Today is New Year’s Eve. As I sit here in my down-sized, divorce house in Colorado (about half the size of my married home in Illinois–the home my then-husband designed and had built for our growing family), I’m staring at all the clutter, toys, video games, books, suddenly out-of-place Christmas decorations and just stuff lying around what seems to be every square inch, and I really wish I already started drinking. Yes, I admit it. I wish I had a nice, super-friendly, alcohol-induced buzz humming through my body, making my brain a little fuzzy, a little less perfectly clear and present in this mess of a house. But I didn’t, so I don’t. What I do have is too much dust on the surfaces, too many dishes in the sink and too much dog hair on the dull wooden floors.
In 2010, I counted down the minutes until 2011 by crying on my couch in my roomier, cleaner, dust-free married home in Illinois. I had a better idea of what I faced: a year-long deployment to Afghanistan, a divorce, and a year away from my children. In 2011, I counted down the minutes to 2012 from Afghanistan, happy in the knowledge that I would be heading back to the states in a few weeks, and strangely secure in the knowledge that I would be starting over in the new year. Last year, I counted down the New Year from a party in New Orleans with my great friend, Varner. We dressed up, went out, drank responsibly, and I danced for the first time in a very long time. It was fun, and I was excited about the prospects of 2013 because, before my trip, I went on a date with a guy from Denver and I had excitement about possibilities. My excitement wasn’t authentic though; it was me trying to keep up with my ex who was getting married in a couple of months. I wasn’t ready and still had personal work to do.
New Year’s is marketed as the time of the year when we should take account of the past and celebrate the hope of the future. But what happens if the unknown is just too unknown, you know? Yesterday, I drove to the mountains to do some snowboarding before my kids came home from their weekend with their dad. The powder was nearly perfect: soft, ample, fluffy–what the seasoned riders call “pow.” Feeling brave, I decided to hit some of the trails that I hadn’t explored yet–it was time to branch away from the beginner “greens” to the more experienced “blue” trails. There’s one lift at Winter Park called the Panoramic Lift. It takes riders to the top of the mountain to overlook the brilliance of the peaks at over 12,000 feet above sea level. After clumsily exiting the lift to the top of the world, I pulled out my cellphone to snap a picture and was disappointed to see the coveted panoramic view of everything below blocked by an unmoving, cloudy haze. With the exception of the top of the ridge, all I could clearly know was the Parsenn Bowl, what resembled a spoon’s scoop out of the mountaintop. After waiting patiently for the 20-minute ride to the top of the summit, I couldn’t see anything below me, and now I had to dive down into it. That’s a bit what New Year’s Eve looks like to me this year.
This year, I’m cleaning my cluttered house (or going to be), taking stock of 2013, and trying to see past my own cloudy haze into 2014. Over the last few years, I’ve been sowing, rebuilding, healing, thinking, crying, starting and starting and starting over and over again. What’s in store for 2014? This is probably the part where my readers (all 20 of you) expect me to say that I’m confident in the future, but, truthfully, I don’t feel anything for 2014 yet. I don’t feel sad like I did in 2010, or brave like I did in 2011, or falsely excited like I did in 2012. I feel…nothing. Maybe I’m too tired from sowing. And a little impatient to see some buds sprouting through the packed earth. My faith calls me to remember that I’ve been consistently led through darkness in my past to the light, but I can’t see any light…yet. So, I keep coming back to my time on the mountain yesterday, when I stood at the top, and I was certain of one thing: I had to get back to the base somehow. I had my board strapped to my feet, and I knew how to use it. Regardless whether or not I could see what was beyond the cloud cover, I did have what I needed to ride my way to where I could see things more clearly. I stood up, pushed off and started the descent.
Even though I couldn’t see anything clearly from the top, with every inch I rode down, the paths became clearer. I may not have been able to take the picture I wanted, but the scenery that surrounded me was breathtaking, and when I got to the bottom I could look back up the slopes and catch my breath at the distance I’d covered. I’m holding onto that experience as 2014 looms ahead of me. I have what it takes to face the unknown, and the clouds can’t stay there forever. Some day, they will move. For now, it’s time to get back to work.