I have never been much for “reflect on the past year” and “make resolutions for the new one.” The big marker for a new year for me is remembering to write 2016 instead of 2015 on sundry items.
But I saw eleventy-million “NEW YEAR/WRAP-UP” posts and it gave me a moment’s pause. What did happen this past year?
A metric ton of stuff, that’s what.
We had a baby, which caused a pretty radical shift in most everything. There’s a dozen big baby-related landmarks that we have already passed. They aren’t lying when they say it goes fast, which is weird, because it’s so hard you’d think it would go slooooow.
We moved to a new state.
We did a lot of cross-country travel, some of which was just me and the baby and the wolf all by ourselves.
I got a literary agent. Pretty exhilarating, that. I am avoiding using exclamation marks in this post, but exclamation marks were involved, rest assured.
I spent six months on revisions and am so very ready to get cracking on whatever’s next.
We ran a Spartan obstacle race, and a half-marathon, and then we raced into the New Year (the race started at 11:45 Dec 31st, and we pulled into the finish line at around 12:14 Jan 1st).
Admittedly I wasn’t too excited about that last race. The little Mousekewitz is still a morning person (though 6 am is better than 5 am, am I right?) and doing things at midnight is no longer appealing. At all.
But we did it, and there were some fireworks, and I think it’s good to do things that are hard and inconvenient because it can be all to easy to harden one’s routine till it is immovable and fun-less.
I did not read as many books this year as I would have liked, but I read some really good ones! Here’s a few.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was FANTASTIC. It took me a while to get through it because of…a baby, and a general hesitance on my own part, but once I got into it, I loved it. The imagery in this book is something else altogether. The characters seem like scant sketches at first, and their inner lives are never fully revealed to us, but it all just coalesces into something beautiful and fascinating.
In Defense of Sanity continues my G.K. Chesterton binge. He’s so contrary and determined to see the wildness and fantasy in everything, I love it. I just eat up these good, insightful essays about religion and society. I think I’ll read his Father Brown stories next, though I tend to enjoy his non-fiction so much more than his fiction.
Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken was so hard, painful, and…edifying. Is that the word I want? I think so. It bears a deeper discussion than I’m going to give it at the moment, but I kept thinking about it over and over after I read it. I always knew more about the European theater of WWII and the history of the Holocaust, as opposed to the Pacific theater and its own horrors. What these POWs endured is astonishing, and perhaps all the more so because it is the intimate account of the experiences of a few men. The most potent thing about this true history is the astounding difference hope makes. It sounds like a cliche, but bear with me! Those who did not hope, DIED. Despair, in such dire circumstances, is literally deadly. So often when we focus on the history of oppression we talk about the LACK of agency, the LACK of opportunity to exert will, when we should be talking about how the mere act of hope and endurance–the mere determination of “I WILL get through this, I won’t let my arms go limp”–is often the difference between life and death. Those who have the least agency imaginable can still affect the outcome by not giving up, by enduring, and–hardest to do–by forgiving and moving on. I hate how platitudinal that sounds, because this one man’s history shows how bone-deep, gut-wrenchingly true it really is.
Re-read: The Screwtape Letters. I forgot how good this book is. You know that moment when someone describes how poorly someone behaved, or how they did something despicable or rude or vile, or how people have these nasty little habits that will drag them down in the end…and suddenly your eyes are opened and you realize you match their every description? This whole book is that moment. For those who have not read it, it is senior devil Screwtape writing to junior devil Wormwood telling him how to tempt his “patient” (a human man) to folly, neglectfulness, sin, duplicity, and then ultimate enslavement and subsumption. The devil really is in the details, because some of Screwtape’s chief advices involve distracting a given patient (human) with lunch and city buses (or blogs and tv?) when they were so dangerously close to exploring the question, ‘what does life and history amount to anyway?’ And that would have led to all sorts of thoughts about truth and purpose…very dangerous indeed!
Anyhow, those were the main favorites.
Not much else for now. I’m going to try to use this extra new-year steam to get lots done this week!