Susanne Dunlap

The New Year

In Random thoughts on January 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I’m not sure why, but I always feel a little depressed on the first day of a new year. I wish I could say today was an exception, this January 1, 2011. I’m not sure where this comes from: unlike last year, I’m not in a deadening, abusive day job anymore. I’m involved in an exciting new business venture that engages my imagination, my intellect, my problem-solving skills—in short, really challenges me in a positive way. I have a book coming out in April, In the Shadow of the Lamp, to be published—like my other Young Adult Historical Fiction—by Bloomsbury USA Children’s.

My children and grandchildren are doing remarkably well, including the new granddaughter who appeared on August 10, 2010. I’m deeply immersed in another YA historical that’s exciting and stimulating to write, and am awaiting feedback from my editor on the second manuscript in fulfillment of my two-book deal with Bloomsbury.

Not only that, but next week I travel to my hometown of Buffalo, NY, to pay a short visit to the writing club at my old Junior High School, now called Kenmore Middle School, and give a writing workshop for prospective freshmen girls at my old high school, The Buffalo Seminary.

Really, life couldn’t be better in most ways.

So why is it that, no matter my accomplishments, lifestyle, relationships, I see the year yawning ahead of me and a hollow sadness tugs at my middle? Is it the inevitable result of growing older, of being more aware of the precarious nature of life? Is it lingering regrets about paths not followed, and to which I can never now return? Do I think of those who are no longer here to share this moment with, my mother, my older brother? Friends with whom I have lost touch over the years?

Or perhaps it’s because I cannot help feeling that no matter how much I have done, no matter what I have accomplished, it will never be enough. Alongside the finished manuscripts and research undertaken and digested, the degrees earned, the business furthered, there will always be promises half kept, tasks begun with the best of intentions that have somehow fallen to the wayside. A new year makes me look back, not forward. Memory can be a burden.

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. When I have, I’ve pretty much forgotten them by the end of January. It seems to me that just getting from one end of a year to another is an achievement that shouldn’t be taken lightly. So many worthy people do not manage that journey.

It would be an honorable thing to get through this next year without hurting people, without compromising my values, without letting anything slip or putting less of myself into something than it deserves.

Perhaps I am hard on myself. But if I’m not, who else will be? No one is standing behind me with a whip urging me on to greater achievements. If I felt entirely complacent, I might not spend the frustrating hours at my computer trying to tell stories that will be meaningful and memorable to my readers, creating characters out of bits hauled from deep inside my own viscera.

New Year’s day is like Sunday at the beginning of a work week, only 52 times more intense. Everything is before me, waiting for me to work at. Once I’m doing it, I feel better.

Perhaps that should be my New Year’s resolution: be kinder to myself.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

  1. It is inevitable that we become harder on ourselves as creative people: the realisation that our works are dropped into an ocean of other works, all jostling for attention, is the dreary thing for me.

    With time, however, I find that rather than seeing the year yawn ahead, I contemplate on the brevity of it all. Each year seems shorter than the last, with less time for ‘doing nothing’. Less time for contemplative creation, less time for meaningful conversations that involve something other than mere practicalities.

    I find the loss of one’s parents carries through, down the years, and the weight of responsibility – of not being someone’s child any more – can be overwhelming, whether or not the relationships were satisfying. Sometimes even worse when they were not.

    The years looming ahead – even if they seem to yawn emptily – is a good sign. Daunting but good. It is better than wishing for brevity, or for it all to be done with. There are books to write, opinions to be expressed, people to entertain and edify. There are readers to be appeased with more, more.

    I envy you your view – I want my years to loom ahead too… all very long and with enough time to make a steeped pot of tea rather than a quick teabag in a mug. I want time to think about an empty canvas on which to impress my view of the world. I would like not to have to snatch half an hour of this and twenty minutes of that.

    You are way head of me – perhaps I shall once more enjoy that sense of time stretching ahead of me, with oodles of hours in which to revisit my favourite characters, and re-sew them into a new story, and surprise them by the act of resurrection.

    • Rosanne, thank you for this thoughtful comment—deserving to be its own post! It’s a valuable viewpoint, and another way of looking at life. I’m not sure whether to feel better or not! You look at too brief a time as an obstacle to achievement. It could be a rollercoaster ride of fun. My experience is that time goes quickly when I’m enjoying it.

      Of course, this last year whipped by—I certainly experience that. But so much happened to me and my family personally that it felt like three or four years nonetheless.

      I appreciate your comments here. Keep them coming!

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