“Happy New Year” shouts among those gathered in living rooms, party halls and in public streets and parks, wearing fancy clothes and party hats, blowing horns and whistles while clicking champagne glasses. The Time Square ball drops and musicians begin the haunting tune of Auld Lang Syne…
In my dreams!… Reality was I snuggled down in my cozy bed next to my sleepy gray-haired husband, with our lovable pooch at our feet, a little past 10 P.M. on December 31, 2017. Happy New Year, indeed, but it was barely a whisper.
“It’s a made-up-time anyway”, I told myself before I dozed off, feeling like I was missing the party. “You never see sparrows celebrating or squirrels or any part of nature, for that matter. It just happens: one season flows into the next into the next into the next and continues without fanfare or notation. Who started this hoop-la? Who said we needed to commemorate the ending of one calendar year after another, sing songs, click champagne glasses, stay awake past midnight and make resolutions? Hmmm, I bet it was that pesky Hallmark®️again!”
And just as sleep was overtaking my weary body and over-active mind, I resolved to research the beginning of New Year’s celebration when I woke in the morning, even though I knew I had already done it at some point in my past but, alas, had forgotten like so many other things I think I once knew.
It all began in Mesopotamia, evidently, around 2000 B.C
Set in January to celebrate Janus, the god with two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward, resolutions were made to break bad habits and develop new good ones, and the celebrating began. Eventually the Persians gave eggs symbolizing productiveness and even later, in 1788, a Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote the lovely words Auld Lang Syne, “times gone by” that has remained the song sung around the world every year since.*
The noting of the two faces of Janus, looking ahead while looking back, caught my attention and I realized how the celebration of New Year’s always stirs those two heads of mixed emotions in me, loss and nostalgia, sometimes regret, mixed with anticipation and hope. And even though I love the anticipation of a new beginning and the first day of anything, especially the first day of a whole year, of 365 unused 24-hour periods of undesignated time, there is still the angst over the change from what was familiar to the unknown of the future.
It’s like that familiar feeling that always came with the first day of school when, as a child I often faced a new school, until I was eleven when my mother finally said to my career-Army dad that she was not moving again. But until then, I never was sure if I would like my new teacher, if the kids would be like me, if I would be dressed right, and if I would find a new friend. My hands would get sweaty with anxiety while at the same time I would feel the excitement over starting a new school year, and having new spiral notebooks and new pencils and all the possibilities that school brings.
I could always write my name on my new notebooks without any hesitation, but actually writing something on the first clean page of the new notebook, was more threatening. I didn’t want to mess it up. “This year”, I would resolve, “I’m going to keep really neat notebooks, use my best handwriting and no doodling!”
Of course, the newness didn’t take long to become the familiar. And at the end of each school year I would flip back through the pages of those spiral notebooks and see the year had unfolded with new experiences and knowledge and understanding, but the handwriting got progressively messy and the same old doodles as in the previous years’ notebooks filled the margins, even more so as the year moved on. It was amusing to read the side comments that defined, with only a word or phrase or doodle, what was really happening in my life.
Waking up to a bright new day when the day happens to be the first day of a new year is much like turning the page in a messy, well used spiral notebook to a clean, untouched new page. The possibility of making the day beautiful, being my very best self, free from “smudges and cross-outs, doodles” and messes, feels exciting and hopeful and possible.
The haunting tune of the old Scottish poem, “Should old acquaintance be forgot?” plays in my head and jolts my dream of perfection by reminding me there’s mixed experiences and feelings, in times gone by…The double head of yesterday and tomorrow are joined. “we two have run about the slopes and picked the daisies fine, we’ve wandered a many weary foot since auld lang syne…”
There were the carefree times of our youth and the tedious days of responsibility, the somber moments of disappointment, the light hearted ones of love and pleasure. I resolve to break bad habits and create good ones, to reject sadness and claim joy. But when I look back, at the end of the year, I’ll remember both…with kindness.
I sit, in a new day in a new year and raise my morning cup of coffee. I resolve to go ahead, use my best handwriting but cross stuff out that doesn’t work, doodle to my hearts’ contentment and mess up the page!
“And here’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”
What do you resolve to put on your clean page this year?
*CNN.com New Years Fast Facts