We're funny, us humans. We cling to the past with a nostalgic death grip, mourning endlessly the old ways and wishing things would stop changing and yet most of us can't wait for the fresh start of a new year that this season brings.
But that's OK. Somewhere in there, embedded in the the worry and chaos of what's new and the sorrow and yearning for what is lost, is evolution. And like it or not, that really is why we're here.
Through a fairly-arbitrarily-placed doorway we will all walk tomorrow at the stroke of midnight and magically find ourselves in a new year. It's a human construct, of course, but all of the plans and hopes and ideas we have for ourselves, the dreams we carry in our heart from the end of one thing into the beginning of another, are not; they're real, and they serve an important purpose.
Three hundred and sixty five is a goodly number of days. Some were hard, I'm sure; some might have been sublime and most were probably just plain old days when you went to work, went to the grocery store, drove somewhere, read something, talked to someone and went to bed. We have a lot of just plain old days. I don't think we're trying to distance ourselves from those when a new year arrives. It's the hard ones we want to leave in the past as we move into a new year. Hard times come again no more, right?
Nice try, Stephen Foster, but the hard times have no intention of ending their occupancy just outside the cabin door.
The hard times of past days, for sure they were no fun, but they, like the dreams we hold for the coming days, have an important role in the grander scheme of the thing called A Life.
The hard times: death, sickness, loss, disappointment, disruption, abandonment. The job you didn't get, the job they took away, the love that didn't gel, the love that died, the trip you couldn't afford, the bills that piled up, the things you said that made someone suffer. The things you didn't say that made someone suffer. The risk you didn't take, the risk you did take that turned out not to be worth the price you paid. The dog that died, the dad that died, the diagnosis. All of these things are life's way of nudging you toward evolution. Every dark hour of this past year was an opportunity for you to grow into your better self.
And if you don't believe that that is why you're here, I invite you to sit quietly with that idea and look into the rear view mirror of your life. Notice how the very same kinds of things keep presenting, over and over, how you are faced with the same challenges, the same questions, the same hardships.
Because I am a God person I would say that this is the sneaky and magnificent hand of God at work, but you might not be and so maybe you could just say that ... life, all of life, wants for you to grow. To grow up. To keep growing up. It doesn't end when we turn 18 or 21. It doesn't end until we die. And I have a suspicion it doesn't end there, either, but I can't offer evidence yet. I do promise, though, that when I get there, if I can write about it, I will.
All of our dark days are an invitation to change, to welcome the alchemic fires of transformation, to be OK with the unknown, to release old ways and habits that no longer serve and to grow into new ways of being.
We hate this, and yet we don't. We like to cling to the old and we want new beginnings. We're schizophrenic people. We like change, we hate change. Or, perhaps, we like change that we can control. Which happens ... never.
We have no control over the descent of the darkness into our lives. We do have control over our response, however.
It begins with .... this sucks, I hate this, why is this happening again, that's standard-issue. What happens next is the difference between a salchow and a triple flip, a 180 and a CAB 1440 mute, the blue square and the double black. Is it just another day pulling the same old tricks, or are you going to reach a little further, try a little harder, push yourself into a place you haven't been before?
In that crappy dark space when things fall apart, you can shut down, kick something, take a nap or you can ask, you can wonder ... what am I supposed to learn while I'm in this awful place? What did this come here to teach me?
Because that's the deal. It really is. Your worst days have a purpose; your worst days challenge you to become the best you.
This is a beautiful time, this transition from an old year into a new. Like the sun on the winter solstice, it feels a little like time is standing still, for just a moment. Stand in that place and look at the dreams you are dreaming for the new year. They're telling you something important about who you are. And too, the hospice chaplain in me is required to remind you of this: you ain't got all day so you better get busy. The boom will be lowered, quite possibly without warning and eventually you will be below and not above the ground, so make it happen while you can.
Standing there looking ahead into the majestic landscape of a new year, turn around and take a look back, too. To see if you grew up at all in 2017. Because I know you had the chance, I know that life gave you those opportunities. Did you welcome them with the hospitality and curiosity of a person wishing to grow? Or are you still wearing the threadbare cloak of Old Habits?
Here is where honesty and humility come in. They are your partners in the act of grace called your evolution.
Give it your best shot, my friends. Look forward with strength of conviction toward your dreams and look backward in honesty at your pile of garbage from last year. The new year gives you this liminal moment to assess the situation of your one and only life. You've got nothing to lose and everything, Everything to gain. Giddyap and amen.
Follow your desire as long as you live and do not perform more than is ordered; do not lessen the time of following desire, for the wasting of time is an abomination to the spirit ... Ptahhopet