Whenever we got to another New Year’s Eve, my Mom would make a similar warning to all those gathering for the yearly welcoming of the new year: “Watch what you do when the clock strikes Midnight, because that is what you will be doing all year. Smile, laugh, but don’t ever cry!”
It is funny how rituals and beliefs often surround what are perceived to be important turning points in our own personal histories. It was illogical to think that whatever you do at the strike of 12 you will be condemned to do for the rest of your year. But we all greeted my Mom’s yearly pronouncements with a mixture of approval and annoyance.
I always saw the beginnings of the year as opportunities for hope. I firmly believe that, as human beings, we can change and that we have the capacity, nay the responsibility, to take yearly stock of ourselves and bravely change what has not gone too well for us. This requires us to be very honest with ourselves. But there is a big payoff: we can change into better versions of ourselves, to reflect in a more shining way the ‘better angels’ of our natures.
The part I don’t like is facing honestly the failures of the past year. Sometimes it is something that you have tried hard to do but failed to make part of your daily habits. Other times it is something that you wanted to do and made countless resolutions to accomplish but to no avail. Bad habits not lost and good habits not gained. The yearly series of regrets make for some real soul searching. During this process I try to avoid two things: beating myself up and finding excuses for not doing what I set out to do. Both of these roads are dead ends. It is amazing how often I travel down them knowing what I know!
Somethings I discard as fundamentally undoable. I will never be a major league ball player! Maybe not even a minor league player!
Then I try to eliminate things that are no longer important to me and that I can safely put to rest, like golf! Years ago, I went all-out for golf but soon discovered that it could not be sustained since all of my friends hated to play the game and I got tired of dragging people out onto the links.
Then I usually had a few interesting, doable and exciting things to try, or things to drop. I know enough at this point that I cannot do everything and that I need to choose one or two things and give it an all-out effort.
That’s when I turn to God for help.
One of the most important things that I have learned about my relationship with God is to make sure I bring Him into all my decisions. He knows me so well. He loves me deeply. He wants the best for me. He has enormous power. To not consult such a wonderful partner is tantamount to an insanity. And yet I often make decisions, even important ones, without even wondering what He thinks, let alone asking Him for help in accomplishing my goals. It is almost a profession of unbelief. If I really believed in Him I would definitely ask His help. Since I don’t ask His help then perhaps my belief in Him is not that strong. Real, but what St. John Cardinal Newman called ‘notional’ belief.
So, I call God into my mind and heart through His Holy Spirit and ask Him what He thinks I should do to be the person He wants me to be and what should be the means to that end. I then make the resolution and hope for the best knowing full well that I have the All Powerful as my helper and
New Year’s Day is coming up very soon. It might be good to reflect on how we make these resolutions and that we be gentle with ourselves when we appraise what could be a really good goal to aim for.
If we put in the time, the annual results could be surprising!