Hail the new, ye lads and lasses

It’s New Year’s Day, 2018, and sunny and cold in southern Ontario. I’m sitting here reflecting upon the occasion, and wondering whether it deserves any special notice.

Is there a clear line of demarcation between the year 2017 and the year 2018? Can the previous twelve months be lumped together, tied up with string, and put aside? Can we say, “2017 is finished its run—CUT—it’s a wrap”?

If it was largely a bad year (as I’m inclined to think, from my personal perspective), 2018 supposedly presents a blank slate, a fresh opportunity for good things to happen.

Well, it’s not a bad thought, as thoughts go, but I’m not so sure it’s true. Still we might just use this occasion to be a little reflective, as well as forward-looking, and it never hurts to work up some improvements. I don’t like ‘New Year’s Resolutions,’ however. They’re a little too self-important, and potentially dangerous.

There are loads of New Year’s quotes from famous people circulating on the internet at the moment. Here’s one:

“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this — To rise above the little things.” — John Burroughs, American Naturalist & Essayist

Okay, John, define “little things.” What are you doing when you rise above them? Are you ignoring nagging little problems or nagging little people? Beneath your notice are they? Granted that we can’t spend all our time fussing over inconsequential things, but this statement is a little too broad to be of much use to me.

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.” — Anaïs Nin, French-Cuban Author

Yes, Anaïs, I agree with that… New Year’s resolutions have always seemed a pointless exercise to me. If something is a good idea to do on January 1, it was probably also a good idea to do on December 27. Why wait? Also, if it’s something you really don’t want to do, and you make it a key feature of these beginning days of the year, it may not survive for long. And since failure creates a certain mindset that can spill over into other areas of your life, it’s perhaps best not to risk setting yourself up for that.

“New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” — Mark Twain, American Author & Humorist

Exactly, Mark. I would say do NOT give a resolution any power over your happiness and self-respect. If something is a good idea to do, just get on with it at an appropriate time.

“From New Year’s on the outlook brightens; good humor lost in a mood of failure returns. I resolve to stop complaining.” — Leonard Bernstein, American Conductor, Composer, Author

If you don’t like something, Leonard, you have my permission to COMPLAIN. A ‘mood of failure’ sounds a bit gloomy and depressive, however. Never lose your sense of humour if you can avoid it. That is vitally important.

I’ve never shied away from giving misfortunes or problems a cold, hard stare. I moan about things that are frustrating or annoying, with a view to changing them for the better, if possible. If there’s ANY humour in it, I use that to keep me buoyant for the fight. You can’t let things get you down. If they ARE getting you down, you need to walk away and let someone else carry the ball.

Some people run from what they perceive as negativity. They don’t want to confront the bad, even if the bad must be identified, acknowledged and addressed in order to promote the good.

Does identifying bad things poison our lives in some way? Maybe temporarily, since there are a host of unpleasant feelings accompanying it. However, perhaps we can consider that our efforts to improve things will benefit others. We are rarely the sole sufferers when things are not right, and sometimes the weaker members of society do not have the energy to fight the wrongs.

I tend to find the humour in things when I write about them—when I’m moaning about them to somebody else. Writing is cathartic and restorative for some of us. If I can see a humorous aspect to something, I give that full play—not to make light of it, but people will still get the point you’re making if it’s an important one, and it will be an easier pill to swallow.

The problem happens when someone is constantly bewailing some grievance, and doing nothing more than that. It gets wearing. And if the only positive action that’s looked for is typing ‘Amen’ and clicking ‘Share’ on Facebook, it’s just an invitation from one person to another to wallow in misery alongside them. (I might temper that remark by saying that perhaps there has been some ‘consciousness raising’ done as a result of it, which might be applied to future opportunities.)

The flip side of useless moaning is the ‘Pollyanna’ attitude—which is worse than useless. For these people, all is perpetual sunshine and light. A mush-brained, oozing sentimentalism, absent of any critical thought or intelligence, is not just useless, but irritating. I’m sorry to sound harsh, but the Pollyannas need a really good shake.

These quotes below come closest to expressing useful thoughts on this New Year’s Day, 2018, at least for me…

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” — Brooks Atkinson, American Theatre Critic

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” — Hal Borland, American Author & Journalist

Perhaps it is useful to run a mental review of the previous year and see what we can learn from it. Should we (could we) have been better prepared on some occasions? Would it have made a difference?

If I were to make some changes in my life for this year, I think that being more physically active would be one. Also setting aside time for the things I want to do, such as playing music, reading, studying languages. Taking more time to notice things would be another…just simple things around me. What the birds and the squirrels get up to in the back yard, for example. Those little observations can clear your mind of a lot of rubbish.

I’m not going to set a deadline, nor keep to a schedule, nor put any pressure on myself. Best to be kind to ourselves and others on as many occasions as possible in this new year—in between the moaning and complaining and the shaking of Pollyannas, of course.