Second Thoughts and Second Chances
Another New Year. Along with birthdays, rolling over the date is how we keep score. It is a time to take stock of one’s life. In reality, the 1st of January is no different than any other day of the year. Its significance is an artificial creation. From that perspective, 2023 will be nothing but a continuation of 2022 unless we make it different.
By giving pause to what we are doing, there is opportunity to alter our direction. I suppose that thought is the genesis of the myriad of trivial New Year’s Resolutions we inevitably make: lose weight, start exercising, be more considerate, etc. All are worthy, but is there something more significant?
Although, there often seems to be an inevitability to life, basically I believe that we live in a house of our own making. God may have a plan, but he leaves the details up to us. Therein lies both the risk and the opportunity inherent in the beginning of a year.
We want to start over again but seem ever incapable of doing so. How can we begin with a clean slate when we hold onto so much baggage? I love this line from CS Lewis, “God grant me an unflawed beginning today, for I have done nothing yet.” It is a meaningful way to start any day but holds so much more power when the day is January 1st. It is the symbolic New Beginning.
This brings us to a significant question, “Which is the greater failing?” Is it to misuse what we have been given or to not use them at all? We can be better than we are, but only through understanding that to allow our talents to go unused is a perhaps a greater sin than using them for ill. I used to feel supremely confident with my choices in life. As time passes, I feel less sanguine about those decisions.
Perhaps we could begin by reconsidering our condition. “Second Thoughts.” Am I happy with whom I have become or the life I lead? What regrets do I have? What have I done that I would undo if I could? What have I said that I would take back if it was possible? As I settle into the latter third of my life, those questions have taken on greater significance.
Understanding what is wrong is only half the battle. If I am dissatisfied with life and have regrets, is it possible to make a decision or take some step that would alter future outcomes? An affirmative answer to that question leads to the great hope for the new year. “Second Chances.”
This next move is much harder. Even if we believe things can be different, do we have the courage to change them? Will we undertake the measures necessary to alter what we don’t like about ourselves or the world around us?
While it is grand to imagine ourselves capable of great deeds, we rarely find ourselves in a position to carry out those actions. Circumstances may be constrained by what has been done, but the day filled with little actions that add up to sum of our existence.
Sadly, in dealing with what appears trivial, we often let inaction be the default setting. We let ourselves be herded like sheep into the life we lead and then complain about the flock. It is easier and safer to let life dictate the terms rather than battle our way out. We have the freedom to choose as well as to accept.
Resolutions are fine, but they rarely focus on the things that truly matter. If the world is not what we would like, it is largely of our own making. And only we can change the course of the events that make up our lives. I look at myself and my business, and I know there are things I must change. I look at our community and our nation and believe there are things that should change as well.
I have not always known the difference between what I can and cannot affect. To have a positive impact, we must also realize our personal limitations. Internalizing these keeps us in the “realm of the possible.” It also sets benchmarks for improvement. All too often, because we do not understand our potential, we create self-imposed boundaries. Don’t be afraid to aim high, to hope and dream, to have Faith. It is what sets us apart from other creatures in Nature.
Some years there seems to be a confluence of events that lead us to be more introspective than at other times. I have spent much of the past year striving for a balance that has seemed elusive, present for fleeting moments, but somehow ephemeral. Perhaps, it is in the wanting too hard that makes for the disappointment. There were many positive events in 2022 (most notable for me was the birth of my first grandchild) and I generally have not been a person to “wish my life away.” Never-the-less, I am not so upset to put this past year to rest.
“Second Thoughts and Second Chances.” In a very real sense, the trite comment, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” is true. Each day is an opportunity to make the world a better place. I am glad to welcome 2023 with all the hope and optimism the future has to offer.