“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” ~ T.S. Eliot
‘Tis the season of the giant reset button.
We do the countdown, and push – and abracadabra, everything Old is New.
A new year is always so strange to me – to be honest, it’s usually disappointing. After the late night celebration and the sleep deprivation hangover subsides, it’s pretty much a day much like the previous day, minus bad TV and people counting backwards loudly enough to be heard outside of their houses.
Yes, I know I’m cynical, but I thought I’d start the year out by being honest.
Sometimes, this thing called “possibility” seems to be only a wavering mist. It’s not something you can get a grip on, it’s not something you can sink your teeth into – it’s just amorphous theory. Though people herald a new year as a time of erasing old records, when the champagne foam clears and the confetti settles, you’re still you, with all of your collection of hesitations and regrets, bad habits and late papers.
But, you knew that.
For me, the trick to being able to look at a new year with hope and an upwelling of enthusiasm is… not to look. Really: don’t. If you stand “at the gate of the year,” as the old poem says, and look down all three hundred and sixty-five days before you, surely, at some point, your enthusiasm will wane. Sure, you can look forward to summer – in about one hundred and ninety days – or Spring, in roughly a hundred days – but there’s a lot of living to get through before those moments. There’s a lot of one-foot-in-front-of-the-other plodding, there’s a lot of stubbed toes, allergies, arguments and sleepless nights. Looking at the entire year leaves me overwhelmed and exhausted, ready to throw up my white flag and surrender before it even starts.
~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1910)
What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.
She’s a tad cynical too, isn’t she? I’d say I don’t think that it’s so much the burden of the year as the cycle of said – but maybe it is the burden of the year. …Although, perhaps that’s the reason behind the drinking culture of New Year’s – people are bracing themselves more than celebrating. Looking down the unmarked calendar pages stretched out before us, we will indeed have all of the laughter and tears and weddings and funerals foretold, but trying to see that far will only give you eyestrain. Better, perhaps, to step back from the details, and simply rest in the idea of a “big picture.” Not to take refuge in easy catchphrases, but the AA people have it right: one day at a time.
I love how Walt Whitman kind of breaks it down: we’re always obsessing about ourselves, and at New Year, it’s no different. We remember. We review. We reflect. We resolve that somehow we will make a change. We’re positive we can figure out a way to do everything differently than last year. We’re going to be different — this time, everything will be. We’ll find some way to make it right.
Maybe that’s not really key.
O Me! O Life!
~by Walt Whitman
O Me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?Answer.
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
This is the hope: One day, I will contribute something – I don’t have to know what just yet.
So. 2011 recedes in the rearview mirror, and 2012 approaches apace. I can’t say that I’ve resolved to do anything except survive – here in Scotland, we’re still in the Deep Dark, and when I have more than seven hours of “daylight,” I’ll be able to think more clearly, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I continue to muse upon Stanley Kunitz’s poem, The Layers. “Every stone on the road is precious to me,” he says, as every step in a day must be. Not the long view, of looking down the blank corridors of a whole new year, but just the up-front and present view of the Now: the decisions I’m going to make today that will affect this week, the words I will get down on paper and view with some (limited) satisfaction, the colors I will wear in defiance of the endless gray, the rest I will take on fuzzy flannels. Just… settling into the now with a sense of contentment and only thinking briefly of the days before me —
…Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
Here’s to all of the changes to come, the chances, the gambles, the failures, and the flings. Here’s to tomorrow morning. And the next day. And the next.
Carpe diem. And, I suppose, Happy New Year.
Poetry Friday is actually over at The Drift Record. Funny – I forgot it was Friday when I started this, but for once, I am in step with things. That’s a good sign for a new day, yes? Yes.