"For last year's words
belong to last year's language;
Next year's words
await a different voice."
--T. S. Eliot
Copyright © 2014
by Ralph F. Couey
image and written content
except quoted and cited passages.
This day we call New Year's is at its essence an arbitrary point, a mere pixel in the vast expanse of time. Yet, we have assigned this day as the first one in that annual road map we call the calendar. And because we humans are all about fresh starts, we mark this day as a beginning; a clear slate, if you will.
Behind us lies 365 days of epic achievement and utter failure; of boundless joy and complete devastation. Of dreams realized and dreams broken. One of our unfortunate tendencies is to focus on what went wrong during that time and vow to fix them. These promises, that which we call "resolutions," are usually anything but. "Resolve" as we have discovered is ephemeral; that ship upon which we confidently set sail, only to find out that its full of holes and gravitates towards the rocks. And rather than fix the holes and alter the course, we abandon the ship.
I"ve always felt that part of the problem is that we make these vows in the time of year when the cold, snow, and ice drive us indoors; the short days make doing anything extra or different difficult. Let's face it; when the sun goes down, we get sleepy. My resolutions don't get made until spring. When the warm sun shines, and the earth springs forth in new life, I am touched by that spirit of rebirth and renewal. I find my plans easier to fulfill, and my dreams far more likely to become reality. The next two months I have come to call "The Long, Dark Tunnel" for a good reason. In the winter, I don't feel like doing anything. In the spring, I feel like doing everything.
But that's just me. I understand those who mark their new beginnings by that elegantly simple "1" that sits at the head of January. I am patient when the gym population swells in January, because I know most of them will be gone by the end of the month. I am empathetic with those who make those grand pronouncements on that day, knowing that head of steam will have fizzled before Valentine's Day.
The problem is that we have a tendency to set our goals at unrealistic levels. It's hard to lose 50 pounds in one year. It's much more doable to lose it 5 pounds at a time. One can proclaim their intent to run in a marathon, but really should first aim for a 5K. Don't promise to be completely debt-free by December 31st, but vow to pay off the two biggest credit cards. (And then cut them up.) By setting realistic intermediate achievements, the larger, more significant hurdles tend to sneak closer to fruition without you even realizing.
Life can teach us certain things, if we are willing to stay awake in class. Wisdom, the nexus of knowledge, mistakes, and experience, is acquired, usually with significant pain. But it is in those times we learn that adversity can only be vanquished by standing up and fighting our way through. Problems will not go away by themselves. Ignoring or surrendering only compounds things. Blaming conditions or other people for problems will only serve to blind us to solutions, and keep us from cleaning up the mess. At some point, we need to go to the mirror, look that face dead in the eye, and say, "YOU are my biggest problem. YOU I can fix."
That moment is the beginning of redemption.
2014 was, by most accounts, a hot mess. But the time has come to close the door on the past, and turn resolutely toward the future with the promise that destiny is something we can control.
Life is neither good nor bad. It is indifferent. What establishes the quality is the amount of effort we put into it. Our problems await our solutions. Our plans await our implementation. And our dreams will be waiting patiently for us as we traverse the rocky, hilly, yet beautiful trail that the year 2015 can be.
Happy New Year!
And live the journey.