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©December 2002

Carol Jane Remsburg




A New Year New Possibilities





Kids wait all year for birthdays and holidays; most especially Christmas.  Yet there is one holiday they don't seem to have much use for and that's the "New Year's" holiday.  To be honest for most of my life that particular holiday was always a real bummer anyway.  Christmas was over but school was still out only to face going back the day after.  I wasn't ever eager as a kid to see the New Year roll in just because that meant play time was over.


As a child the New Year meant cold weather, often too cold to play outside.  Being pent up in the house also meant I couldn't run or shout or throw dirt clods at either of my sisters.  It wasn't like spring, or summer, or fall when there were lots of things to do outside.  Even bike riding was too cold.  Plus being cooped up indoors with family just meant we all got on each others nerves and if we said we were bored, then Mom put us to work—but then she did that anyway.  We just didn't need to give her an excuse.


The concept of New Year's is all about fresh beginnings and letting the old go.  And while we don't necessarily let all the old go, we want the leave behind the things we aren't happy with, things that have made us sad, personal failures, and all the unwanted baggage we really don't need.  There are lots of terms for it; turning a new leaf or a blank page, but it is about a fresh start and clearing out the clutter in our minds and souls.  One of the wonders of humanity is that we have the ability to do this, some of us just need a starting point and so most of us claim New Year's as that marker.


Kids need no such timeline—they view the next fifteen minutes as another start.  I know one kid who went for three "fresh starts" within 4 hours on one day—Whew!  For we adults it becomes more challenging as we age.  Change does become more difficult and most of us don't like change very much even when we know we should.  Some of us even hold on to our bad habits and bad behavior patterns just like a three year-old does their baby blanket.  We hold some things too close.


Most play the game of 'party hearty' on New Year's Eve just because come that early, cold, and bleak light of the New Year that light is brutally clear-eyed and enlightening.  It makes us feel small and still unready to face the challenges we've set for ourselves.  However, watch how age affects this transition.


At twenty, believing we are grown, we laughingly decide to pick a resolution.  It could be anything from a major lifestyle change down to not obsessing over whether or not the toothpaste tube top is on.  Then we promptly forget about it two days later.


When we are thirty to thirty-five, we don't take our new starts for granted as we did in the past.  Now we have either the baggage of spouse or SO and maybe even children.  Everything's so busy we opt just to make a resolution to make one.  Then add a secret wish for the merry-go-round of life just to slow down just a little.  It's a sad hope and one that won't be fulfilled, but we try anyway.


Once we hit forty, we know life isn't going to slow down for a minute or an hour and forget about having one day's peace to yourself unless you've got the flu so bad that not even your nearest and dearest will come closer than ten yards—but they STILL ask you where their socks are and when dinner will be ready. . .  Visions of violence run rampant across our feverish brains.  It's a good thing to be incapacitated sometimes. 


What's a resolution?  A toehold on sanity is your best hope.  However that's not to say that our forties don't hold resolutions.  They do and that's most especially when we do buckle down and take the New Year seriously.


That diet that was SO easy 15 years ago suddenly got tougher.  You discover that starvation doesn't work.  Go ahead, don't eat for three days.  Your metabolism shuts down and you still don't lose a pound.  Leap into an exercise program and then discover you can't walk for the next three days beyond a hobble and don't even think about trying to stand vertically; Quasimodo had nothing on your show of scrabbling about in a bizarre fashion.


What about that back room you've stuffed the last 10 years of your life into?  You call up the dumpster folks and then proceed to keep everything.  Oh, and you wanted to paint that room too didn't you?  When was the moment you discovered you needed that class "remedial painting – '001'?"  Your ideas of a wall mural just went out the window.  Shut the door and don't open it for another 10 years.


What about that promise to spend more time with our kids before they grow BACK into the house, not just UP?  We end up spending more time haranguing them over cleaning their rooms than anything else because we knew better than to set one foot in the doorway.  Besides, at this age, WE are stupid, not them.  I think this is where our kids learn their PhD in "Screaming, Manipulation, Denial, and Procrastination."  Trust me, there is no teacher or professor who teaches better than moms.  Just shut the door and back away—take your medication and go lie down. 


Ditto school work and getting and HOLDING a job.  Remembering that our children have to make their own mistakes and learn by them is much harder for us than they.  So—take your medication and go lie down. 


At this stage in our lives work is supposed to become easier rather than harder, but who told us that little fairy tale?  The ideals and common issues that our parents once knew and ascribed to no longer exist.  Becoming employed by a company whether young, middling, or during our waning work viability years, means nothing.  Joining up, working diligently, and putting the company first is now only expected.  Your loyalty to them is supposedly a given, theirs to you is not.  Unless you manage the Nobel Prize or some other celebrity status in your efforts, don't expect anything like tenure.  If you suddenly aren't worth the pay or have a bad day, well then, Astalavista Baby! 


Over the last decade we adults have seen a noticeable erosion of all the business and social norms we grew up taking for granted.  It's not just that loyalty by employer to employee and vice versa is out the window, but civility and simple common courtesy have become a step lower than passé, it's become abhorrent.  A snide sneer via the phone to a customer service rep. will earn you kudos from any handy witnesses.  And, if you can pay insult 'face-to-face' well, you are considered "edgy, witty, and extreme;" which is to be admired because you take "zero sh*t."  But if your mother saw you behave in such a manner she'd wash your mouth out with soap.  But then Social Services would be on her like a flash for such outrageous abuse.  That's okay, lock her up, she'll learn better soon enough.  Parental intervention isn't warranted now-a-days. 


It's not just work or kids or computers or even television that has wrought all the de-evolution that seems to be happening.  The "old" days weren't so grand either, if we choose to investigate them.  Our actual high tide of courtesy didn't really happen until the 1940-1950s but their own uglies were hidden as well.  Just consider the Communist war hunts—that's enough to scare the pants off anyone:  mostly forgotten now other than those who lived through them; or the nuclear missile crisis.  Life wasn't so pure back then either. 


We so often abhor the now and the present as belabored and trite and filled with ugliness that we'd prefer not to acknowledge.  That ugliness has been with us all along.  Current times simply allow us to know more about it—constantly via CNN or any other news source. 


But what about that New Year; that special something that comes just once a year to each of us?  This is our time to shine.  It's not just about quitting smoking or drinking or dieting or exercising or making amends with family or even just about reaching out to our fellow humans.  The New Year IS about making a difference in our lives, however large or small.  This is our opportunity once that dawn breaks come January 1st.  It's all about commitment. 


Don't make yours as trivial as not complaining that the toothpaste tube isn't capped.  Don't promise that you are quitting smoking without expectation of withdrawal.  And don't promise to love your fellow man/woman without the realization that many are total buttholes and that your efforts WILL be a trial.  Moreover, make this year's commitment something you can handle; something simple and pure, and something that will give you joy and light to carry with you to share with others.


Make plans to wake up January 1st before 5 AM—watch the cold dawn break.  Bundle up—drag your spouse out of bed, make some coffee and sit on the front or back steps.  Take in the silence of morning as you never normally do. 


Accept the wonder of dawn.  Realize that each day is a fresh beginning and that each of us is lucky to witness it, much less miss it.  Life is short.  Make each and every day count for know that our days are numbered.  What's YOUR number? 


I don't wanna know mine.  So come this New Year, I won't do the normal resolutions, even though I ought, but this year, yeah, this year, I want to be a part of nature and not simply be an observer.  When the dawn breaks, I want to be a part of it.  I hope you do too.



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