On New Year’s Eve

From “Burning the Old Year,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.


2018 was something, wasn’t it?

(Remember when we all said we couldn’t wait to put 2016 to bed, then 2017? This is at least the third year in a row that everyone, in their own way, has carried like a millstone around the neck — and each heavier than the last.)

Who’s to say 2019 will be any better, or easier? Who’s to say those very ideas aren’t just pure fancy? Who’s to say the new year in fact marks anything new, other than maybe the calendar on the wall and the inevitable typos and erasures as we retrain our fingers to write this year’s date?

What would it even feel like to not wear the millstone for a necklace any more? That would surely be a shouting absence, wouldn’t it?

Of course it would. But the thing to remember is that the question isn’t when it will be removed, but rather when we might learn to lay it down or even take it off ourselves. Regardless of external circumstance — and it is still within our power to determine how much attention we pay to that — isn’t it just as true as ever that it’s the things left undone that leave us most unquiet?

And so, at the dying of the year, what better excuse to try something new, to (re)commit to a thing we’re determined to do?

A new year is as arbitrary (and as good) a starting line as any. And it’s upon us, like it or not.

You’re ready. Let’s go.