A strange transition takes place within most of us between Christmas and New Year’s.
We spend the weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas generally celebrating togetherness. We think outwardly. We focus on giving. We travel or welcome in travelers to our homes. We gather round long tables, cram extra chairs into the corners, nudge elbow to elbow with second cousins and great-uncles, neighbors and longtime friends. We break bread together. We pray together. We open obscene amounts of gifts together.
To be certain, this isn’t everyone. Many spent this Christmas with an incurable ache of a lost loved one in their gut, the memory of voices and pictures gone from the earth bouncing in their heads. Many spent this Christmas alone, not always by choice, not always because of a tragic flaw in their heroic character.
But for most of us, we just completed the time of our year where we most outwardly seek connection and togetherness.
As the New Year approaches, the dial turns.
Although New Year’s Eve is a time many spend partying with friends and loved ones, we view the dawn of a new year as a time to reconsider ourselves. We become reflexive, inward-looking, evaluative.
What did we do right this year? What did we do wrong?
What about myself -- my looks, my attitude, my potential, my ambition -- can I and should I aim to improve by adding or increasing? Work out more. Read more. Sleep more. Journal. Go to more concerts.
Resolutions. We seek to resolve. Or we try and re-solve old problems.
What about myself -- my looks, my attitude, yada yada -- can I and should I aim to correct by reducing something, leaving something behind? Lose weight. Break off that toxic friendship. Stop whining so much. Say less and do more.
Dissolutions. We seek to dissolve. We attempt to improve by subtraction.
Even those of us who aren’t big on resolutions or avowed dissolutions -- and let’s be honest, we talk a much bigger game on resolutions than most of us ever actually put into practice -- certainly find ourselves pondering these things, reevaluating. We look in the mirror, or the “deep dark truthful mirror” that requires no walls, no physical reflections or selfies, and we nitpick and critique.
Is part of the reason so many of us need a night to get s#itfaced as the ball drops because we have overdosed, emotionally and mentally? First on weeks of feeling deeply for those we love or those we should love more than we do, and then on a week of feeling deeply, and often with unflinching harshness, about ourselves and our place in the world? And after all that feeling, and all that thinking -- which comes, not coincidentally for most of us, with an unusual amount of vacation and free time -- we are desperate to lose ourselves a little.
Or maybe it’s an attempt to clear the slate, clean the palate (and the stomach lining), ditch the baggage we don't want coming along with us into the promise of a better day and a better year.
Here's to the tabula rasa that we hope 2016 might bring. And here's to singing the same song, hopefully with the same desperate optimism and belief, in 2017!