Another Year Over (A New One Just Begun)

New Years LeftoversI’ll be honest with you. I’ve always liked New Year’s more than Christmas.

I know. I’m sorry, but it’s true.

Christmas is fine. Here’s to redemption, and kindness, and gifts that say, “I’ve tried to pay attention.” I like seasonal movies and music – the same 74 songs have been playing endlessly from my red flash drive since Thanksgiving, only a few of which are humorous and none of which involve singing animals or grandma’s demise. And I cry at the same parts of the same films annually – Bill Murray’s redemption in Scrooged, Michael’s efforts to stir up Christmas Spirit (so Santa’s sleigh can fly) in Elf, even Charlie Brown and that same, sad little tree every year since before I was born.

Charlie Brown XmasI don’t really do “wacky dysfunctional family” movies whether they’re Christmas-themed or not, so that’s eliminated most of the seasonal fare from the past decade or so. I won’t even talk about Bad Santa or anything crass and offensive but with Noels and Tannenbaums slapped on for cheap laughs. I do generally enjoy obscure claymation, but I’ve dialed back that genre since experiencing Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey about five years ago. It was just so… sincere. And disturbing. And wrong wrong wrong, only with an actual Nativity anchoring the plot.

There’s just not enough nog in the fridge to risk something like that again.

So I’m not anti-Christmas. I am, however, a much bigger fan of new beginnings. Fresh starts. Rebooting to factory settings. The season may begin with Thanksgiving, but it doesn’t end until New Year’s Day. It’s practically a package deal, and rightfully so. Whatever else the Baby Jesus was about, His story is certainly about being made new, yes? About the possibility of having your failures and screw-ups washed away – at least metaphorically – and starting over. Being born… again.

Which is, you know… amazing.

But it’s New Year’s that makes it tangible and contains a less lofty, more literal rebirth. It’s not really about staying up until midnight, although I usually do, even now. I personally have zero interest in big parties or raucous countdowns, and while I’ve been known to have a drink or two, most of the time it takes about 2/3 of a single Redd’s Blueberry Ale before I’m asleep on the couch with my neck in some horrible position and fruitcake crumbs spilling down my Star Trek PJs.

He's Dead, JimAnd I don’t really make big resolutions – at least not any more than throughout the rest of the year. People talk about keeping that Christmas feeling all year long, but the holiday I’m most likely to emulate endlessly comes a week later.

The number of things I vow I’ll never do again times the number of healthy habits I swear I’ll get serious about next week minus the total occurrences of complete and utter failure equals the square root of why do I even bother – plus or minus self-loathing and hope.

But that’s the thing about reboots and new beginnings. It doesn’t really matter how much you’ve failed before. How often you’ve fallen short. How regularly you wish you’d just… ARRRGHHH! GET IT RIGHT, YOU $#%^*!

Because tomorrow you get up and try again. Because it’s a new morning. It’s a new week. It’s a new semester, a new season, a new job, a new place, a new chance, a new identity, a new direction.

It’s a new year. Like, literally.

New CanvasI know it’s not miraculous – that’s the one from the week before. I know that a clean slate, like fresh snow, is in many ways just another canvas on which you’ll no doubt spill your badly-mixed watercolors, probably sooner rather than later. And it will smudge right away and smell funny and tear on the one side you thought was actually going rather well, because…

Because that’s just how real life is.

But for a moment, it’s new. For a moment, there’s hope. Enough of those, strung together… well, that’s kinda like ongoing possibility, isn’t it? And it’s not like you can keep doing everything wrong the same way forever – if nothing else, the sheer volume of monkeys and typewriters should produce moments of merit if you simply give it enough time.

And sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you do good. Sometimes you don’t suck. Sometimes… you’re a slightly better version of you.

When that happens, make a note. Mark it down. Build internal monuments, not to worship, but to remember.

That it went well. That it helped, and you mattered, and things were a smidgen better when you tried. That the risk paid off and the hurt lessened and she felt hope and he felt stronger and maybe...

Mr Miyagi ChopsticksMaybe that can happen again. 

Mark it down, dammit – CLING TO IT LIKE LIFE. You’ll need it for reference, and sooner than you think.

Because you’ll probably mess something up again, or at least not catch something you should have caught. You’ll try to fix something and make it worse, or act like a jerk when you fully meant to keep it together. Maybe you’re not as creative as you wish or as smart as you like to think, or maybe you’re simply alarmingly average in the grand scheme of things.

Maybe you’re a screw-up and terrified of how much worse it could be if people really knew. Maybe you feel fat, or maybe you throw up to numb the chaos, or you wish you’d stayed in school or found a better job. Maybe you’ve hurt people and they’ve hurt you and you’re not even sure which parts are your fault anymore.

Maybe you’ll have high hopes for the new year but still find yourself tired and angry and wrestling with despair because what the hell is even happening anymore and why do more people not see it and how can we possibly respond when we’re just so inadequate and small and flawed and…

stupid

dirty

emotional

tired

numb

poor

tired

meek

scared

tired

worried

broken

tired

angry

tired

inadequate

tired

tired

seriously so very tired?

Guardians of the Galaxy LineupBut it’s a new year in a few weeks. And a new week even before that, and again after. It’s a new day tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

And you’re surrounded by other inadequate, frustrated, flawed, wonderful folks who will probably make you crazy as often as they make you feel better. Help them. Encourage them. Push them. And they’ll do the same for you.

Don’t lie to them, or to yourself. You can’t fight darkness with lies (duh). But help them see what they’re doing right, and to notice when they do good. Sometimes they don’t suck. Sometimes… they’re that better version of themselves they always kinda hoped they might be.

When that happens, make a note. Share it when it feels right. Build some monuments, not to worship, but to remember. Be a Reminder, a Did-You-Noticer, and a Hip-Hip-Hoorayer for those struggling around you. And when you do fall short, or go so so totally wrong, know that morning is coming. A new week is near. Just keep restarting, dammit.

It’s a new year, kids. You can help. You can matter. Things can be a smidgen better because we kept trying, and because you helped someone else keep trying as well.

We just need enough monkeys. Bring your typewriters.

Enough Monkeys

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