Another Year: Your Very Own 365-Page Book

I know that some of you might think it’s a bit late now to be writing about the New Year, already five days into 2019. But it’s still seasonal here in Krakow, with the Christmas market still flourishing and snow silently falling as I write this, and Twelfth Night upon us tomorrow, so these are the last few days for reflections on the Old year and the New.

For me, a diary-keeping addict, the New Year is when I change my used-up book for a new one with blank pages. All those blank pages to write in, record events and emotions, both good and bad. And the exciting thing is, at this special time of year I don’t have a clue what content those empty pages are going to be filled with. None of us do.

I’ve been keeping a diary since I was fourteen years old. I don’t know any other people with such an addiction, compulsion, obsession, call it what you will. I’d love to know if there are any other like-minded nutters out there. Are there? It would make me feel a little bit less crazy. But it’s a nice sort of craziness. If my house were burning down, it’s my diaries above all else that I’d want to save – though admittedly it would be a bit tricky trying to haul two heavy chests of them out of the flames.

On New Year’s Eve last year I copied out a quote on the first page of my brand new diary:

Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.

I love that quote. I love the idea of our lives being our very own personalized story, with a certain element of control, making things happen or not happen. Writing our own narrative. Of course some things are entirely out of our control, but in the main, we are indeed the masters of our own destinies. By the time we have filled that 365-page book, we, and no one else, have been the authors of it. That’s a powerful feeling. Even if we can’t control certain events or calamities, we can certainly navigate the way we handle them. We can also reflect on the way we went about things wrongly in the previous year, and meditate on how to improve them in the new year – hence the universal, inner need for New Year’s Resolutions. I’m sure even the most stalwart of resolution-haters, even the greatest of cynics, do have at least a fragment of secret hopes at the onset of a new year.

So what sort of dreams do we dream in these early days of January, with the promise of better things to come? For some of us, practical things, perhaps – losing weight, getting fitter, promotion at work, a new job, the holiday of a lifetime, a new car, new house or improvements on the existing one, passing exams, and so on – all of these hopes being attainable by our own endeavours.

For others the dreams might be less within our control, but still possible, with a combination of effort and luck. Finding the love of your life, for instance. Ah, how many of us dream that timeless, genetically-coded dream? If you’ve already found that special Him or Her, then congratulations. But for the less lucky ones, isn’t this the time of year to re-seed that romantic hope? Dating agencies for people of all ages are proof that human beings never give up on that dream – even as the years escalate and the time left to us on this earth dwindles. But the hopes and dreams don’t dwindle. If they do, then that’s the time to really start worrying.

This time last year, I was close to reaching that hopeless stage. Just three months into the break-up of my second marriage, I was racking my brains to think about what there was still left to hope for. Third time lucky? I mused upon that, but rejected it, feeling utterly drained of aspirations on the love front. So I didn’t include it in my New Year’s list of Things Left to Live For. ‘Love’ to me spelled out the three D’s: Danger, Despair, Disillusionment. The joys outbalanced by the pain.

But then, I started to reflect, weren’t the joys worth the sorrow at the end of the day?  Hadn’t my diaries proven that? My dashing Benedictine monk, way back in the flush of youth; then my first husband, followed thirteen years later by The Philosopher, all of whom I loved and shared amazing experiences with; all of whom I wrote copiously about – in diaries, blogs, novels. Ah, all that writing, all that loving, all that development of the memory and soul! And now, in the dawning of 2019, there’s tentative hope once again on Cupid’s front, albeit fragile. No, it seems that I’m not through with love. Not quite yet.

So as a believer of New Hopes, every time yet another January 1st comes rolling round, I can somehow manage to salvage at least a shred of appreciation out of the gut-wrenching experiences which, at the time, make you feel that you just want to die. Or at least never get out of bed again, never face another day again. But when you try to put things in perspective at a reflective time of year such as this, you begin to realize that your own personal histories pale into insignificance when compared to those of others worldwide and across the generations. Even the greatest of human suffering can be overcome – survivors of Auschwitz, battlers of chronic illness or accidents, the pulling-through after the tragic death of a loved one … There are countless books and films and documentaries that have given testimony to the resilience of mankind. We all have the potential for resilience, for new hopes, if only we open our eyes and hearts to that realization.

At the end of the day, whatever our own tailor-made resolutions, there should be one main ambition that we all share in common – and that is that we don’t give up on hope itself. Because without the feathery wings of Hope, we might as well be dead.

So, as the year 2019 embarks on its long journey, let us raise our glasses and hearts to life, love and above all, to HOPE!

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