Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day 2013

It's been nearly two weeks since my last post and I've been reflecting about a post about thankfulness, and a post about New Year's Resolutions. But I kind of like last year's resolutions so I'm not going to mess with them, and I'll return to the thankfulness post in the next week or so. In the meantime, this New Year's Day I've been contemplating this question:

What is luck? 

Amidst the superstitions, traditions and wishes for good fortune in the New Year, I'm wondering: how will I know if they worked? How will I know if the good things that happen in the year are somehow related to the good luck charms I attempted to bestow upon myself, and if the bad things that happened are the result of a lack of concerted superstitious effort? 

When it comes down to it, I have a hard time believing that any special foods eaten on New Year's Day, anything we say, or any black cats we avoid has any bearing on the events that transpire. If we truly believe in luck, then by definition, we can't influence it, can we? Luck is after all simply the result chance.  

That is, it's random. 

And if it's random, it's unaffected by previous events and no number of rabbit's feet or broken mirrors can affect it. It is, by definition, "the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled"

If, on the other hand, we don't believe in luck, then what shapes the events that unfurl?. Are they fated events, predestined by an omnipotent being or a pre-programmed universe? If that's the case, then once again, they are unaffected by the tiny actions of crossed fingers and knocked wood.

Or is the future unplanned and unfolding second by second based on the nearly infinite actions of  all living things?   (Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy is a must read for any science fiction fan, and has an interesting take on this.)

Regardless of your philosophical and theological bent, perhaps a more relevant question is: How do we differentiate a good year from a bad one? 

As I look back on 2012, I can find lots of signs that make me want to wish for a "better" 2013. It started with the end of an ill-fated new job and included two trips to the ER for Matthew and the beginning of chemo for me. But the end of the "new" job meant an opportunity to return to a new, old job; the ER trips for Matthew were isolated events that created some inconvenience but no lasting issues; and the chemo for me, well, that could mean the beginning of a long period of watching and waiting. And on top of that, our year ended with a magical trip to Disney followed by a wonderful New Year's Eve with great friends.

Bad year or good? 

It's easy for  me to cast the decision in the context of a personal outlook (the glass is half full or half empty). But in truth, I think it's more complicated - a balance of good and bad that teeters from side to side, year to year.

And as I sit here in my comfy, warm living room on this cold winter's day, listening to music while the boys play video games and Stacy putters in her craft room, it's hard to complain despite the challenges we've faced this year. Every year is filled with its moments of greatness, of pure happiness and gratitude, like this one. Sometimes they're so tiny, so fleeting that you can miss them if you don't pay attention. But they're always there.  

Every year is also filled with obstacles --  moments that lead you to the overwhelming question: why me? It's a pointless question. The answer doesn't have any impact on the result. Why do I have lymphoma? Beyond the biological and medical importance of knowing the physical causes, knowing why I'm the lucky recipient of lymphoma cell doesn't matter. 

So where does that leave us? Do we abandon superstitions, traditions, and well wishes? Do we create a spreadsheet to tally up 2013's successes and setbacks? 

No and no. 

It's New Year's Day 2013. I'll still have my helping of sauerkraut today and wish for good luck.  And rather than count and categorize the moments that 2013 brings me, I'll simply experience them, hoping there will be more joyful moments and less hurdles. More good news than bad. But whatever it brings, I will be thankful for being able to face the challenges and enjoy the bright spots with the support and love of my family and friends -- and I'll remember how lucky I am.

Happy New Year everyone. Hope it brings you health and happiness.

 p.s. Why sauerkraut on New Year's Day? I'm not sure but a little Googling may point to an answer here.