What if we got knocked out of our socks by a brilliant turnabout in our national life?
At the moment, “Happy New Year” rings hollow. We all know how heavy the baggage is that we dragged from December to January this year. But my hope is in the mystery of the future. We could never have predicted the dreadful twin plagues of Covid and civil unrest, and that is exactly why we can’t predict a change, a windfall of good karma and good timing.
Twenty-two years ago, I wrote a New Year’s column for the Heralds offering my predictions for the year ahead, 2000. First, I suggested, sell all your stock. In my capacity as a person with little understanding of financial markets, I firmly believed that stores would become obsolete as online shopping became more popular. The markets would go south from there.
As it turned out, if you just kept your stocks for these 22 years, you would have made a tidy bundle. So my first prediction was dead on arrival. Even with the dot-com bust in the early 2000s and the Great Recession, the average annual return in the stock market was about 10 percent.
I also predicted that that we would not go to war with Saddam Hussein.
On the national front, I lamented the scandals in Congress, and said our officials would out one another until no one would be left in government.
That one was particularly interesting: Apparently, the worst thing I could imagine about Congress 22 years ago was that folks were having sexual flings. Man, wouldn’t you take that scenario in a heartbeat? What if someone told you back then that on New Year’s 2022, our country would be stumbling ahead, staggered by more than 800,000 deaths from a virulent pandemic that shut down schools and services and sent millions into isolation and quarantine?
Could you possibly have believed that political fighting, a violent attack on the Capitol and hordes of know-nothing anarchists would threaten the integrity of Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court? Would you have believed that a Marjorie Taylor Greene could exist if I described her to you back then? How about this one: Donald Trump would get elected president in 2016.
Hell, 22 years ago, the twin towers were still standing in all their massive glory at the tip of Manhattan.
Perhaps it’s best that crystal balls are cloudy.
The unexpected is what I am counting on — that unpredictably good things may save us.
As I think about the year ahead, my head and my heart do battle. Our hearts don’t heal according to a turn of the calendar page. My heart is aching for our losses. Some friends have died. My city is set back on its heels. Our kids are out of school yet again, as we enter the third year of the pandemic.
Part of my head is worried about tomorrow. But I’m going with the part of my brain that knows unexpectedly beneficent events in the year ahead could heal the country and get us healthy again. We can go back to work, and bring back birthday parties and theater and family dinners. The virus could burn out. Our political leaders may find their best selves. Air travel will take off and people, too long sequestered in their homes, will embrace one another again. This could happen, and is no more unlikely than a raging global pandemic that stopped the clock for two years.
I wish this for all of us in 2022: that we are off-the-charts lucky and blessed in our lives and work. In the meantime, the poet John Roedel offers this advice:
“My heart is always sad about/something that happened yesterday/while my head is always worried/about something that may happen tomorrow, I lamented . . .
“My gut squeezed my hand./‘I just can’t live with my mistakes of the past/or my anxiety about the future,’ I sighed . . .
“My gut smiled and said: ‘In that case/you should stay with your lungs for a while . . .
“If you are exhausted about/your heart’s obsession with/the fixed past and your mind’s focus/on the uncertain future/your lungs are the perfect place for you/there is no yesterday in your lungs/there is no tomorrow there either/there is only now/there is only inhale/there is only exhale/there is only this moment/there is only breath/and in that breath/you can rest while your/heart and head work/their relationship out.”
Let us say goodbye to 2021 hoping to be astonished, in a good way, by 2022.
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.