New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay, here in Scotland) is by far my favourite holiday. I enjoy a little self-indulgence on my birthday, but for the rest – well, I’m not really into obligatory gifts, chocolates and greeting cards, and Christmas can be a little bit touch and go for me.
The new year means something to me. It’s not just ‘out with the old, in with the new’, it marks the passage of time, the point where the cycle of the year ends and begins. In the lead up to Hogmanay, I find myself reflecting on my life so far, celebrating and mourning what’s gone and revelling in the possibilities of a new year. Then, on the night, I party like it’s 1999. New Years day… that kinda depends on how hungover I am. Ahem.
This year I found myself thinking about new beginnings, and that led me to wonder how many times in my life I’ve told myself, “this is it – this is where it really starts”. I realised that there is a whole stream of self-criticism-disguised-as-optimism implicit in that thought. “From now on I will do more, procrastinate less, get fitter, healthier, happier, more productive…”
I know, I know, those are exactly the things I want to happen. What makes it critical are the words ‘from now on’. They are also what make the whole concept false. After all, what have I been doing for forty years?! If you graphed the progress in these areas in my life so far (or yours), the graph most certainly won’t be linear, but it will show growth – otherwise we’d be very large infants!
It’s time to truly appreciate the fact that everything in my life so far – good, bad, ugly and random – have brought me to this moment and made me what I am. And the future will be shaped in just the same way.
There are no magic cut off points, after all. There is no ‘out with the old, in with the new’ in life. Time, and life, are not a sequence of discrete events – they are a continuous flow. Indulge me in a metaphor. Stand on a small bridge, near the water (or in the water), and watch for awhile. The water approaches from upstream, flows beneath or around your feet, and carries on downstream, but the river is the same continuous stream – different molecules, different leaves floating past, but the river is the same.
That’s life: past, present and future merged in a continuous flow. So if I have a resolution this year, it’s to never again deceive myself that my life is about to start. Instead, I’ll celebrate each part of the whole; the past, which brought me here, the future, unknowable but certain to bring more triumphs and disappointments, joys and sorrows, and the present – the bridge which connects before and after – the only place we can feel, and do and be – the only place we can touch the flow of our lives and make them better.
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