The ball has dropped on Times Square in New York City. Countless public and private celebrations have drawn to a close and people around the globe awake today to a new day and a new year. For many, the New Year's celebrations mark the end of the holiday season and vacations spent with family and friends and a return to the routines of the day. Many people make resolutions at the start of the year, making promises to themselves or others to do this or that or to not do this or that. I don't make them so I can't pretend to know how people go about deciding what resolutions to make for the coming year. I also don't know how successful people are at keeping them. To the extent that these resolutions cause people to pause and reflect and to think about change, I think resolutions might not be such a bad thing.
But here's what I've been thinking about since, well, Thanksgiving.
As a culture, we try to do a lot between Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Day. On Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks for myriad people and things and on the very next day--the so-called "Black Friday"-- many of us begin the frenzy of shopping for Christmas Day. Many of us--and I do include myself here--search for the "perfect" present for the people that are dear to us. Or, as I wrote on Christmas Day, we strive to make the day "perfect," be it through the presents we give, the family traditions that we celebrate or the meal we prepare down to the last detail. Again, I include myself here. Finally, the holiday season is bookended with celebration of the coming New Year.
I have always found the "out with the old, in with the new" tenor of New Year's Eve celebrations to be a bit maudlin and even depressing. This year, in particular, I've noticed an unusual eagerness to be finished with 2013. As a nation, we have struggled economically, politically, and culturally. I think it's clear that many people continue to struggle personally, as well. I get that and don't intend to diminish the eagerness to move beyond these struggles.
I think, though, that we just plain expect too damn much of each of these holidays. It sometimes feels that we try to cram a year's worth of gratitude, joy, love and resolve into the weeks between Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. And if we do so, we do our loved ones and ourselves an injustice and in a way we diminish the importance of each celebration. Would it not be more fulfilling to sit with friends and family on Thanksgiving Day knowing that we've endeavored to show sincere gratitude throughout the year, rather than storing it up for a single day? Would Christmas Day not feel more joyful if we showed love and compassion for each other--family and strangers alike--each and every day throughout the year? Finally, if we were to pause and reflect more often throughout the year, making incremental changes as needed, couldn't the celebration of the New Year be just that, a forward-looking celebration of things to come?
Each day, we have an opportunity. We can choose how to approach our days and can choose how to respond--or not respond--to people and things around us. Our choices matter. I strive to be mindful of gratitude, love and joy throughout the year, but I know I can always do better.
As I drove up to Berlin Pond this morning for my morning photo shoot I was thinking both about writing this piece and of what I might photograph once I got to the pond. I love Berlin Pond and love photographing around it, but I've often caught myself saying, "Why are you going up there again? You go there several times a week. How much different will it be?" I heard myself asking those questions again this morning. True, the pond itself doesn't change a lot from day to day, but every time I go there I see something new. Each photograph I take is different from day to day.
So, as we begin the year, I wonder how we might see each day differently in 2014? I wonder what we might do or think each day to make our days brighter? I wonder how much more often we might stop to feel and express gratitude throughout the days, weeks and months of 2014? How might we express our love and compassion for each other as often as possible in the coming year?
For a guy that doesn't make resolutions, I think I just might have.