Ushering in the (Same Old) Winds of Change

With a new year comes ideas about starting fresh, giving us a new chance to achieve our goals. Usually this sense of a fresh start is, in reality, a false hope that we as humans attach to January 1. It’s a lot of pressure for a single date to be responsible for the world’s “fresh starts”: You may not have lost the weight, written a book, gotten that promotion, earned your degree, built a nest egg, or put yourself out there more in the last year, but January 1 has arrived, bringing all the hope, determination, and passion you will need to make THIS year the year you (finally) succeed. Like I said, that’s a lot of pressure.

So maybe that’s why 2017 seems to have made a point of bringing us to our knees before letting us even think about trying to start fresh once again. I know everyone seemed to be reeling from 2016, and the number of social media memes condemning 2016 as the worst year ever was quite impressive. We anthropomorphized the year like never before, concluding that it was “out to get us” by taking away beloved public figures across the board. From this perspective, 2016 took on an unprecedented power that no year before it had managed to tap into. Everyone was anxious for 2017, when the magical January 1 would somehow reset all the controls and stop the world from spiraling out of control.

But 2016 did not want to go quietly, as if it needed to truly eliminate any and all resistance, eradicating any chance that we might not make 2017 a stellar year. Some good friends of mine, whom I have written about on this blog before, ended 2016 in one of the most horrible ways possible: watching their home burn to the ground just two days after Christmas.* They lost all of their possessions and one family pet, but thankfully all the humans made it out without physical harm. The psychological wounds, of course, are deep and will take years to heal. But they are starting 2017 in a truly “fresh” way: with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The positivity with which they are facing this new challenge is inspiring, to be sure. No one has curled up in the fetal position and given up, which I think many would do (although the absolutely frigid temperatures as of late might thwart many fetal curling plans).

Yes, Mother Nature seems to be purging the negativity surrounding 2016 as well. In the last few weeks of December, we had several days that were -18 degrees…without considering the wind chill. I don’t think I have ever been in such cold temperatures not caused by the wind (and I lived near the Arctic Circle for several years). I’m guessing that a lot of 2016’s worst of the worst did not survive that cold that swept through the US during those weeks. And 2017 seems to be taking care of anything that might have miraculously slipped through the cracks by continuing the below zero temperatures (although -4 degrees feels quite balmy compared to -18…yeah, it really doesn’t; once you hit single digits, it’s all just cold!).

With all these powerful cleansing rituals bestowed upon us by 2016 and 2017, it seems like we are being set up to succeed in the new year, right? We have the chance to grow in any direction we choose. The only thing preventing us from moving forward is ourselves (although I am sure that we could come up with a few excuses for stagnation if we wanted to…but let’s save that for February, shall we? For now, let’s relish in the success within our grasp). Okay I am really not trying to sound preachy, like “the world is yours—grab it!” I had planned on this post focusing on the fact that the years do not have a power over us to determine if we are successful or not. But now I worry that the “you can do it” fairies might be invading my brain, perhaps because I am sitting in a local coffee shop listening to a table of farmers debate the current state of politics over white chocolate candy cane lattés. It’s a surreal moment, to be sure.

I am not standing on a soapbox shouting witty one-liners to bolster you for success in the coming year. I am simply saying don’t give your power to succeed away to inanimate, powerless entities like years. Oh, and stay warm—that I am shouting from my heated soapbox. 😉

This week’s prompt from Charli Mills over at the Carrot Ranch is to write a story, in 99 words (no more, no less), about a rattling sound.

Winds of Change

Thick snowflakes blanketed the cornstalk remnants, cows, and cedars with a suffocating softness. God, she hated night-time snowstorms. They gave her nightmares about nuclear winters. Soon she was staring at a featureless panorama that looked more like the surface of the moon than the winter fields of the Great Plains. Tomorrow’s roads would be perilous as the soft fluff created unyielding drifts anxious to crumple the front end of the hardiest Ford. As if on cue, the cracked window in her office rattled against its pane. She braced herself against the shudder travelling her spine. The winds had arrived.


* If you would like to help Stevie and his family as they rebuild their lives after the fire, please visit their You Caring page.


  • Time to grab the year by the soft bits and squeeze it for all it’s worth, for sure. (Though, maybe AFTER the world warms up a bit where you live — -18 is just spiteful of ol’ Mama Nature to bestow.)

    Love your take on the year, and love the 99 word story.

    ElizabethJanuary 7, 2017
    • Aww, shucks. Thanks for stopping by and reading. I feel the warm fuzzies.

      C. JaiJanuary 7, 2017
  • I really appreciate this piece of advice: “don’t give your power to succeed away to inanimate, powerless entities like years.” We must use our own powers to create our realities. Not that we can change the temperatures outside or the winds. Your story leaves me cold, very cold, as it was meant to. Well done.

    Norah ColvinJanuary 10, 2017
    • While working on this post, I was really struck by all my social media friends who had given up on 2016 and somehow expected 2017 to be the solution to all their problems. Of course, 2017 has already proven to be challenging for various reasons. It’s an awfully long wait til 2018… So yeah, we can’t just give up 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

      C. JaiJanuary 10, 2017
  • …and everything old is new again. Or, it’s all been done. You’re absolutely right; the line between 2016 and 2017 is purely arbitrary, and if we want things to change, we have to change them ourselves. Nice flash.

    Deborah LeeJanuary 10, 2017
    • *sigh* yes, but changing everything ourselves is such hard work 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

      C. JaiJanuary 10, 2017
  • 2016 didn’t seem to spare anyone pain, and it was an interesting cultural phenomenon to see so many people connect in our common regard of the Year Out to Get Us. I suppose were were not all so divided in the US after all. Too much threatens our personal power, so that’s good advice not to let a year wrestle it away. Farmers and lattes sounds like the beginning of a good joke. I’ve become addicted to peppermint mochas at a local shop because they use real peppermint oil and dark chocolate. A promise of good things to come, like warmer weather. Your flash reminds me how nightfall and snowfall can change the landscape and the psyche. Well-written, to feel that fear of the wind. Good to read your gritty writing again!

    Charli MillsJanuary 11, 2017
    • I’m still giggling about those farmers and those frothy, whipped cream-laden lattes in oversized mugs — a far cry from the farmers who gather at 6 am to guzzle gas station coffee from styrofoam cups.

      C. JaiJanuary 11, 2017

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