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Jewish World Review
December 25, 2013/ 22 Teves, 5774
New year filled with possibilities, good and bad
On the road of life, when you can't see what's ahead, it helps to take a long look back and remember where you've been.
My grandmother said that. Or would have, if she thought of it.
I think of it every year when I take down the old calendar, transfer the birthdays and other important dates and finally hang up the new one.
It's not easy to face a new calendar with all those shiny white squares waiting to be filled with endless possibilities.
The problem with possibilities, if you haven't noticed, is they can go either way, good or bad.
I'm good at thinking of good ways. I count on them to happen and they do. But I am great at imagining all the bad stuff that could be coming my way.
It's a skill I learned from my mother. She was a glass-mostly-empty kind of person, probably because her glass was mostly empty most of the time.
When I was growing up she would say, "You have to learn to see danger. If you don't see it coming, it can sneak up on you and you'll be really sorry."
I didn't want to see danger. I didn't care if it sneaked up on me. I just wanted to have a good time. That is called being young.
And that is what I did. I stayed young and had a really good time, didn't see danger in much of anything for 20 years or so.
Then I became a mother.
And suddenly, danger was everywhere. Tile floors. Sharp objects. Unsharp objects. Electrical outlets. Moving vehicles. Bathtubs. Shopping carts. Strangers on the street. And, oh, the ever-present, ultra-sneaky danger of germs!
If there was any way on God's Earth to get hurt or sick or flat-out lost, my children could find it. And they did. And they still do. They and their children and my husband and all the people I hold dear.
I don't worry much about myself. I'm too busy worrying about everybody else.
Believe me, I feel lucky to have those people in my life. And not just my family and close friends.
Everyday I hear from readers -- friends I've never met -- who say they've read my stories and feel as if they know me and want to tell me their stories in return.
And what stories they tell -- about the challenges they have faced, the heartaches they have suffered, the joys and triumphs and happiness they have found.
I wish you could read them.
Often, when I speak in places where my column has been read for years, it feels like a family reunion. Except, well, there are no fist fights, usually, and the people are a bit better looking.
Hearing each other's stories gives us a perspective to realize several things: First, we are not alone; second, we're a lot better off than some folks; and third, in the things we care most about -- the matters of the heart -- we are far more alike than different.
Staring at all those empty squares, wondering what the new year will hold, I begin by looking back. I flip through the dog-eared, ink-smudged pages of last year's calendar to review all the things I did, places I went, people I spent time with.
I relive each celebration, the births and anniversaries and weddings and vacations.
I recall the uncertainties, the checkups and procedures, the endless waiting for test results, and the great, blessed relief when fears turned into joy.
I give thanks, one by one, for family and friends and the friends I've never met; for an old year that was filled, like all the others, with far more joy than heartache; and finally, for the priceless gift of a new year and its endless possibilities.
Then I eat something good. Chocolate, usually. And I say to myself and you and yours, come what may, we'll face it together. So here's to another great year.
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© 2012, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE