Have you ever awoken on New Year’s morning wondering about the arbitrariness of human time-keeping? Baffled about these things we call ‘years’, mystified by the irrelevance of it all: at one point last night it was one year and the second after that, another year had begun?
Perhaps you haven’t, and it’s just something that’s unique to me. The labelling of years and the monumental ‘meaning’ attached to New Years seems silly to me – always has. I get up the next morning and it’s still the middle of summer. The hills behind my house are still glowing in the rising sunlight when I go out for a run, the Channel-Billed Cuckoos (stormbirds that mark the coming of the wet season in Central Australia) are screeching and looking about for some unsuspecting crow’s or magpie’s nest in which to lay their eggs before they flee north again once the rains have gone. It’s now and now and now and now to everything else that is. To us, though -it’s New Year’s Day, 2009. Humans are the odd ones out, surely.
For me, there is always some sadness associated with the ‘loss’ of the old year. December is a time when connection and community is so prominent in my life. I love this thing we call ‘December’ because it’s hot, festive, and happy -usually devoid of commercialism and a time when TVs are turned off for days on end in favour of talk and games. In January, it’s a brief lull before the return to work and school and the subtle expectation that you’ll return renewed and recharged for the year ahead. There is a sense of ahead lies a whole lot of work and journeying the wheel of the year again. But I want December back! I was just starting to get used to December…
There is only now and now and now…
Over the past five or so years, I have rarely had cause to reflect about the previous year on New Year’s Day, save to recall that I have no wish to recall them at all. I rarely make New Year’s resolutions. I start my year ritualistically, rereading Karen Kingston’s magnificent Clear You Clutter and then doing so. Every New Year’s Day has begun with a run for me for as many years as I can remember. Running is the most simple joy there is. Breathing, moving. Being.
Yet this last year gone perhaps warrants some mention: I rediscovered happiness.
It had been gone from my soul for many years. I had gone looking for it, searched it out in books, in movies, in practical exercises supposed to make you happy. I learned three things:
- You cannot force yourself to become instantly and deeply happy
- But you can train to be happy – just like you practice yoga
- Happiness sneaks up on you incrementally. One day, you are happy to your soul
There was one monumental trigger for my happiness this year. It’s a bit scary and perhaps revealing- but here it is anyway:
I started working as a real anthropologist again.
My whole life turned around. I fell more deeply in love with my partner, I was able to accomplish things I’d never dreamed of being able to do. (Thank you, Andrew, for asking me to come back. Words cannot express my gratitude).
Why is my core so aligned to my profession? I can’t answer. I know it shouldn’t be that way. But in the years when I apparently had my ‘dream job’ which became a nightmare, I could not let go of own inner truth. I detest buzzwords (this is part of the reason my dream job was so miserable – it was filled with corporate types who didn’t speak in sentences, they spoke in buzzwords), yet I was not ‘on purpose’. The moment I went back to my old office and job, I was powerfully aligned and every part of my life centred and was strong. I had one flat point late in the year, and true, the yoga intensive was a bit of a disaster- but I’ve learned and let go.
I even think the economic downturn is good. Let people come away from the malls and their plasmas to each other and the planet we live on. Whatever you need or think you need- you already have elsewhere in its true from. Go out and play with your children or your dog, lie on your lawn and look down into the roots of the grass and see what’s there. Look at the sky, and just breathe.
Last year was good for me. I came home to me.
The first three paragraphs are just beautiful.
A lot of resonance for me here.
Warm regards from Los Angeles,
I’ve always found the big expectations around the New Year rather ridiculous…though it’s certainly good to take time to stop and reflect on the last chunk of time in one’s life…so, if a holiday causes people to do that once a year, I guess that’s a good thing. Of course, though, it’s made the more absurd that we’ve got the three separate days: the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and New Year’s which all, ultimately, no matter what people insist about the “reason for the season,” mark the winter solstice. And, needless to say, for those of you down in the Southern hemisphere, it’s not the winter solstice anyway….
I agree completely with the arbitrary nature of human timing. I never felt this more so than at the year 2000 – an event that seemed to me far LESS significant than the astonishing lunar eclipse we experienced here in New Zealand six months later.
I’m glad you’re enjoying your anthropology. I miss my anthropology, but I don’t know if I can ever go back to it. I’m disillusioned with journalism and I don’t know what to do about it.
I hope 2009 is even better for you than 2008.