“How to Face the New Year with a Smile”, column for Dec. 24, 2013

On the road of life, when you can’t see what’s ahead, it helps to take a long look back and remember where you’ve been.

My grandmother said that. Or would have, if she thought of it.

I think of it every year when I take down the old calendar, transfer the birthdays and other important dates and finally hang up the new one.

It’s not easy to face a new calendar with all those shiny white squares waiting to be filled with endless possibilities.

The problem with possibilities, if you haven’t noticed, is they can go either way, good or bad.

I’m good at thinking of good ways. I count on them to happen and they do. But I am great at imagining all the bad stuff that could be coming my way.

It’s a skill I learned from my mother. She was a glass-mostly-empty kind of person, probably because her glass was mostly empty most of the time.

When I was growing up she would say, “You have to learn to see danger. If you don’t see it coming, it can sneak up on you and you’ll be really sorry.”

I didn’t want to see danger. I didn’t care if it sneaked up on me. I just wanted to have a good time. That is called being young.

And that is what I did. I stayed young and had a really good time, didn’t see danger in much of anything for 20 years or so.

Then I became a mother.

And suddenly, danger was everywhere. Tile floors. Sharp objects. Unsharp objects. Electrical outlets. Moving vehicles. Bathtubs. Shopping carts. Strangers on the street. And, oh, the ever-present, ultra-sneaky danger of germs!

If there was any way on God’s Earth to get hurt or sick or flat-out lost, my children could find it. And they did. And they still do. They and their others and their children and my husband and all the people I hold dear.

I don’t worry much about myself. I’m too busy worrying about everybody else.

Believe me, I feel lucky to have those people in my life. And not just my family and close friends.

Every day I hear from readers — friends I’ve never met — who say they’ve read my stories and feel as if they know me and want to tell me their stories in return.

And what stories they tell — about the challenges they have faced, the heartaches they have suffered, the joys and triumphs and happiness they have found.

I wish you could read them.

Often, when I speak in places where my column has been read for years, it feels like a family reunion. Except, well, there are no fist fights, usually, and the people are a bit better looking.

Hearing each other’s stories gives us a perspective to realize several things: First, we are not alone; second, we’re a lot better off than some folks; and third, in the things we care most about — the matters of the heart — we are far more alike than different.

Staring at all those empty squares, wondering what the new year will hold, I begin by looking back. I flip through the dog-eared, ink-smudged pages of last year’s calendar to review all the things I did, places I went, people I spent time with.

I relive each celebration, the births and anniversaries and weddings and vacations.

I recall the uncertainties, the checkups and procedures, the endless waiting for test results, and the great, blessed relief when fears turned into joy.

I give thanks, one by one, for family and friends and the friends I’ve never met; for an old year that was filled, like all the others, with far more joy than heartache; and finally, for the priceless gift of a new year and its endless possibilities.

Then I eat something good. Chocolate, usually. And I say to myself and you and yours, come what may, we’ll face it together. So here’s to another great year.

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(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394 Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.)

Comments

  1. shashi says:

    How did I miss this cute article ? So beautifully written , God bless you Sharon ! you are a gifted writer . Wish I can meet you somewhere in US . Thanks for writing and sharing with this wonderful site ,all credit goes to your saying Yes to your daughter-in law for making it ,otherwise I have to keep collecting cuttings of newspaper which has so much other stuff, no need to save . Now I can share with family and friends too . Lot of love .

  2. Jo says:

    I was a few weeks behind reading your column. We’ve been kind-of busy. My fifth grandchild was born two weeks ago. A little girl, Neala Reece.

    Enjoyed this one so much, I’m sending it to my kids. I’m sure they can relate to it too.

    Happy writing to you Sharon, during the new year.

  3. Kathy Motsinger says:

    I have read your column for years and thoroughly enjoy it. I grew up on a small farm in North Carolina and still live here near Winston Salem.
    Two tips for you:
    1. I typed a list of people + their birthdates and/or anniversaries and tucked that into my desk top calendar. When I turn the page, there is the list. I look at the current month, see who needs a card, run out and buy cards for the month (if I am in need of specific cards that are not in my drawer). I write lightly in pencil on the back flap when to mail this card. Then I tuck the list into the next month’s page.
    2. I also buy three year calendars. That way I can go ahead and enter dr, dentist, important events for the next year.

  4. Happy New Year, Sharon!

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