Happy New Year

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutionsA new year is a time to look back, as well as forward. Earlier I found some notes I wrote on this night three years ago. Then I’d just returned home after seeing in 2011 at The Anything Goes Orchestra New Year’s Eve Wine and Cheese Party, where I was teaching a ‘fun jive’ class as well as supplying the Cheese Board (with a range of special guest cheeses).

It was a good night enjoyed by a lively, enthusiastic audience. Although when midnight struck for an instant you’re standing outside watching the celebrations, remembering past New Years, and past dreams. But just a moment’s melancholy. After all, I still have dreams. Many of which may be discussed in mixed company.

I’m spending this New Year’s Eve a little differently, but similar thoughts arise…

    New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.” — Hamilton Wright Mabie

With this in mind, I felt it might be appropriate, again, to consider other’s thoughts on hope and friendship. And optimism…

    It is difficult not to believe that the next year will be better than the old one! And this illusion is not wrong. Future is always good, no matter what happens. It will always give us what we need and what we want in secret. It will always bless us with right gifts. Thus in a deeper sense our belief in the New Year cannot deceive us.” — Kersti Bergroth

OK Kersti, I’ll try to go along with that… a question of dealing with acceptance and perceptions? Hmm.

Of course, at the turn of the year we are expected to make resolutions; to recognise our flaws and shortcomings and resolve to change them and grow towards some ideal…

    Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves they believe are negative. A majority of people revert back to how they were before and feel like failures. This year I challenge you to a new resolution. I challenge you to just be yourself.” — Aisha Elderwyn

And again:

    We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.” — Ellen Goodman

Ah, “potential”… such a potent word, and one that made a regular appearance on my school reports. (Though possibly not because my teachers spotted some bud which may have been nurtured towards excellence? I suspect it’s one of those handy catch-all words that teachers use when they can’t think of anything else to say.)

But perhaps there’s some kernel of potential within us all. I like to think so; it’d be a little depressing to think that this is it for me, improvement-wise!

Nevertheless, as the above two quotations suggest, maybe we’re sometimes too hard on ourselves. It’s a cliche to say that we must love ourselves before we can truly love others, but then cliches don’t become cliches without a touch of truth.

Perhaps the answer is to choose resolutions that are achievable, and which acknowledge our humanity and our desire to bring joy into our own lives, the lives of those around us, and to those who may not be around but who are in our thoughts.

As Winnie the Pooh so memorably put it: “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

Nevertheless, despite what we’re told, “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” (Hal Borland)

Of course the assumption there is that experience does bring wisdom. My feeling (experience?) is that although experience accumulates with daunting rapidity, wisdom accrues at a much slower rate.

Or perhaps that’s just me. Maybe the best we can hope for is that a little wisdom will eventually result from experience. My six-month trans-African journey, for example, certainly gave me enough experience to last a lifetime. But much of what I learnt from that took months, even years, to make the transition from knowledge to understanding. But…

    “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

    Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

    So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

    Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

    Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

— Neil Gaiman

Of course a new year brings thoughts, often hopes, of change and renewal…

    “The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder

With lots of love and all good wishes to all for 2014. May it bring you the best.


    I get by with a little help from my friends.” John Lennon

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