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If you can look back over the last year with your good humor intact, congratulations. You have mastered selective memory in the best possible way. I see big black holes in some of what went down in 2012, but even so, I can find enough highs to keep me almost on level ground. I guess that makes it a successful year, although if I think too hard, it won't seem that way for long.

Here's the best thing about this year: it's over. That doesn't mean 2013 will be a banner jubilee year with peace and justice and brotherhood and double rainbows and songs of joy, but at least with 365 days to go, it has some potential. Maybe we won't fall off any cliffs, individually or together. Maybe people in our government will keep their promises. Maybe people in our lives will, too. Or maybe we should just lower our expectations. It's probably the best way to ward off disappointment.

At the start of each year, arbitrary though the calendar may be, I make myself the same pledge. I actually make variations of this pledge several times a day, whenever I catch myself in a rut of negative thinking. One version of it is this: I will try to get the most from each moment and make the best of each day, one moment and one day at a time. And I will recognize that I can't change the world, but I can make my little corner of it more habitable.

How do you do that? You do it, I think, but being consciously generous and forgiving. That's a high aspiration, and the petty facts that make up those moments and days and disappointments make it almost impossible to put the plan into effect full time. But you do what you can when you can, and when you can't, you accept that sometimes things are going to be difficult. You give yourself a break.

My wish for the people in my life, and that includes everyone who honors me by reading my words, is that we can all muddle through whatever happens and find something wonderful along the way. When we remember that we're in this together, we can share the joys as well as the burdens. Kindness matters, and not only does it go both ways, but it goes in all directions at once and binds us to each other. There are a lot of things I won't accept on faith, but I have to believe that we are all part of something greater than ourselves.


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