apprehensive for a number of reasons – political, economic, cultural – you name it. Perhaps at some point I’ll look back on this time and say I and my family and friends worried for nothing, but I’m not feeling that way right now.

However, not wanting to feel so helpless in the face of all that’s going on, I went looking for words to hold on to and found some.

From my friend Bonnie:

We all thought 2016 was really bad but now we have to face 2017. It’s time to focus. Think about what you want to see in 2017 that is positive and good and then figure out the steps needed to get you there. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be flexible and above all, just be kind. And, post cute baby animal pictures, puppies, kittens, babies and wow, those baby otters! We will get through this together. For myself, I know that I will never again be complacent about things I took for granted – like the rule of law, freedom of speech – that stuff. Stay outraged and vocal.

Definitely on posting cute baby pictures and on being kind.

From Charles M. Blow, writing in the New York Times:

Exclaiming your resistance, while necessary, is insufficient […] You need to augment your outrage with actions that are affirming, behaviors that reinforce principles and values.

When politics seem out of your control, remember that community and culture are very much in your control. We help shape the world we inhabit every day. A life is a collection of thousands of decisions, large and small, made every day.

Italics are mine because I like what he says about community and culture being in our control.

From an article by Nicholas Kristof, also writing in the New York Times:

I’ll do my part to support the society I’d like to see. I’ll eat Chobani yogurt because its owner has been subjected to racist attacks for his willingness to hire and promote refugees […] I will do what I can in my own life to make sure that the needy aren’t forgotten in the next four years […] I can support Reach Out and Read, an outstanding program that helps at-risk kids learn to read: a $20 donation covers one child for a year, or one can serve as a reader. Or I can be a Big Brother or Big Sister or help through iMentor.

Okay, so I won’t be eating yogurt because it gives me indigestion, but one of my Christmas donations was to Reach Out and Read. Since children’s literacy is one of my core causes, I was glad to be reminded of this fine organization and I felt I had made a small contribution to the good of this world.

From Alistair Cooke, one of my favorite quotes:

In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby.

In my case, not putting off enjoying things will mean seeing all the interesting and beautiful things I can, drinking good wine, and eating good food.

This phrase has been used in numerous speeches and verses and I like the sound of it:

Be of good cheer.

 

2012_01_01_newport_0041

First light.

 

Charles M. Blow. “The Anti-Inauguration.” The New York Times. 5 Jan. 2017.

Nicholas Kristof. “12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump.” The New York Times. 17 Nov. 2016.

Image © Melissa Corcoran.

New Year’s Day

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions; I think my coach has the right idea (Resolutions … Bah Hum Bug!). However, I occasionally take the approach of starting the new year as I mean to go on, not in all aspects (the day is not long enough), but in one or two. I’m not fanatic or consistent about it – some years, I’m just not inspired – and it has led to doing things like biking on a New Year’s Day so cold, I had ice in my water bottle before I finished the ride.

Today being a beautiful sunny day, I was prompted to do a few of the things I’d like to keep doing throughout the year—get outside and in motion, explore ‘my’ city, and take photographs. I accomplished all three by completing a Wherigo geocache, which involves starting at a specific location, answering a question relating to that location, and having the next location be revealed if the answer is correct.

The geocache took me to Piazza San Lorenzo, Piazza del Duomo, Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria, and Piazzale Michelangelo and it was wonderful! I learned things about each piazza I hadn’t known, noticed statues to which I’d been oblivious, and focused on details I didn’t know were there. I enjoyed walking the streets of Florence (along with several thousand other people—Florence is apparently a popular holiday tourist destination) and taking photos along the way.

Click (or double-click, depending on your device) on any image to launch the slideshow.

After all that walking, I restored the tissues with a cioccolata calda while waiting for my bus. If this was part of starting as I mean to go on, perhaps it’s about enjoying life’s sweetness when it presents itself.

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Images © Melissa Corcoran.

Past year, new year

A New Year's Day sunrise on Boston Harbor.

A New Year’s Day sunrise on Boston Harbor.

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I think any time of year is a good time to make a resolution. However, I like what my career coach suggests, which is to use January as a time to reflect on accomplishments and what one learned in the past year and think about what one can do better in the new year. Prompted by her and by my sister’s recent post on “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” I have been thinking about this past year.

As always, I first notice all the things I didn’t get done and all the time I could have used more productively and all the goals I could have reached. It’s only after I go through this process that I can pull myself up and look at what I did do.

I spend a wonderful two weeks with my brother and sister-in-law in France, then helped a friend move from the south of France to Florence. I took the opportunity to see family by meeting my sister and her family in Virginia and visiting her and my nephew’s family in Connecticut. I was with my family again when my siblings and I managed the multiple transitions with my mother, including packing up her belongings and going through her papers.

I finally turned the corner on post-concussive syndrome, which opened the door to my returning to work and using my computer more (yay!). Having reached that point, I came to the realization that while I wanted and needed to generate income, I didn’t want to go back to doing what I was doing prior to my accident. That led to my working with my coach to set up a brainstorming session with a group of people ‘in my boat,’ as my coach says. I was overwhelmed by the support and generosity of the people who participated – they came up with lots of ideas for me to consider and pursue.

After several months of thinking about it, I untethered myself by closing my apartment and putting my stuff in storage. (Have I mentioned how fundamentally I’ve changed my life since the accident?!) My intention is to sublet in different areas in which I might eventually want to settle.

After closing my apartment, I went to Florence for three months (and a big thank-you to my friend Catherine for offering me such a great way to launch the vagabond stage of my life) and explored new areas in Florence and in Italy.

I found a geocache every day in the month of August (the things we geocachers will do for souvenirs). I launched my revamped photography website. I started this blog to help keep my writing skills sharp and wound up using it to chronicle my experiences in Italy. I wrote an article for my coach’s newsletter.

Okay, so maybe I did accomplish some things in 2013!

What does 2014 hold?  I plan on spending some months in Texas; it will be the first time in decades that I will be in the same vicinity as my two sisters. There will probably be challenges associated with that (!), but I’m looking forward to spending time with them. My sister Nancy and I are training for the Katy Trail Ride and preparing to make a documentary about the ride. We’re also planning to continue our joint photography and writing work sessions and we’ll be able to have them in person sometimes, instead of using Skype. I’ll continue reinventing my career (and my life).

One resolution I will make is to practice gratitude every single day – whether it’s taking a moment to enjoy an email from a friend, or a tea at Starbucks with my sister, or a sunny day. Life really is short and I want to make sure I appreciate as many minutes and hours and days as I can. I hope you will too.