Reaching out for the New Year

The new year is a recurring milestone. We can take it or leave it as we like, but it still presses us to examine our lives, or at least the previous year. A couple of things I read recently put me in the moment and let me pause to think, and I want to pass them along. Existential, yes.

How does the secular new year differ for me from the High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish one, which occurs in September? 

When I think of the secular new year I think of drinking something bubbly, staying up late, watching Casablanca, eating little delicious foods. At the end, we come out of the tunnel of holidays to a bright, usually cold, January. I haven't associated it with anything serious, except maybe another personal vow [eat less, look up more, walk four miles a day, etc.]. Those are rather self-directed goals. 

Rosh Hashanah focuses on apologizing to individuals one has wronged, and looks at what one has done in the previous year in order to do better in the next one. A looking back to go forward. A connecting with one's family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances in order to make things right, or at least better in the future. There are also issues of what one has done to the earth, other creatures, and the world at large, again, in order to do better. A connection to the world. It is sometimes referred to as the "birthday of the world" as well.

But two things just came up that made me think the secular new year could be just as meaningful. The first was on the Live Chat at, the Osprey nest webcam I watch that has also built up a community of other watchers, chatters, and lurkers. J., a regular, wrote on 12.23.18:
I'd like to acknowledge that this is a tough time of year for many. I know various chatters have had losses and hardships this year and last. I am glad this community is here to support in times of need. And of course all Lurkers are supported as well.
I was struck by the beauty of those few sentences and the empathy they included. With all the decorations and good cheer, there can still be an undercurrent of sadness and grief. And J., who is a regular chatter but whom few of us, if any, have met, feels part of a support group and extends it outward. The concept of "I am there for you." It's a good phrase to think about and to say to someone, maybe everyone you care about, particularly this time of year. Part of being there and being supportive is acknowledging the other person, an important part is listening.

The second was in Miss Manners' column on 12.24.18, which in our local paper was titled,  "Think of thank-yous as 'likes.'" She writes that "Everyone needs some positive feedback" and "that people who take the time and trouble to send you presents" want to hear from you, and "They want to know that their effort has been successful." From this I am reminded that the sentiment of giving thanks didn't just come and go in November; it is something to remember year-round. The new year is a good time to make that a goal, to be hyperaware that thanking someone sincerely will make them feel good, which might in turn, make someone else feel good. It's a concentric circle: one drop of water in a lake causes rings to form outward from it. One kind word can word can do the same. Thank you leads to appreciation and to respect, something we all crave.

And this is where art and craft and writing converge. Making something, even just handwriting a note, shows appreciation, thought, and care for one another.

This is my last post for 2018. Thank you for reading and responding. 
See you next year. I'll be here for you. 

Best wishes for creative, calm, warm, and inspiring circles in the new year!

green heron, aquatic park, berkeley, 2018


Velma Bolyard said…
And I am glad to come over and visit. Thank you for your books and this website, I often recommend it to my students and friends.