New Year’s day is such a strange day. It’s a combination of relief that the holidays are over. Everything that needed to get done, got done. It’s such a pleasure to go to Target and the grocery store and be able to find a parking place. The stores are quiet and easy to get around in. No more overly stressed shoppers trying to cross one more gift off their list.

But I also have some post holiday letdown. I can no longer use the busyness of the season as a distraction from the pile of bank statements and bills on my desk. It makes me realize that even though there was a lot of work involved in preparing for the holidays, I really enjoyed it. I might just have to bake some more biscotti and savor the experience once again.

However, the bittersweet nature of the day also gives me an opportunity as I look ahead to the new year. I’m the type of person who more easily focuses on the bitter…or at least the less-than-perfect aspects of life. Something improves but I immediately find a way to negate it. We don’t have to pay property tax but the car needs new tires and major service; we reduced our phone bill but we need to start making payments on our Parent Plus loan. Oh, woe is me…we’ll never get ahead.

I can get myself into a total funk where the only thing I have to look forward to is getting through tax day on April 15th. Isn’t that a cheery thought.

Rather than going down that depressing path, I’m going to take a few minutes to reflect on the sweet things in our life. The fact that we got through the sale of our house. It was stressful but we survived with all our limbs intact. A little painful, yes, but it certainly didn’t destroy us. We found a safe and very nice place to live. Is it ideal? No, but neither was our old house.

Everyone in our family is healthy. There is no amount of money in the bank that could take away the deep pit in my stomach if one of my kids were ever to be really, really sick. And how about a husband who looks at least 10 years younger than his age, is always reinventing himself in business, and has an abundance of talents and skills?

I have a job waiting for me to return to on January 3 working with a wonderful group of people. That is a blessing because going into the holidays a year ago, I didn’t have a job. Being in that situation has given me a lot of compassion for all the people looking for work.

So there is good reason for me to be optimistic about 2012. As I see it, the choice is either hope or despair. I’m going with hope. Amen.