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.

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“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

Celebrating the Newness

I’ve never really celebrated the New Year because it doesn’t mean much to me. It’s a relatively arbitrary date. The calendar numbers change, but that’s all. It’s not a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is on January 25, the Jewish New Year is on September 18, the Persian New Year is March 19, the Korean New Year is January 25, the  Tibetan New Year begins on February 24, 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 you have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears.

There is a newness to January 1, though, and that is the newness of a new calendar.

Like school kids with stiff new clothes and a satchel full of crayons, unread books, and blank paper, we are ready to set out on an adventure, trembling with both trepidation and excitement. Our new calendars have 365 blank squares. How will we use those squares? With notations of appointments and special days, of course. Perhaps with reminders of bills to pay and chores to do. But many of those days will be blank. What we will do with those blank days? Will we search for happiness or a new love? Will we recommit to an old love? Will we strive to attain a better level of health? Will we experience new things, meet new people, visit new places, sample new foods?

I do feel that particular newness today, that hope.  I’ve had marvelous adventures the past past year — buying a house, settling into a new home and community, making new friends. And now I have 365 blank days on my new calendar. I plan on getting out my box of crayons and coloring those days brightly with the glow of a smile, laughter shared, and moments of appreciation for the world around me.

I hope your days will be filled with color, new adventures, and much joy.

Happy New Year.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

The Extraordinariness of Ordinary Things

I’ve been invited to a New Year’s Eve party — nothing fancy, just pizza, salad, boxed wine, and sparkling cider. I’m looking forward to it with all the expectation as if it were a fancy dress ball because this will be my very first New Year’s Eve party. Even as I write these words, it doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. In my entire life, I have never been to a New Year’s Eve party.

twists and turnsNew Year’s doesn’t meant that much to me. It’s a relatively arbitrary date, and mostly signifies nothing but a new calendar, which, I suppose, is something to celebrate. My new calendar has 365 blank squares, and there is the question of how I will use those squares. With notations of appointments and special days, of course. Perhaps with reminders of bills to pay and chores to do. But many of those squares will be blank. What will I do with those blank days? I can’t even begin to guess.

I know I will be leaving my father’s house, which has been both a place of refuge in my grief and a place of horror because of my schizophrenic brother and dying father. Although I have been thinking of this leaving for several years now, I still haven’t a clue what to do with my freedom. How does one choose where to go or what to do when there is no particular reason to be anywhere, no particular reason to do anything? (Well, there are dance classes here, and good friends, so those are important considerations, but I do not want to settle down, not here, not anywhere.)

But all that is yet to come. This is the last day of the old calendar, and for the first time ever I have the square filled in. New Year’s Eve party. 6:00pm.

Not only have I never gone to a New Year’s Eve party, I’ve seldom even stayed up to midnight to usher in the New Year, though for the past few years, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate, I’ve made a point of toasting the brand new year with a crystal goblet of sparkling cider as a symbol of my commitment to living a full life.

Despite all my devastating losses, I am living fully. Well, partying fully, anyway. I’ve never gone to so many parties in such as short time as I did these past few weeks. Thanksgiving dinner, birthday party, pizza/taco party, Christmas party, Christmas Eve party, Christmas dinner, luncheon, three tea parties (those three I hosted).

And now a New Year’s Eve party.

It’s ironic when I think of it. I’ve spent the past couple of years dreaming of exotic and impossible adventures (impossible because they are beyond my physical capacities) in the hopes of finding transcendence or at least a new way of looking at life. Maybe, for me, transcendence will be found in the ordinary. My life has been counter to most people’s lives. I’ve lived a life of the heart and mind — loving profoundly, grieving deeply, reading profusely, thinking enormously — that the ordinary everyone else takes for granted is, for me . . . truly extraordinary.

Wishing you an extraordinary New Year’s Eve.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.