The eve of the New Year brings deep emotional responses for many of us. Although the sun will rise tomorrow as it did yesterday, the last day of the year feels like a bridge – a transition from one place to another. New Year’s Eve brings a combination of melancholy and anticipation, sadness and joy, a strange mix of emotions we perhaps find unsettling. I believe we should embrace these feelings, and allow them to work their cleansing of our soul.
Sadness is not a negative emotion. When we allow it to overstay its purpose it can be debilitating, but if we allow it to do its work, it can be a cleansing emotion. Too much sadness leads to self-pity, but too little sadness makes us shallow and insensitive.
I am not by nature a funny person but I do love to laugh. I laugh easily, until uncontrollable tears stream down my face. My husband laughs in a way that is contagious; just listening to him makes others laugh. My 3-year-old grandson had the entire movie theatre giggling at how hard he laughed at the new Grinch movie this holiday season. The sight of that furry green creature in ridiculous underpants tickled his funny bone to no end. I have a friend who passes out when he laughs too hard, but I’ve never yet seen that stop him. Laughter, the bible tells us, is as good as medicine. Joy, like sadness, is good for our soul.
In many cultures, it is traditional to sing Auld Lang Syne as the New Year begins. It is an old folk song that perfectly captures the emotions of this time. It is filled with both melancholy for the year past and anticipation for the year to come. It is a call to remember our friendships and take them into the future with us – “Should old acquaintance be forgot … We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”
The book of Proverbs says it very well; “Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family …”
We may have regrets at this time of the year. Regrets about things we did not accomplish during the year – a better job, a nicer home, more money. None of this can possibly equal the regrets we carry regarding broken relationships. It is for this that we should embrace any sadness we have. We should allow it to speak to us, to teach us, to better us. The melancholy should spur us to make amends wherever possible, to forgive where needed, to let go of offenses where necessary and to allow the joy of new beginnings fill our soul and make us kind. As the New Year begins may our sadness make us more gentle creatures, touching others carefully. May our joy make us more forgiving creatures, touching others with grace. Thomas Merton said it well. “Our job is to love others without stopping to enquire whether or not they are worthy.” Jesus said it even better, “ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
May we each embrace this new (and ancient) commandment in the year to come.
Happy New Year to you and all those you love.