Janus, the Roman god of endings and beginnings, looks to the future and the past simultaneously.

Janus, the Roman god of endings and beginnings, looks to the future and the past simultaneously. By Fubar Obfusco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s the day of year when we take stock, assessing our position: are we happy? Or at least, are we happier than this time last year? Who is missing from our lives who was with us New Year’s Eve? How have we changed or grown? Are we better people, more selfish people, or about the same?

New Year’s Eve 2012 was, hands down, one of the worst days of my life. By then it was clear that my mom was not only terminally ill but that death would be soon, certainly within weeks but probably within days. So on the morning of New Year’s Eve I officially signed all the papers to enroll my mom in hospice and discontinue all treatment.

I also quit my job that day, which was a painful decision. I knew that my family responsibilities were going to be all-consuming, and there was little left of me to give to my editorial work. I was beyond exhausted. My authors deserved better than I was able to offer, so it was time to close that chapter.

Multiple endings, all at once. So, so hard.

New Year’s Eve is a time of reckoning, yes, but it is also traditionally a season of new beginnings, as we fix our eyes on the future and imagine brighter possibilities. The month of January is named for the Roman god Janus, the god of two faces—one looking forward, the other gazing back.

When I was a child I always remembered Janus because his wife’s name was Jana, and my name was rare enough at that time that I marked any occurrence of it with pleasure. But as an adult I remember Janus because I have come through my share of transitions—many joyous, some painful. Janus is the patron of beginnings and endings; our word “annual” is distantly related to him.

We adults who have had our share of losses and failures take stock, Janus-like, on New Year’s Eve, a rite of ending that prepares us for a beginning.

This year, my observance of the holiday is likely to be very quiet and introspective. (I was never much for a big party, anyway.) But my primary feeling is not sadness for what I lost this year, but gratitude that 2013 brought much joy and love and friendship amidst all the hard times.

I have lots of plans for 2014, including travel to Turkey and possibly Ecuador, finishing a new book, and spending more time with family. I even have a couple of resolutions, but I’m not going to say what they are because I never seem to be able to keep them past February, when tradition dictates that I redouble my efforts at doing the exact same things for Lent. ;-)

Whatever your dreams are for the coming year, may you be able to gaze at the past without regret and the future without fear.

7 Comments

  1. Jana, I am sorry for your loss – your multiple losses.
    On the negative side, being clinically sad about the past is depression and clinically concerned about the future is anxiety. The positive side encourages us to savor those special times in our history and remember them in pictures, scrapbooks, journals, and most importantly in our vivid memories. The future is the bright light ahead, striving to make oneself a better, kinder, more loving and contributing member of our family/ward/village/friends.
    I am studying a mental health therapy (ACT) that posits we spend too much time in the past and in the future: that we do not enjoy, appreciate or even feel the fullness of the present.
    Thank you for the inspiring thoughts. I can that my day tomorrow will also be introspective (and maybe somewhat in the present!)
    Happy New Year

  2. Thank you for this Jana….I appreciate your honesty and your hope. And having a New Year’s post that isn’t all about the peppy, but is honest about the pain. It’s what I needed to read this evening as I reflect back and look forward and have feelings about it all. Peace and blessing friend for your coming year..

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