Diary

New Beginnings


Why do we wait for a New Year to start things? There’s nothing magical about turning over a page on the calendar to guarantee a life change?

Of course change has nothing to do with beginnings, or with New Year celebrations. What we really want is an excuse to celebrate, an excuse to misbehave, and excuse to leave our boring life for a few hours and pretend that we are other than we are. It’s not surprising that every year we hear stories about how short lived New Year resolutions are. They were never intended to change our lives — not most of the time — and not really. We have spent the entire year creating who we are, sitting down on December 31 and deciding that a year or a lifetime of learned behavior is bunk and needs changing is doomed to evaporate under the heat of life’s challenges. Soon we fall back into old habits and even older idea.

Fortunately for many of us calendars do enforce on us some changes. Tax years change. Medical Savings accounts roll over. We have to take our next 401K minimum distribution. Children come of age. Other children are born. Ex-Spouses get remarried. Bosses trim their budgets and their payroll. Calendars can be brutal; rarely are they equally kind.

Nations face calendar changes too. This year the U.S. will welcome a new President. I feel sorry for the guy, he’s faced with an infinity of existing problem that have been around through numerous calendar years and half the government aren’t interested in working together with him, or even with anyone at all it sometimes seems. No, we may welcome a new titular head of state but him and his people have a horrendous mess ahead of them and I wonder how many of their new year’s resolutions will get anywhere at all.

COVID hasn’t made for an easy calendar transition. The year may be changing but for many of us we aren’t going to be able to do very much differently on January 2 than we could on December 30. (Let’s take those two days out just for hangover sake).

But…

there’s nothing to say we can’t change any day we choose!

Change happens when there’s a critical mass developed wanting change. In this country early settlers were upset with the Brits a long while before the Revolutionary War started. It took a while for enough people to get angry enough to stop complaining and start doing something. So too with the Confederate Secession, and the Civil War. And with reacting to Hitler’s invasion, and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

It’s the same way with personal desires to lose weight, to find — or dump — a spouse, to start a family (though that change is sometimes easier than anyone can guess — Nature will find a way, won’t it) In our personal life we have to be sufficiently moved, motivated, and empowered to grab the metaphorical deer by the horns and get the job done. If we could figure out how to bottle whatever it is that empowers us someone could make a fortune — but that’s the point — you can’t bottle it, it isn’t the same for everyone, and it never will be. The impetus for me to actually live a new diet will never inspire someone else to do the same. Oh, they might copy me for a day or a week, but my trigger will never really be their trigger. That is life, pure and simple.

We all have to figure this out on our own. We can read books, memorize quotations, do all the right things, but until we fully engage and live what bothers us we will remain the people we have been heretofore.

Change is like a present. You can wait for a popular occasion and force yourself out to the store to purchase something you think another person will like. You can also see what the other person does and realize that their life would be better if they had … something .. and you just give it to them then because it will make them happy. That kind of change changes you and them; it’s effective, it’s powerful, and it’s immediate.

For all the ways in which 2020 was a bizarre year there are ways in which it was pretty typical. We Americans are unable to sustain a passion for much of anything. The media news cycle keeps distracting us from topics that our brain says are important, but by raising a never ending circle of “crucial” problems the media insures that the population isn’t going to stay motivated about anything in particular long enough to effect any meaningful change. Twitter and Instagram have been filled with calls to rebellion and even revolution but there is not critical mass to accomplish anything. And of course the problem with revolutions is that they are like avalanches. Once they start a revolution you lose control of everything and you can never be entirely where it will end or with what result. Anyone who encourages revolution has surely never lived in one.

New beginnings are tough. I don’t pay much attention to changing years, except to make sure I change the “year” on the three annual checks I write. I hope you prosper this year. I’m not sure what prospering means in a world still troubled by COVID and the spectre of other problems to come. But, I wish you well. May you find what you need to recognize your purpose for the year — one day at a time. I’ll try on my end too. In the meantime, May Auld Times be Forgotten.

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