the fireworks go up and the drinks go down, last night was new years eve. and there we are all cheering, streamering, shaking hands and hugging strangers. maybe we are all looking forward to the new year and thats what the fuss is about, optimism. or maybe the heart of new years eve is letting go of the old, celebrating a year being over if it wasn't a good one.
new years traditions are funny things. when i was a kid everyone put out some food and drink, cheese, crackers, cake, pickled onions, and people opened their doors. my grandparents would go from house to house, visiting their neighbours breifly, house after house, a small time in each, to bring the new year in to each home. come midnight, was first footing. a dark haired man must step over the threshold after midnight. to bring in the new year he must have- money in his pocket, a piece of coal and perhaps some bread. when he comes in he must be welcomed, hugged, kissed, given a drink- shake his hand. i didnt get this when i was a kid, what allt his fuss about new years was about. there were no presents or decorations for new years- new year was a time for grown ups, like christmas was a time for kids.
now, i get it more. the charm of the new year is its shiny and new. if last year started off like a new notebook with clean pages and neat handwriting by the end it may be looking a little tatty and torn. we can't wait to turna new page, try again to keep it neat. i live in a city now. we don't know our neighbours that well. no ones house is open anymore.
its time to get reflective, those new years resolutions are knocking at the door, all that stuff we didn't do, didn't suceed in, all our flaws. When the new calender comes out of its wrapper finally we can tear up the old one just as we're sick of the sight of it. I always make new years resolutions because i want to better than last year, i need that new start.
Its right there in the song. Old Langs Eyne nails it 'may old aquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind.' come the midnight chime we're all singing this heartily, raising our glass to that. let go of the people who disappointed you, whoever put you down, all those old hurts. and, scary as it is, in the act of hugging a stranger at midnight, embrace the new. make new friends, reach out. our doors may not be open anymore, but come new years we do this, its a symbol i guess. if you are with loved ones, yes we embrace them, start the year as we mean to go on. if we aren't, if we're at a party say, we find ourselves being embraced by strangers for a second. we all reach out in this gesture. its amazing really, how often this this ever happen? strangers shaking hands.
when it comes to resolutions i dont make mine until a few days after new years day, i need time to think about it when the party is over. i'm cleaning up corners of my mind with last nights left overs. i think of the year thats gone by. sometimes it was a good one (2007- lost three stone, had a book and hopes for it, did a road trip in america, got married in vegas). sometimes it wasn't.
yet, yes, with the opening of a new calender, at this time i can think about the year thats gone. i may be waving goodbye to it fondly or kicking its sorry ass out the door. for the first time look at it more closely- only when its over do i dare. No matter how bad the year was i think 'yes, alot of shit went down- and guess what? I survived it. I'm still here.' It amazes me. I look at how I managed whatever hand the year dealt. No, I couldn't make a joker a winning hand, but i stayed in the game when every part of me said fold.
So what did I take from last year? Alot of lessons,sure. If i looked at my life as an employer i wouldn't be entirely satisfied with my progress. some years move us forward, some seem to set us back (losing your job, a relationship ending maybe, etc etc.) but, if i look at my life like a good teacher who wants to encourage her pupil it's a different matter. before making those new years resolutions i'll be looking at any positives about the last year i can find. i'll think how can i do this better? what lessons have i learnt? what can i take from this?
sadly, some years, i've lost a bit of faith, trust, had a setback and no longer know where to start, whats next. whatever. its new years day though, so thats ok. i dont have to have all the answers at once, i just have to open the door to start thinking about them. i don't say, 'OK, 1st jan, here are all my resolutions and i must do them this second'- i give myself the year to acheive them, or not. this year i'd like to do better, be nicer to myself, meet some nice people, be better at what i love, have more fun. no matter what walls we've bui;t, defences around us we have had to put up, its all right there, from midnight onwards, looking up at those fireworks, drinking that toast, daring, yes, no matter how hard, to reach out and shake an unfamiliar hand.