It's 2014 now, and a new year means a new theme.
I don't pay any attention to New Years' resolution nonsense, and neither do I make a hard point of setting ordinary goals when a new year starts. But giving a year its own theme seems to have become a thing.
2010 started it. In the couple of years before that I rediscovered knitting, and because I enjoyed it, and because it started filling in gaping emotional holes elsewhere in my life, and because I became part of a strong online community centered around yarn and fiber work, I went rather mad for a while. I'm always prone to obsessions, and yarn stuff was a big one which lasted for a long time. (I still like to play with yarn but I don't obsess over it now.)
The problem was falling into a trap which I've seen many people succumb to, especially with the internet making ideas and commerce so readily available, and then with an online community either actively or tacitly egging it on: buying new things instead of doing work. It's easy to get caught up in wanting a new toy, and the sugar-candy rush of buying stuff is so delightfully addictive. But I realized I was filling up my house with things I was barely using, and it didn't make me any happier.
So in late 2009, I declared 2010 would be the Year of Making Stuff. I would not buy any new fiber-related tools or equipment for the entire year. I'd actually use what I already and see if I enjoyed it, and then I'd have something to shape my further spending toward what I liked to do.
It was a big success. I stopped buying new things, and it wasn't even hard. I had plenty of things to work with and enjoy, both tools and materials. The Year of Making Stuff put a stop to a spate of rampant, unthinking consumerism, and the lessons have been good for me. I know that mostly, stuff doesn't make me very happy.
2010 ended, though. Years do, and my big experiment was done. I didn't have a Year Of anymore, and I liked having one. So I picked a new theme at the beginning of 2011 and that was that. Every year since has been a Year Of something.
Not all of them mattered much. For all I wanted to keep going in 2011, I didn't have a strong idea of what to make it, so I picked something forgettable that didn't change me much. 2012 was much the same. Each of them had their own word, but they didn't actually amount to anything.
2013 was different. At the beginning of 2013 I was moving back into my parents' home, clearing out my apartment, and wondering very much how I was going to make a writing career a reality, after the long-gone and unmissed old job. 2013 needed a stronger theme; at least it seemed to think so, because I didn't really name the Year Of. It more or less named itself.
I remember sitting at my desk, realizing that it was a new calendar year and that meant switching to a new theme. I only started thinking about what it could be, and the word came to me: the Year of Trust.
My immediate reaction was to say Oh, ouch, and reject it.
My next-after reaction was to (reluctantly) accept it as the right word -- not because I wanted to, but because I knew that snap reaction meant I needed to. I needed to deepen my trust in a bad way: not trust in myself, but trust in my God. I didnt know what I was going to do about work, but I knew I needed help to figure it out. And I also knew that there is no real relationship with God without trust. It simply doesn't work in any other way, because NO good relationship survives without trust. Want a really good relationship? Find someone absolutely trustworthy, and then start developing a friendship with them.
I knew, theoretically, that there is no one more trustworthy than God. No one more worthy of developing a deep relationship with. That doesn't mean I was capable of it, or that I didn't have a lot of bad old faith to confront, or fear that the Father I wanted to know was as cold and judgmental as I have (wrongly, but hurtfully) perceived other family relationships to be.
Even God has to earn our trust. He gives us plenty of proof of his trustworthiness, and he is very patient with our need for it because I think he understands this better than we do. Trust is only really learned by experience. It comes when someone lives up to their press. When they follow through on who they say they are or what they say they will do.
I needed to experience God as trustworthy, and he gave me a theme for a year that would make me confront that.
2013 is over now. My need to keep learning trust is not over, but nonetheless the calendar has changed and it's time for a new theme.
I realized in the middle of December that it was almost time to change the calendar and to choose a new Year Of. Again, 2014 didn't need much thought, because I didn't choose it myself. The theme came to me right away, though I still needed a little self-convincing to believe it is true.
2014 is the Year of Grace.
Why do I need convincing? Why is this theme a challenge to me rather than a relief? Because I am skeptical of grace. I want badly for it to be real, and at the same time I brace myself against the possibility that it is not. I want desperately for good things to come out of life, kind things, but I am always braced for hard blows. I can never quite believe that kindness applies to me, me too. I never quite believe in generosity and love that has enough space to include me, and is glad to do so.
Kindness, generosity, love. A Year of Grace. Please God, show me how all of these things are real and true.