Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year’s Dance

Do you remember those end-of-the-year grade school traditions—the kind where everyone had “autograph books” to pass to friends? Students would write some cute little poem and sign their name next to a promise to never forget their friends. And then? Looming just beyond the beckoning summer vacation fun were the wide open possibilities of another school year.

January first is my grown-up version of the autograph-book remembrances at the close of the school year. In our hands are the ones we hold dear. Yet, beyond our reach right now are those enigmatic possibilities just over the year’s horizon in a new season of our life.

The beginning of a New Year is sometimes a melancholy time for me. I like the Scottish traditional dance often coupled with that New Year’s theme, “Auld Lang Syne.” Standing in a circle, neighbors and friends and family holding hands draw closer, then crossing arms, twirl to face outward, yet still holding hands. There seems to be something so symbolic about the gestures embedded in that dance. There is that sense of holding to the old, yet reaching for the new.

That’s the way it is at the beginning of the New Year. Oh, I know many take that as cue to devise New Year’s resolutions—though I’ve stubbornly resisted that pressure, and written to tell about it—so if it works for you, reach out your hand to that new plan and pull it towards you firmly.

Perhaps I find my resistance to that New-Year’s-Resolution habit best explained in an article Anne Gillespie Mitchell of Finding Forgotten Stories mentioned in her Twitter stream: forget setting goals; establish systems instead.

So, like a grand allemande, with the closing of this year, we linger and swing around our old-partner habits, then move out into the broader circle, trying first this one, then that one, ’til somehow we’ve moved full circle and come face to face with our same old challenges—yet somehow enlightened by the journey to tackle the old problem with new insight…or at least new vigor.

On the research front, I hope in this new year to continue my journey with my old friends—the Irish ancestry of my husband in preparation for an autumn trip to the Old Country. And I hope to engage in that new world of genetic genealogy as I puzzle over Y-DNA test results for both my husband’s paternal line and that of my father (thanks to my brother’s help). I’ll face new challenges, too: a new position, elected to the board of the local Genealogical Society, will require me to grow in other directions, as well as broaden my network outside of the social media of the virtual world.

You will likely experience some new challenges, too—both in this world of genealogy and in your life beyond that research realm. Nothing ever remains the same; we are always changing. Whether you label that new hand reaching out to you as “Resolution” or “Goal” or “Plan” or “System,” I hope you grasp it with the energy of hope and positive expectation.

It’s a New Year. Welcome to the dance!

Above: Oil painting "Baile del Santiago (de Chile) Antiguo" by Chilean artist Friar Pedro Subercaseaux Errázuriz; in the public domain according to Chilean law; courtesy Wikipedia.


  1. A Board Member! I wish you were on my Board here...what a pleasure that would be. Congratulations I am certain you will be an asset to the Society!
    I have intentions no resolutions...I do have projects. Soon I will begin transcribing Grandpas diary from the early 1900's..he was a farmer lots of planting and weather notes:)

    1. Intentions! I saw that on your blog. Advice I think I will follow. It suits me much better than the dreaded, "Resolutions."

      I'm so glad you are starting on the transcription. That will make a handy reference, and fun to read, too. Actually, that's what I "intend" to do with all the Christmas letters I've received over the years. It's the big picture I'm after, though the nitty-gritty can be fascinating.

  2. So it's official? The bonnie lass be going to the land o' the green? :)

    I found that resolutions are impossible (for me) but that if I did them - to not use the "I" ones (like I will lose weight) but rather the "You" ones (like Going to do this for YOU)... will see how that works out.... :)

    1. Well, it's not exactly official yet, Iggy, but she is definitely going abroad for her next fall semester. Because of her major and specialization, she needs to go to Ireland. However, unbelievably, the system this college uses to distribute assignments is based on a lottery. She will not know for sure until March whether her plans will be confirmed. We are definitely hoping her advocates and mentors to pull some strings for her, because in her case, there is no Plan B.

      I like your take on New Year's Resolutions, by the way. I've found that taking the "I" out of the equation has worked for me, too--in everything from performing music to negotiating interpersonal agreements. Perhaps that is why the Golden Rule is so golden...


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