Celebrating My New Year

We are five days into the new year, and it feels a lot like the old year. Nothing has changed except the calendar. There is a lot to be said for a nice, clean, new calendar — it speaks of hope that only good things will fill all those coming days. But as for a new year itself, it seems so arbitrary. It’s not even a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is February 12, the Jewish New Year is September 6, the Persian New Year is March 21, the Korean New Year is January 12, the Tibetan New Year begins on February 12, and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates for their celebration.

January 1 is not even the beginning of a new season or of a solar cycle such as a solstice or an equinox. Nor is there any personal demarcation — no black line separates the old from the new. The world is no different today from yesterday, nor are we. We carry the old year with us because we have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears. We don’t simply leave all that behind, along with our old selves, at the chime of the clock on midnight, December 31. We drag the past into the future.

The sun doesn’t count the years. It doesn’t even count the days; from its point of view, there is no sunrise and sunset. It’s always there, always risen.

And so, in a way, if we ignore the calendar aspect of the new year as well as the number we have assigned to it, every day begins a new year. For example, the year beginning today will end on January 5, 2022 rather than on the first. This way of looking at years makes as much sense as the other. Come to think of it, our personal new years begin on our birthday, and that makes even more sense than calendar years. We have an established beginning for our first year We even have an established hour for the beginning of that year.

In my case, at 7:27am one day in the months to come, my personal new year will begin. Of course, the effects will be the same as our western calendar year — there will be no dumping of the previous year’s baggage at 7:26, to begin anew at 7:27. One year flows into the other, with only an occasional event that truly does create us anew at a moment’s notice, such as falling in love, the birth of a child, the death of a spouse. In each of these cases, we are instantly different.

I suppose it’s just as well we drag our baggage along with us from year to year. To leave it behind would also mean leaving the memories behind. I certainly wouldn’t want to wake up every January 1 completely washed clean of the past!

As for the problems we carry with us, ours and the world’s, the only way to stop carrying them is to solve them or to make friends with them.

Unlike most people, last year was not at all a bad year for me. I might not thrive on being a total hermit since I do need some contact with people (which I have been getting), but normally, I don’t go out to eat, don’t do social gatherings, tend to stay away from sick people no matter what their illness might be.

So, come to think of it, this new year being like the old one is rather nice, so whether it started on the first, or starts today, it’s worth celebrating.

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Shredding the Past

Four years and three months ago (a mere fifty-five days after his death), I cleaned out my life mate/soul mate’s “effects.” It was truly the worst day of my life.

You would think the worst day would have been the day Jeff died, but that was a sadly inevitable day, one I actually had looked forward to. He’d been sick for so long and in such pain, I was glad he finally let go and drifted away. But the Thursday I spent cleaning out his stuff broke my heart. I cried the entire day, twenty-four sleepless hours. I have never felt such soul-wrenching agony. I didn’t want to block out the pain — didn’t want to risk becoming hardened and unable to feel — but I sure as hell don’t want to ever go through anything like that again. (The only good thing about living the worst day of your life is that every day afterward, no matter how bad, will be better than that day.)

I couldn’t bring myself to dispose of all of his things on that fateful day, so I’ve kept several cartons in storage. I knew I’d have to sort through those boxes someday, but I hoped it would come at a time when it wouldn’t hurt.

Well, today was one of those somedays. And it didn’t hurt.

A couple of weeks ago, when I had to make a copy of his death certificate so I could finally get his name removed from our joint account, it struck me that I shouldn’t even have the certificate. It belongs to him, and he no longer belongs to me. (Not that he ever did belong to me, but we were connected in a very profound way that neither of us ever understood.) All these years of grief and all the effort to regain a new interest in living and trying create a new life for myself has severed the feeling of connection.

It seems strange now to remember that I was once so connected to another human being that his death shattered me. It seems strange to think of how I screamed my agony to the uncaring winds, how I spent hours every day in the desert walking off my sorrow. How I wept so uncontrollably for hours, days, weeks.

Now, whoever he his, whatever he is, wherever he is, he is his own being. He lent himself to me for more than three decades, for whictrashh I am eternally grateful, but life and time have separated us. (Odd that I wrote that “life and time have separated us” rather than that “death and time have separated us.” Just another example of how much I’ve changed during the past four years and five months.)

Today I sorted through some of the stored boxes, and disposed of much of the contents. Files of our old bills (well, they weren’t old at the time I saved them, though they are old today). Our joint bank statements. Notes he’d made. Magazines he’d started to read. Lists of books he’d read or wanted to read.

Our life. His life.

The past. Ripped to shreds.

I threw away a lot of other things such as boxes of music he’d taped from the radio and our old rotary phone.

I have many more boxes to go through — his, mine, and ours — but I stopped when both the trash bin and the recycle bin were full. And not a teardrop in sight.

It’s still possible the sorrow will hit me a bit later, but if so, it will only be for a minute or two. My current life with my aged father and my recent dealings with my dysfunctional brother have been so traumatic that I can barely remember the life I shared with Jeff. (I keep his picture to prove to myself that I once loved, once was loved.)

None of us know where the future will take us, but in my case, I won’t be dragging the past along. Or at least not as much of it.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.