LSS: New year a chance to reflect on life

Janus was the Roman god of gates and doorways. He was usually portrayed with one face looking back toward the past and the other looking forward toward the future. The Romans thought it appropriate to name the first month of their year after Janus, hence our January.
These first few days of the new year require a certain amount of navel gazing. Too much self-introspection turns into self-absorption, which sometimes causes us to get stuck by digging ourselves into a hole — not going forward or backward. But, a certain amount of self-examination is good for us all.
These days of the year offer the ideal perspective to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of year that’s ended and all the hopes, dreams and possibilities of the year that has just begun.
Spending time and energy looking toward the past and toward the future can be tricky business. For me that mental balancing act came into clear focus this holiday season as I spent lots of time my children and parents. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Tiny matters.
The irony is that both our children and our parents, while not tiny matters, hold a crazy blend of past and future bundled together. Throw the holidays in that mix and my head runs wild with the possibilities.
Watching my daughters reminded me of myself years ago and of the eventual adults they will become. Sometimes they make the same mistakes I’ve made and learn the big and little stuff along the way. Other times, much to my dismay, they don’t learn a thing and repeat the same mistakes over and over.
Watching my parents has an eerie similarity. I don’t need an old family photo album to remember their vibrant younger versions readily. Those are the people who shaped my future. Watching my parents deal with the complexities of aging makes us all reflect on what the future holds.
But if I get back to the crux of Emerson’s wisdom, I can let so much unproductive worry go.
I don’t have to be Janus.
Right here, right now, I can’t change the past or predict the future. I don’t have to be perpetually stuck in a doorway looking at where I’ve been and where I’m going.
All I can do is focus on what lies within and live in the moment.
Making peace with what’s within me opens doors all around, as opposed to being permanently paralyzed, analyzing the past and fearful of the future.
Getting what lies within me into peaceful order may require my making right with people and places of the past. But in those brief and wonderful moments when I have that inside stuff right, I treat those around me with more grace.
And living with grace creates a cycle of beauty and joy — a fine hope for the new year.

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