Year’s end a time for candid reflections

Another year over, full of gratitude and regret.

With the new year come subtle and obvious reminders of all the promises we made ourselves last year, but somehow have not kept. Reflection upon the past 12 months can lead to a sense of satisfaction, combined with wonderment about the insistent march of time.

Worst case, ask for a do-over, hoping to reclaim a year we didn’t use to its fullest.

I’ve had my share of both. Following are some of both the bitter and sweet reflections with which I’m left as another year goes into the books:

Though it could be worse, it’s hard to accept that I’m 10 pounds heavier now than I’ve been for the past 12 years. I joke about having the physique of a writer and such, but trends like these, unattended over time, lead to bigger problems.

I’m more grateful than ever before to be right where I am. Having traveled for years as part of my job, and having always struggled with any idea of permanence, 2007 has afforded me a sense of peace about raising a family in a town far different than that of my own upbringing.

I regret that yet another year has passed without any communication between me and my father. It seems that the longer two people go without contact, no matter how close they were before the schism, it only gets harder to bridge the growing gap.

I’m also blessed to have the opportunity to redefine what it means to be family. Though our genetic heritage is an indelible part of who we are, it is not the only basis for who we call family.

For the church community that has grown up around us from nothing over the past four years, for the friends who go out of their way to embrace us both literally and figuratively, and for those related to me by marriage but who treat me as their own, I am grateful.

Though I feel like we, as a community, have done some good, I have some ambivalence about the state of the world. We have fed the needy, yet every night, right here in our city, people go to bed with no food. We have comforted the afflicted, though even more suffering persists. We cry out for peace, but war still is a part of everyday life.

I am grateful that we have done something, but regret that it still is not enough. I am grateful for how much I have been given, but regret how relatively little I have to show for it. I am also grateful for knowing my family is in a position of relative security, but regret that my wants and fears still make me restless for more.

I am grateful for the many signs of divinity I have seen in those around me, but regret that those glimmers have not been enough to extinguish my doubt, or even to bolster my confidence in the more benevolent tendencies of human nature.

I am grateful for the patience offered to me, and regret not having more patience of my own.

I am grateful for time, but regret I have not always used it as well as I could.

I am grateful for a child that has grown before my eyes, but regret the days when I have been too consumed with less important things to notice the subtle changes.

I am grateful for all of the times I’ve heard the words “I love you,” and regret that I struggle to say it at least as often as I hear it.

It’s easy to set ourselves up this time of year, making lofty promises of change that we can never realistically honor. Fueled by the best of intentions, our regrets can either become tools for self-abuse when we fail, or they can serve as the blueprint for filling in the gaps in a less-than-complete life, still taking shape. The actual shape of the life to come, however, has less to do with lingering regret than the actions that follow such feelings.

Christian Piatt is the author of “MySpace to Sacred Space” and “Lost: A Search for Meaning.” For more information, visit http://www.christianpiatt.com.

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