I look at my life and find myself calculating that, if my own life stretches as long as my great-grandmother’s did, I’m not even middle-aged yet. If I go by actuarial tables, I’m well into middle age. And if I accept the realities of the unpredicability of the universe, it could all be over tomorrow.
I enjoyed the scuppernongs this year, and the Concord grapes, though the watermelons completely passed me by. I found my way to good tomatoes and asparagus in season, and apple pie. I have enjoyed the comfort of the movement of light through my office window, and have found the value of faith in watching my adult children struggling with their lives, experiencing in the last year both their first real, independent failures, and their first real, independent triumphs. I have enjoyed the companionship and growth of my younger child, and have grown to appreciate more than ever my husband.
I found as much comfort and help in mowing the lawn as ever—the sweet scent of cut grass and the endless back-and-forth rhythm of the mowing continues to provide me with inspiration for both writing and life.
I started my own little private-enterprise bookstore, and am pleased at how well it has been received.
I said goodbye to one genre, and hello to a new one.
I dissected my processes of creating characters and creating languages, both challenging intellectual exercises. I rediscovered knitting, and struggled from dreadfully unacceptable work to creating pieces that I’m not embarrassed to give away.
I got news that I’ll be a grandmother, though actually being a grandmother is going to take some time yet.
I’ve watched the larger world moving in ugly directions, too; I cannot say that the year has been a comforting one, because I read history and I watch the present, and I see the future. Or at least one future, and one that looks ever less possible to avert.
At forty-six, I am much less willing to see the virtues in universal and unquestioning tolerance, and much more willing to fight for the right to use intelligence and facts to be discriminating in what I tolerate. Not everyone is good, not everyone means well, and while I still believe that most people are decent most of the time, I’m warier than I was when I was younger. Life has demonstrated to me that wariness has great survival value.
But in the end, I return to a truth that even in the midst of gathering darkness gives me direction:
Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation. â€” AndrÃ© Gide
I will be joyful. There is still good in the world.