The number thirteen is considered unlucky by some; so, it is lucky for me that I broke my foot in 2012 otherwise I could have fallen into the trap of thinking that that was the cause of any unfortunate events that happened last year. Instead, I know that life is just one long conveyor belt of random events, occurrences, birthdays and bar mitzvahs. (Okay, maybe bar mitzvahs are quite specific). But we definitely have a lot of anniversaries. We love to look back in our lives (especially at this time of year) to points in time when something significant happened. It doesn’t matter if it was a happy event or a tragic one; looking back is in our nature…or is it just in our culture?
Do we need to spend so much time looking back? How healthy is it to dwell on the past?
Nostalgia, the definition of which is a longing for something past, is quite a dangerous thing. Partly because our memories are subject to change; we are able to airbrush them, subconsciously; with time we lose detail, we smooth off the rough edges and re-call what we want to, what we allow ourselves to. If we hark back to that time in our youth when we were carefree, before we had to work, pay bills, buy houses or change nappies, are we forgetting about the stresses we felt at school; homework, exams, teenage friendships and falling outs, the fitting-in and the bullying? If we think back to that time we could fit into smaller jeans, do we remember the work that was likely to have been involved; the gym, the cardio, or playing sport and eating well? Recalling a time when we had more money, more free-time, more drinking buddies, longer nights out, whatever, are we remembering the other stuff that came with it, the over-time, the overdrafts, the hangovers, the come-downs?
When we’re not remembering the past, we’re looking ahead to the future; making plans, New Year’s resolutions, dream holidays, study plans, uni courses, job changes, house moves, future boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, kids and cars. Of course, some of this is necessary, we have to have some idea of where we’re going in life; otherwise we’re just drifting in to the unknown, right? Well, the truth is, no matter how much planning you do, the future is still unknown. We have no control over it. And think back (but, just for a moment), are your resolutions this year ones you’ve made before? How many of the decisions and major changes you’ve made in the past were as a result of months of planning, and how many were made on the hoof as circumstance required? Did you plan your pregnancy or was it a surprise? Did you look for the perfect job for months, or did the vacancy arise in your company, or did you hear about a new job through a friend, or see an ad somewhere and think ‘I’ll apply for that!’. Did you buy a new car after years of saving and shopping around or did you buy one because your old one died?
I’m not suggesting that planning and dreaming of the future are intrinsically bad or that giving them up is the future. Since, much like driving, we have to have a rough idea as to where we’re heading when we jump in the car, otherwise we’ll waste a lot of petrol along the way, and how will we know when we get there? But then again, if we’re so fixated on the destination, we’re likely to miss the beautiful scenery we pass en route, and when get sent on one of life’s inevitable detours we’re likely to become anxious and overly upset about never getting to where were going, or stress about getting there late. To bring this analogy to an end, before it gets tired and pot-holey we need to…well, I need to… no, I WANT to learn to enjoy the ride more!
An ex of mine once told me of his mother’s saying, and I think it neatly, and vividly, encapsulates everything I’m trying to say here:
If we stand with one foot in the past, and one foot in the future, we’ll piss all over the present.
So for me, 2014 will be about the here and now, I will not worry about the future, and what’s to come, I can neither control it nor predict it. I will make decisions as and when I need to. I will try and enjoy each day, each week, and each month as they come. 2014 will be about 2014.
That is my New Year’s resolution this year, and if I fail one day I will try again the next day and not wait until 2015. Why not try and do the same?