Summing Up and Sorting It Out

Published in This Week At Plymouth, January 2, 2022
Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis
“For there’s no yes in yesterday
And who knows what tomorrow brings or takes away
As long as I’m still in the game
I want to play
For laughs, for life, for love
So here’s to life
And every joy it brings
Here’s to life” —Shirley Horn
We are in that time of the year when people sum up and sort out the year they have just experienced, making New Year’s resolutions as the answer to everything that happened, good or bad. I’ve seen many people posting on social media about their year, taking stock of their grief, losses, victories, and accomplishments. The pandemic, economic setbacks, political polarization, and family discord or reconciliation figure prominently in the resolutions they are making. I can’t be sure if there has been a measurable increase in this kind of year-end reflection, but I have seen far more of them than I remember.
Nowadays, I rarely do that summing up of my year, and I can’t recall that last time I made a New Year’s resolution. I think one of the reasons I haven’t been more intentional about summing up my year is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that what I experienced in the previous year stays with me into the new. I do welcome the natural inflection point of the New Year for starting over and beginning again. Yet, the year I’ve just experienced has made me who I am going into the New Year, and that change in me will continue to unfold in surprising ways. I lived through some of those bad years, brutal and interminable, leaving me desperate for a clean break from any and everything that happened. And yet, all of what happened remains a part of me. How do we keep what worked, learn from what didn’t, and integrate it all constructively for what tomorrow may hold?
A few days ago, a radio news segment featured therapists talking about the dismal record of people keeping their New Year’s resolutions and advising listeners to drop the customary practice of making them. Instead, one of the therapists suggested taking on the approach of articulating your intentions for the upcoming year. The idea behind stating an intention is to make the journey less formal and unforgiving, leaving room for grace, flexibility, and adjustment as life unfolds. Perhaps, carrying forth the lessons learned and the wisdom gained from the year we just had can help us better articulate intentions we are likely to honor. As we sum up, sort out, and say goodbye to 2021, I pray we embrace the New Year, not solely as a reaction against what hurt us or what we hated about the year just ended. Instead, because we are wiser, stronger, and more explicit about our intentions, we welcome the New Year as an opportunity to pursue laughs, love, and life. May it be so. Happy New Year!
DeWayne L. Davis