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Soul Searching

Tom Saretsky


A New Year

At the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, the promise to change, the resolve to do things differently, and the desire to succeed might have been declared from many a reveller that night. And why not? The New Year always begins with potential and promise. However, if you’re anything like me, the resolutions I make for New Year’s can quickly become revolutions. I revolve to my former way of doing things and the days, that turn into months, derail my noblest intentions.

How is it with you? The New Year has only begun, and maybe it is too early to determine whether your mapped-out plan for the year needs re-drawing. Many things can happen over which we have no control. Unpredictability has a definite effect on us. What will you do with the difficult experiences ahead? Will they define you or will they defeat you? Will they bless you or will they curse you? Perhaps these questions are the ones to think about instead of trying to eat less or exercise more.

There’s a Swedish proverb that goes, “The afternoon knows what the morning never would have expected.” If that same saying was applied to the end of a calendar year it would read, “The year-end knows what the New Year never would have expected.”

What is your tendency at the end of each year? Do you look ahead in anticipation or do you ponder on what has been? It’s a good idea to do both, but to reflect on what we’ve experienced is a valuable exercise because it adds perspective to our lives and provides some wisdom regarding our journeys of the past year. Were the experiences good ones? Were they affirming? Enriching? Enlightening? Were they difficult? Ponderous? Destructive? What did I learn from these experiences?

We walk into the unknown every time the calendar year changes, and sometimes we walk with a sense of trepidation or fear. We don’t know what the coming weeks and months will bring, because we can only see for today. But we need things to look forward to because they provide anticipatory joy and give us confidence to face what is yet to come. As well, our resolutions, made with the noblest of intentions, are necessary. If they are reasonable, they will give us a sense of control and a sense of direction for our future. However, if they’re made with no provision for failure or revision, then they’re apt to crush us.  

Lloyd Ratzlaff in his book The Crow Who Tampered with Time writes, “I no longer make New Year’s resolutions. I know how feeble willpower is. I make only these daily resolutions: to breathe consciously, to smile as often as possible, to give up worrying, and to accept the present moment with re-born attention. Year-end and year-beginning are fictional times separated by no more than a breath or the blink of an eye; in that breath, in that blink, eternity resides.”

Perhaps this is the best way to live. There’s gentleness in Lloyd’s tone that invites rather than coerces or forces. When you submit or force yourself to live a certain way, a lot can go wrong, but smiling as often as possible proves that flowers are blooming even during the coldest months. Giving up worrying allows us to trust that all will be well, and living in the present moment gives birth to joy, peace and contentment. Eternity resides in our breath, and frees us from the ultimate prison warden of time.

May we be blessed during this year with a spirit of peace and calm that allows us the joy of living and appreciating the present moment God gives to us. 

Saretsky is a teacher and chaplain at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon. He and his wife, Norma, have two children, Nathan and Jenna.