My Grandma Rigal used to sit us all down each year after Christmas, go from one child to the next around a circle, and ask us what our new year’s resolutions were. As I remember it, she wanted each of us to make several promises: goals to achieve, things to learn, and ways to better ourselves. Maybe she thought with a longer list we would be more likely to make some progress on at least some of them. I can’t remember any that I made, except for the number of eggs I would collect that year from our five thousand laying hens; since Dad paid us based on this farm chore, it stuck in my mind.

          There is value in stock-taking, refocusing priorities, and establishing goals; I am a good constructor of TO DO lists, mainly, I think, because I like the feeling of crossing items off. Sometimes I will even write down something I have already done that day just so I can check it off as completed. One thing 2020 taught us, though, is that our lists and goals need to be flexible enough so we can withstand unforeseen disruptions and maintain our sense of self-worth; we must be more than the sum of our accomplishments.

          So, what will be on your resolution list this year? Probably the hardest one for me will be one many of you share, to lose the quarantine fifteen! This, of course, will be of value for my physical health; but in addition, it is an act of recovery from the insults of 2020, a step toward healing the injuries inflicted by pandemic and politics, a way to reclaim myself. At least that’s what I’m telling myself today; not sure if it will work when the urge for a hot fudge sundae looms.

          My professional resolution is to complete another book. I am increasingly fascinated by the intersection of spirituality and the closing of life. One common cause of distress at that juncture is when the dying one’s beliefs, the way they view life, doesn’t seem to work in the face of impending death. One of my favorite quotes in this regard comes from life coach Samir Selmanovic who wrote, “When we can’t fit our life experience into our religion, something has to give, and life can’t give.”

          2020 demonstrated the amazing capacity we humans have to hold on to our strongly-held beliefs despite the data, facts, and science that prove us wrong. It is so much more comfortable to stay shielded by our opinions and theories; otherwise the world gets unfamiliar and feels dangerous. This defense mechanism can sometimes indeed provide protection, but can often, as was so clear this year, it can also be destructive to ourselves, our community, and our nation. But enough on that, it fascinates me, so it is likely I’ll be writing more cogently about it in the future.

          I remember a M*A*S*H episode taking place at a New Year’s Eve party, reviewing the previous twelve months and looking forward to whatever could come next. To paraphrase Colonel Potter's toast in that episode, “Here’s to 2021; may she be a damn sight better than 2020!”

          Happy New Year to you all!
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