Wednesday, December 29, 2010


In my past, the turning of a new year brought a sense of loss, isolation and hopelessness. Living in Michigan meant that each December 31st was a long, dark, freezing night that came with snow and ice. Ice meant that it was dangerous to go out. When I was first married and living in a remote corner of the woods, I remember preparing for the last night of the year by shopping for cheap snacks to comfort myself. I knew not to expect more than an evening watching the citizens of New York celebrate under lots of lights and a glittering, descending ball. My young adult holiday was nothing like the New Years of childhood, when our Polish immigrant neighbors invited friends to celebrate in their home, made cheery with a fireplace, lively with music, a bar, a pool table and magical for children with the animated Hobbit playing on a color television.
The last two years have been different. Finally able to travel on the dry roads in mild North Carolina, my husband and I have taken the kids to celebrate in Raleigh. This is an act of love by my husband, who always has to work on New Years Day, made excruciating after driving 90 minutes in the wee hours to get home. I want to thank him for doing this because our new tradition is something we look forward to and talk about at times when the holidays are not even remotely on our minds. Going to Raleigh for the First Night festivities also takes the pressure off the idea of the perfect Christmas. If things don't go perfectly on December 25th, we always have New Years to look forward to!
And this year, the day after Christmas, at 7:30 am, our power was lost due to the massive east coast blizzard. The perfect Christmas is always out of reach for our family, no matter how much we plan and prepare. This time we had to forget the celebratory feeling of leftover holiday food, toys to assemble and books to read, in order to hunker down for a night in our home without heat.
With packages opened, the paper cleared, we are now celebrating the simple comforts of modern living; our safety, electricity, water and forced air heat.

So, back to this business of New Years celebrating. Even in the best of circumstances such as dry roads and mild temperatures to lift our moods as we stroll the lighted, festive streets of Raleigh, there's the resolutions to consider.

In 1412, resolution in Middle English meant "a breaking into parts" which came from Latin, "to loosen."
Perhaps this is one reason why we "loosen up" with champagne after "breaking ourselves into parts" critiquing the things we want to change next year.

Resolution also means to have a "strong will, determination, a statement of intent, a vow." Alternately, it is "the act of discerning detail." It is also a "formal statement adopted by an assembly."

My favorite meaning is a combination of two definitions. The first occurs in music theory which states that resolution is the:

"Progression from dissonance to consonance; a chord to which such progression is made."

In political terms, resolution is:

"the moment in which the conflict ends and the outcome of the action is clear."

The two definitions taken together describe a fluid movement and a static moment, which complicates the idea enough to keep me thinking about what I will write on the resolution tree this year. I'm comforted that neither of these phrases suggest a promise or a vow one must keep after breaking oneself into parts.

From dissonance to consonance, from the end of conflict to a clear action...

Peace be with you in 2011.

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