My family departed for home Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning, so I have been in hibernation mode since 9 a.m. on the 25th. These seven post-Solstice, post- Christmas days (my family always celebrates on the 24th ), are my wintering time. It is when I, like TV specials and pundits, reflect on the year past, but it is also the time when I set my course for the year to come.
My wintering or hibernation (the noun winter is German, but hiver is the French word for winter) is about rest and renewal, about letting go and taking on, about reflecting on the departing year and planning for the new one. I mostly stay at home, using up the Christmas leftovers and undecorating the house, reading my Christmas books and doing one of my Christmas jigsaw puzzles. I write in my journal with a focus on the year past and the year to come, including New Year’s resolutions, which I have been doing since elementary school. ( I remember when I was ten, I resolved to learn to light the gas stove. It didn’t have a pilot light, so it involved a match, and I found it scary. To this day I am an electric range person.)
Over time my resolutions have become more abstract and complex. They all involve self-improvement. Even at 80 there are improvements to be made. I am deeply engaged in virtue ethics, so my guides to living wisely and well are the four attitude virtues of hope, trust, lovingkindness, and gratitude , and the behavioral virtues of self-care, prudence (practical wisdom), simplicity, and mindfulness. The arenas in which those virtues are played out are lifelong learning, vocation (write-teach-preach-lead-serve), and cultivating healthy relationships. My daily journal is the ongoing record of my intentions and my performance.
What about surprises? There are always plenty of those. In 2021, COVID changed my travel plans. I rethought some of my volunteer commitments and rearranged them to better it my lifestyle, especially that part of my lifestyle that involves sleeping from 9 to 5 and driving after dark as seldom as possible. Self-care surprised me with an unplanned but very rewarding journey with NOOM to lose 25 pounds. I lost a cat, a dog, and most sadly, a brother. I lost friends, some to death, others to relationships that no longer worked, but was surprised to acquire two new ones (one to hike with, one to travel with) and strengthen the bonds of several old friendships. Man (and woman) plan, and God laughs. Like Columbus, I set my course for India and found a new world along the way.
So, I invite you to a few final days of hibernation and reflection before returning to the daily round. What was your year 2021 like? What did you learn and change, gain and lose? What are your hopes for 2022, personally and collectively? What are you grateful for, concerned about, desirous of changing? As the days begin to lengthen again, and the signs daffodils and crocuses appear, may you be rested and renewed, armed with faith, hope and good intentions for the year that begins in just three days.