What are you looking forward to in 2023?

Someone I care a lot about asked me on New Year’s Eve, “What are you looking forward to in 2023?” This question was the follow up to another question, which was, “What are you grateful for from 2022?” 

I was able to come up with many gratitudes for 2022 even as it was a tough year. I lost my mom on February 3. I lost my mother-in-law on October 25. These losses of the mothers in my life have generated an untethered sensation in my spirit. My center of gravity feels gone, dissolved, undone. I am a pastor, so I walked through more and more and more loss in my community. There were many deaths, all of them with their own unique load of grief. 

There was the death of a man in his 80s, a faithful church goer until COVID hit in 2020. Then he was profoundly isolated and even when things started to open back up, he didn’t want any visits from the church. His line was he didn’t want us to go to any trouble. Even when we expressed how much we would love to see him, he held us off over and over again. 

His son let me know when he was in his final transition. I asked if I could come pray and share Communion. The next I heard he was gone. The grief was loaded with all the loss of relationship, the loss of connection. Someone who had been so integral to the church, died without those final rituals. That loss holds so much anguish for me that doesn’t seem to metabolize along with grieving that he is gone. 

Then there were the untimely deaths in tragic circumstances in my community. Jarring, unspeakable, and mournful in ways that never leave you. Irredeemable, unresolvable, and unrelenting in the ways grief then shapes lives from there. These deaths turned on harrowing moments and things like split seconds, excruciating waits in the hospital, and shattering realizations. 

The ways communities rise up to embrace grieving ones is a stirring testimony to the human spirit, and there is comfort there to be sure. At the same time, our humanity includes a default switch. Many go back to the forgetfulness of day-to-day life, when others are left with the shards of lives that just won’t fit back together again. 

Then there were other kinds of losses in 2022. My house is what they call an “empty nest” now. My time as a mother with children at home is over. I lost my mother, my mother-in-law, and I said goodbye to the childhood of my youngest. I also officially entered menopause over the summer, my body shifting into a new phase without the rhythms of menstruating and childbearing. And while that is the natural course of the turning of time in the life of a parent and of a body, I feel the tenderness of it, the sorrow of fading moments and shifts in proximity and connection. 

It has all been a poignant refraction back and forth between these mothering energies. I lose my mother as my kids put more distance between us. I say goodbye to the embodied cycles of mothering as I feel the regret of how much I didn’t see my mother for so many years that she was alive. Those years were captive to the fever of life of raising little ones, moving multiple times all over the country for my husband’s work, and trying to piece together a career. One of my gratitudes was that I took the time to be there with my mom the last ten days of her life. But, the second she was gone, I was filled with the pain of regret for all the time I had missed with her that now would never be.  

The grief and gratitude of 2022 linger as 2023 begins and I really can’t think of anything I am looking forward to in this new year. It’s not that I am not grateful to be alive. I am. And there are many blessings in my life that I savor each day. It’s just that whole “looking forward to” part for me. I can’t seem to look forward anymore. I am in the moment. And I feel out of time—caught in the conflation of past, present, and future, carrying memory and tragedy, walking still with the staying power of long-ago trauma and the call of simple pleasures at home when I can go slow and even be still with it all. 

The feminist impulse to anticipate a better world seems to have dulled in me as this new year dawns. Maybe I am burned out. Maybe I am grieving. Maybe it’s my chronic PTSD activated by the stress and strain of life these days. Maybe it’s the state of the world—it’s unceasing cruelty and it’s obstinance around transformation and learning new ways for us to be human together.

Whatever it is that makes the question of what there is to look forward to in 2023 impossible for me to answer, I am assuming it is here to help me grow, to somehow support healing. Maybe that’s the best I can hope for in 2023—growth and healing for us all. 

Marcia Mount Shoop is an author, theologian, and minister. She is the Pastor/Head of Staff at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC. Her books include,  A Body Broken, A Body Betrayed: Race, Memory, and Eucharist in White-Dominant Churches, co-authored with Mary McClintock Fulkerson (Cascade, 2015), Let the Bones Dance: Embodiment and the Body of Christ (WJKP, 2010), and Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports (Cascade, 2014). She also has chapters published in several anthologies on motherhood, trauma, whiteness, and much more. Find out more at www.marciamountshoop.com



Categories: General

10 replies

  1. You are living in that place that is literally outside time – too many losses too fast unhinge us – at this point living day to day is enough. Don’t pressure yourself to look forward to anything – our culture is so toxic in that respect – demanding we be positive, look to the future, even “be grateful” can be toxic – blah blah blah – but do know that this time WILL pass – it’s winter, time to be with yourself in a nurturing way… my heart goes out to you.

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  2. I am so sorry for all your losses this year. It must be very difficult to have so many personal losses while people are always looking to you to help them heal from their losses. I am at a point where more and more of my contemporaries are dying. They all seem much to young to die. Then I realize they are all older than my parents were when they passed. I stopped watching the news because it was all bad news. Now social media has turned into what seems to be ads and obits. I too am grateful to be alive and for 2023 my hope is that the deaths and losses of people I care about slow down. Not sure it’s going to happen, but one can hope. I wish you peace. You mean so much to so many. Be well.

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  3. I am sorry your past year had so many losses. I, too, have lost loved ones, friends, family, neighbors, etc. These changes have led me at 78 to reflect on the final part of my own journey. Facing the scourges of old age–chronic pain, loss of mobility, forgetfulness , etc., the size of my world shrinks. I am losing control and am not particularly happy about it. But I am beyond blessed to have my children and their families living close by. In an interesting reversal of roles, I find they are caring for me (not an easy adjustment for this one-time single mother!) I don’t know what 2023 will bring as I travel this new road, but it will be an adventure! May you find the adventure in your own life in the year ahead.

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    • Thank you, Janet. It is good to hear how this post lands for you in your life right now. I rejoice in the ways family proximity is healing and making room for new ways of seeing each other. Sending love to you and your family.
      Peace,
      Marcia

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  4. I was interested to read your post because I was also asked what I was looking forward to during a language class this week. My reaction was twofold: after Covid turned the world upside down and postponed so much, I am almost afraid to look froward to anything; and the fact that the world seems to be polarising so much along wealth, climate change, and political lines makes me feel very disheartened.

    I am English and live in the UK so you may know that we have had three Prime Ministers in rapid succession, all awful – this does not help!

    I sympathise greatly with your losses. I lost my mother and mother in law three weeks apart, seven years ago. These things do take time for us to adjust because they are a real shock. As a psychotherapist I think we often underestimate shock and how long it can reverberate for us. Give yourself all the time you need.

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    • Thank you, Sarah. I appreciate your insights. Yes, it makes so much sense to be afraid to look forward to things as so many systems and institutions unravel around the world. Thank you for the blessing of “give yourself all the time you need.” I will hold that close as this year unfolds.
      Peace,
      Marcia

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  5. I too lost my mom in April. I am still grieving. 2022 was a very difficult year. Susan had cancer q1/ doing great. Lost my mom q2. I had ruptured appendix,hospital for a week q3,lost my close cousin,Susan fell and broke 5 ribs and shingles q4. I harkened back to the good Lord only gives you what you can handle,it was a whole lot. Still here,2023, I am so grateful that he helped me thru. No doubt there is still a big hole in my heart. Healing takes time my friend. I too am close to where you are. I will pray for us both to come thru this year stronger. Prayers for us both to take just each day as it comes,one foot in front of the other!

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  1. What are you looking forward to in 2023? – Believers Today

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