Here we are again, at the end of one year and into a new one. Who doesn’t like new beginnings? I’d say it would be those who are doing quite well with where they are in the present, and really don’t want to start over again. Who would want to stop in the middle of success or happiness and go back to square zero?
Yet, whether or not we want to start our life’s habits all over again at square zero — as in designing ourselves once more to hopefully get it right this time and finally be the kind of person we prefer or choose to be (think Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day”) — we have no choice but to start our year over, since the old one will have been all used up. And that is a good thing. Even a happy thing, as in looking forward to spring after winter, or looking forward to getting better after a long illness. A new day can be refreshing enough, when we wake up to the shining sun, feel a cool breeze, or see the budding flowers or struggling blades of grass peeking through the softening crust of winter’s earth.
But a new beginning in the heart of winter? Right after a joyous holiday, when spirits — which may be starting to sag and may want to be alone, or on the contrary, may want to surround themselves with lots of people, strangers or not, and lots of music or noise to block out the silence or the cause of the sag — don’t want to even think about going through this “trying again” routine. What can one do with a new year and a sagging spirit? What can one do with a sagging spirit, new year or not?
Well, like it or not, just as the holidays come around every year, so too do those post-holiday days and those post-holiday blues.
But what’s a person to do? Nothing? Write up a new list of resolutions to break? Promise yourself that this year it will be different?
Pretend that the new year means nothing and carry on as you always have and always will? Actually get into the spirit of making the kind of changes that matter? Maybe all of the above, or one at a time as the year goes on.
Hopefully, we say to ourselves, we will end up being better in some way as the next New Year’s eve rolls around than we were during these past twelve months. Maybe we will give up smoking (for our own sake) or lose those last 10 or 20 pounds. Maybe we will finally taper off eating all those cookies or other tempting sweets that show up in our life every time we’ve just made our resolution to not indulge. Maybe we will be able speak to others without that tone of judgment or anger or ridicule or cynicism or “better-than-thou”ness. Maybe we really do want to change, but don’t even want to be held to our own standards of expectation — preferring to let things change at their own pace, whatever that might mean to us.
A list of resolutions always seems like a good idea, but it also seems like someone wanting to make improvements to a house that wasn’t even built on a good foundation. Rather than add shutters to windows that are not draft-proof, why not make the windows draft-proof? Instead of repairing the ceilings in every room, why not put on a better roof to avoid the rain damage that caused the ceilings to need all that repair in the first place? In other words, remove the causes of the problems instead of patching them over every year — if indeed one bothers with the patches anyway.
But it’s never anyone’s business what we choose to do, and although we can’t stop others from noticing our “faults,” we sure as heck don’t have to take anyone’s advice as to how to “fix” ourselves! Yet if we were really smart, we might pay attention to what others might say about us, even (or especially) in the heat of their anger, or in supposed jest.
If we only have ourselves for guidance in what we need to change, are we really going to notice, and chide ourselves on, our most grievous faults? We may or may not be as mean-spirited in every way as the traditional Scrooge, but he would never have seen that side of himself without help from those three other-worldly visitors. We may not be blessed enough to get messages from that other dimension, but if a co-worker suggests that we always act like we know more than anybody else, or treat others with disdain, or fail to acknowledge anyone’s efforts, maybe we do. If that is our intention, we have more than a little ego problem; but if that is not our intention, we can take that freely given information and turn it into some healthy introspection that can help peel away that unwanted layer of our being.
Some suggestions may lead us to make changes that are about as useful as painting the ceilings in a house with a leaky roof, even if others might see that “fix” as the real thing. But paint does not keep the rain out, and the next time the clouds gather for that purpose, your “change” will be seen for the facade it is.
Remember that old saying we all grew up with: “A stitch in time saves nine”? If you had really fixed what needed fixing at the time it needed it, you would not be stuck with a problem or situation that now needed nine times as much work to fix, be it a leaky roof, a report that needs complete redoing, or a relationship that badly needs
New starts can be great, but if we simply start over the same old way without that introspection that would lead us to see what we really look like in the eyes of others, no resolution to “paint those ceilings” will ever do any lasting good.
Designing ourselves is to simply draw up a template or rendering of everything we really like in a person — kindness, honesty, conscientiousness, talent/ability/skill, sincerity, etc. — and check to see if we have those qualities in our own self. If we admire those qualities, then where are they? The simple plan would be to bring into ourselves more of the qualities we like in others, and remove those attributes in ourselves that we so dislike in others.
It is totally up to ourselves. Our personalities are here to stay, but our mean-spirited, unkind, lazy or other off-putting behaviors can be changed, permanently, and sometimes in a flash, as with Scrooge. Let’s not wait till we’re on our deathbed to wish we were kinder and more loving to those around us. Let’s consider making this the year we conform to the template of our own creation, of how we really choose to be!
This year, let’s make Happy New Year really mean something. All year long.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.