This is the seventh year in a row that I’ve written an open letter to the new year. It seems especially important this year to start off on the right foot with you, given the state of American politics and the deep divide between the people of our country. In the wake of the election, there is a lot of hate, anger, discrimination and misogyny being unleashed. Not to mention the incoming administration’s threat to our civil rights and democracy. It doesn’t appear any of this darkness is going away any time soon.
On New Year’s Day I woke early and lay quietly in bed, my partner Eric sleeping next to me, and Yoda lightly snoring in his bed on the floor across the room. It was a peaceful moment where I silently marveled at the extent of my love for both of them. Once Yoda woke up, I put his harness on him to help him down the stairs, something that has been challenging for him since we moved to New Jersey just over a year ago. At the top of the staircase, Yoda wouldn’t budge, and in fact looked very scared. It was clear his arthritic back legs have no longer left him with the confidence to even attempt the stairs. Eric had to carry him, and has carried him down the stairs every single morning since. It’s another marker in Yoda’s life that reminds me that he won’t always be at my side. My sadness about Yoda’s aging body then got me thinking about the state of the world, making me even more sad, tears stinging my eyes as I tried to blink them away.
This was not an ideal way to start a new year, and in an effort to break the sad cycle, I went for a long walk by myself to figure out my New Year’s resolution. As I walked I fixated on the darkness in the country. I kept asking myself “Where is the light?”
Then it finally hit me: if I can’t find the light, then I need to BE THE LIGHT.
I started brainstorming ideas to myself about how to do this. There are so many easy ways to be the light. I can smile at someone, wish someone a good day, text someone how much they mean to me, open the door for someone, pay for the gas for the person in line behind my car, bake Eric his favorite dessert, or snuggle with my sweet senior dog. I’m convinced if people express their light with these little acts, then we quite likely could spread the light very quickly. I know when I’m having a bad day and someone smiles at me and says hello, it quite often changes the trajectory of my day and I find myself treating others more kindly.
As I continued walking up a steep sleepy rural road, I found myself wishing a car would drive past so I could smile and wave at the driver. Eventually a car did drive by and parked 50 feet away in front of a state park hiking trail. I smiled at the driver who was climbing out of the car as her old German Shepard walked over to sniff me. I can’t quite remember how it all went down because it happened so fast, but one thing led to another and the next thing I knew the woman and I were hugging and shedding tears together about our senior dogs. It turns out she also decided to go for a walk to shake off her sadness about her dog’s health problems.
“We met for a reason today,” said the woman, who introduced herself as Lisa. I joined Lisa and her dog on the hiking trail and our tears turned to laughter as we chatted away about our lives. It turns out that Lisa lives about a mile away from me, so she gave me a ride home after we finished the trail. Living so rural, my closest friend lives about 30 minutes away. Yet by experimenting with “being the light” by smiling at a stranger, I made a new friend who lives just down the road.
On the surface the beginning of 2017 appears dark, unpredictable and scary. But meeting Lisa has proven to me that it doesn’t have to be. So, Year 2017, my New Year’s resolution is to Be the Light.
In closing, Year 2017, I think I love you already.