Given the state of the world today it’d be totally understandable if you were dreading the new year and whatever might happen next, instead of feeling joyful and full of anticipation.
Yet a new year has a very special effect: it makes us feel like we have the chance to start over, to do things better this time, to make amends, even to right all the wrongs in the world.
So why does it take a new year to make us feel like this? Why is it that for 364 days we live with regret, doubt, holding on to what we did wrong and wishing we hadn’t, or dreaming of a future that doesn’t exist?
No matter how hard we want to, there’s one thing we can never do and that’s change the past. We can weep, beat our fists against the wall, eat bags of cookies to assuage the guilt, but none of this will make the slightest bit of difference and certainly won’t make us feel any better. The past is gone, over, no more.
Continuing to wish that our actions or words had been different means we’re really not here in the present, we’re living in what-could-have-been or what-might-have-been or if-only. And if the past is too painful or even too boring then we switch over to the future, that place of infinite potential that we want to believe could be real, like wishful thinking or a daydream. We live in what-might-be or what-could-be.
Of course we can learn from the past. Often the most painful experience turns out to be our best teacher; we can even feel gratitude for the experience as it taught us so much. And memories can be like comfortable old shoes we are reluctant to part with. We can certainly put them on now and then, but we don’t have to hang out there on a permanent basis.
Instead we can change our attitude. Fully accepting that the past is irreversible and the future doesn’t exist means we can actually be in the present moment. What a relief! Finally we can just be here and now. Wow! What a revelation!
Each day is unique. It has never happened before and it will never happen again. And we have no idea what will actually occur.
What a great day just to be here now! The perfect day to let the past rest where it is and let the future take care of itself. As is every day. To experience just this moment, to pay attention to the colors, sounds, smells and sensations; to pay attention to your feelings, to other people’s feelings. And to make this day, this week, this month, and this new year, one of beauty and tenderness.