Unhappy New Year

Last year, unsurprisingly, I wrote about New Year; a celebration of the unknown for someone who likes to know what’s going on is not a joyous event. The what ifs, the potential – it’s all dauntingly terrifying for the ‘planners’ amongst us. I’ve been working on my looking forward to it by reflecting on just how much happens in a year, and how unexpected good things happened (I moved to London and conquered my fear of flying) as well as the bad (Brexit, Trump..).

This year though, events around me have prompted the recall of New Year’s Eve 2012. I spent it sobbing on the floor, marriage seemingly over, and I believed, my life with it. Debbie Reynolds’ recent death, heartbroken at the loss of her daughter, does not seem implausible when you’ve experienced the pain of heartbreak. It is a physical pain, no medicine to cure it, just good old-fashioned time. New Year is the contradiction and apex of the gift of a ‘new’ time-frame by which to measure things, and an abyss into which we stare without that we leave behind.

On the cusp of 00:00, after our extra second of the joyous, infamous 2016, we wish one another a ‘Happy New Year’, yet we might feel anything but happy. Despite what we’re sold, no one has to feel joyful. We might try to feel content in all circumstances, but this means acknowledging reality and accepting where we actually are, not where society might hope we are.

In leaving 2016, we leave behind events and slightly detach ourselves from them. They become ‘past’ in being of last year. Mentally we can position them behind us thanks to our concept of time. To enter the new year, we must acknowledge the old. What had you hoped for? What did you lose? What did you gain? What were the unexpected highs and lows?

Moving into 2017, we are forced to confront the dreams we thought might be future realities. Getting through in the absence, through death or choice, of someone we loved; the reality of a future with health problems to consider at each juncture; dreams we expected to come to fruition that died in 2016, our future without that particular flicker of promise.

This isn’t to diminish the flicker of promise that emerges from a year of possibilities, there is abundant possibility, both good and bad. Yet to focus only on the possibility ahead ignores the pain of unrealised dreams, desires and disappointments. We have to acknowledge and grieve our unfulfilled hopes for 2016 and 2017, while we embrace the unknown hopes the new year may bring. The new realities are themselves sometimes so painful, it is hard to see the next year as anything other than torment. New Year does not simply mean new emotions or ways of viewing the old year – it might just allow us to mentally separate from it in some small way.

Chances are, things today look somehow different than last year, and next year will look the same in that sense; different. The transition from old year to new is another evening, another night, another morning – slightly special, but not magic. We’re still ourselves, we’re where we’re at, but we might look forward. Maybe it’s a day, a week, a month, maybe even a year. It’ll have ups and downs and it won’t be perfect – just like 2016 – but there is hope that good things can happen, and that when we look back next year, we’ll see just how much those things have changed.

New Year is a line in the sand. There’s unhappiness on both sides of the line, but somewhere there’s joy. There’s hope and grief, and dreams fulfilled, unrealised and that unexpectedly happen. Time helps and heals and passes and New Year is one more example of that. So enter the new year exactly as you feel, reflecting on the sorrows and hope of the past year because every day that’s yet to come has those same possibilities; another evening, another night, another morning.

Helpful ways to look backwards and forwards…

The LeadStories Podcasts with Jo Saxton and Steph Williams gives a helpful and reflective Hello/Goodbye model to reflect on the year (subscribe to get the download, it’s worth it!).

A great post on an honest Hallelujah by my friend Amy.

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