Goat: I’m gonna get into my warm bed and read this new book I got for Christmas... Or instead of doing that I might go out in the cold and stay up late with strangers who are fighting and throwing up, so I can stare at the clock at 11:59 pm and pretend that midnight changes everything.
Rat: (donning a pair of gag glasses fashioned into the numeral 2017) You left out the funny glasses.
Goat: Oh look, it’s bedtime.
-Pearls Before Swine by Stephen Pastis
Ah, New Year’s Eve --- as seen through the delightfully acerbic cartoonist Stephen Pastis.
I have to say, I’m with Goat on this one. (Not, I hasten to add, that I’m really ever with Rat, whose misanthropy is exceeded only by his egocentric arrogance. Hilarious to watch from a fictional perspective, not so much if you have to actually deal with a Rat-type character in real life.) I’ve never really been into heavy duty celebrations of New Year’s Eve. It just seems so... so... arbitrary --- one of the most pointless celebrations our culture has. The earth made it around the Sun, yes. One more time, yes. But January 1st looks remarkably similar to December 31st when you look around.
If we’re looking at new beginnings, New Year’s just doesn’t seem to me to quite fit into the same category as, oh, let’s say, an academic graduation from secondary or post-secondary schooling; a wedding; starting on a career; the birth of a child; leaving the hospital cured from some terrible accident or illness; publishing one’s first novel. Those all seem like far more significant beginnings.
And yet, every January 1st, it’s a whole new world to many people. We make all kinds of resolutions about this next 365 days. Once in a while, we even manage to keep some of them for more than a few days or weeks.
Oh, come on, I hear you muttering, stop being the Ebenezer Scrooge of New Year’s Eve/Day. Keep it up, you miserable old curmudgeon, and Jacob Marley is going to come calling, haunting you with the Spirits of New Years’ Past, Present and Future.
Actually, I will confess that I’ve been known to make a resolution here or there on January 1st, too. In the absence of any of the earth-shattering (at least to us) events I mentioned above, I do understand the need, every once in a while, of at least feeling like we’ve got a new start. A clean slate. The tabula rasa and all that. Even if it comes in the purely artificial format of one calendar year ending and another beginning. And what do I resolve?
Well... I’ve given up trying to make quantifiable resolutions that implicitly assume I’m in control of the events in my life. Because, folks, the brutal truth is, we’re not. It’s all very well to say, “I’m going to write 50,000 words a month and have Gryphon’s Awakening (the sequel to my novel Gryphon’s Heir) finished before the spring flowers are in bloom,” but the problem is, life has this rather cruelly cavalier habit of getting in the way and throwing all sorts of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune at us, slings and arrows that make a mockery of most of our well-intentioned resolutions. Which leads us smoothly into today’s OTR (Obligatory Tolkien Reference), when Gandalf tells Frodo that “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (And even there, we need to understand that just because we decide on a certain course of action doesn’t actually mean that we will be able to carry it through.)
Okay, you say sceptically, so what DO you resolve to do? Well, how about the thing we have control over? Our outlook on life.
I’ll try to --- and by the way, I’m sorry, Master Yoda, but there is a try. Because for virtually all of us pathetic humans, the lamentable truth is that we do not more than we do. So if we eliminate the try, we automatically condemn ourselves to failure. At least with a try, we can keep on making the attempt... and even sometimes succeed. Allow us to have our small victories, please.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes... I’ll try to:
Look for the positives in situations, rather than default to the negative, so that I can also laugh more, complain less.
Understand, as Jack Lewis says, that my time is really not my own.
Approach each day with compassion and patience, not getting swept up in the world’s insane hurry and irritation.
I was going to make a lengthier list, but on rereading those three things --- really rereading them --- I realize I’ve already set myself a fairly daunting task.
So maybe that’s enough to be going on with. I’ll let you know how it goes.