The Last Day of an Endless Year
Today is the last day of a year which, for many of us, has seemed to last forever.
Last New Year’s feels like at least seven or eight years ago. We have shared an apparently never-ending series of challenges, struggles, and obstacles which have made this year so long.
All our lives have been turned upside down by the threat of the coronavirus. In addition, in many places, this year has been measured in wildfires and hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. We have also shared the shock and suffering of violent deaths, demonstrations, and explosions made by people. All that without mentioning politics and election campaigns.
We all recognize a calendar is an artificial way to measure time, particularly during a year with an extra day. Still, today is the last day of the year, a day many of us wondered whether we would experience.
Most of the significant aspects of our lives will not change overnight. Some of us will need to remember to change the way we fill out forms.
Tomorrow will, for the most part, be a lot like today. It takes us a long time to turn and change how we live our lives. We get stuck in habits and patterns and ways we respond to the people around us. Most of us need to be reminded again and again life is a series of opportunities to begin again, to start over.
One of the gifts of New Year’s, the last day of one year and the first day of the next, is to help us make fresh starts.
Each day is an opportunity for us to leave the past behind us and take our first step into the future. Where will we step today?
The Last Day of Every Year
We like to believe we can control what we can measure.
It can be comforting to assume measuring time allows us to use it more efficiently. Measuring time with all our various tools does not necessarily help us relate to it wisely. Our watches and calendars, our hours and days, weeks and months can get in the way.
We invest importance in our measurements of time and assume they have meaning. There is nothing magic about the end of the year, or the month, or the week, or the day. Nothing requires us to wait until next week or next month to begin.
I tend to be a fairly organized, focused person. When I was growing up I would make serious New Year’s resolutions and work to keep them. While I still believe in the values of setting goals and working toward them, I no longer need to wait.
We may believe we have valid, healthy reasons for delaying our new beginnings. There could be ways we hope to prepare before we start. We might want to make sure everything is lined up to help us succeed.
There is no reason not to begin today. We are waiting for nothing. Today is just as good a day to begin as tomorrow. December may be an even better month to start than January.
We realize, as we begin, there is no difference between the last day and the first day. Each ending is a beginning.
The last day of the year, each year, is a beginning of the next. We take time to listen to sacred stillness and realize we have already begun. Stopping to listen is how we begin.
How Will We Spend Our Last Day?
New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays. I often take a long walk on New Year’s Eve to remember the lessons of the past year and anticipate the questions and insights of the new one.
This year, though, is different.
The year we are finishing today will stand out to us. We have learned new lessons and been reminded of old ones in new ways.
In many ways, though, celebrating a new year is arbitrary. The challenges we face do not fit into neatly measured years, months, weeks, and days that give us a sense of control.
We look back to see how we have grown, or forward to plan our steps into the future. How much have we really changed?
Growth and change are challenging, and often take more than 12 months. We build momentum over time and eventually discover where our habits have taken us. It can be helpful to reflect on where we have been, and where we would like to go.
The larger, deeper aspects of ourselves shape the steps we take today. Our challenge is to be awake and aware as we discern the patterns of our lives.
Where will the steps we take on the last day of this year set us up to go during the next years?
The Last Day of This Year
It is easy for us to see New Year’s as a turning point, to work toward it or to push away from it into each new year. In fact, our lives are not neat. We carry our experiences and our expectations with us without regard to the calendar.
New Year’s is often not the turning point we expect it to be; our lives continue on in the same overall directions from year to year.
We cannot force ourselves to grow or change through our own willpower. Most of us do not choose the ways we will become different or wiser. We often do not recognize we are changing until we take time to stop and pay attention.
Often we need something dramatic to get us to look and see, to stop and listen. It may be a pandemic or some other challenge. We can start today, even on the last day of a year which feels endless.
Where do we find ourselves on the last day of this uniquely challenging year?
How will we have grown between now and the last day of the year which begins tomorrow?
[Image by MikeWolpert]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.