Before the radical and singular event of death, life induces small, timely, necessary deaths to guide us to assume —whether by choice or omission— some of our possibilities. And among these decisive events in our personal histories, there are various types of circumstances. The beginnings and the ends, which are two sides of the same door, are embedded in the extraordinary of the quotidian, in the moments that we take for granted, such as going to sleep and waking up each morning. But to truly feel those potential new beginnings it is necessary to remember “the forgotten amazement of being alive,” as Octavio Paz put it, and leaving behind the inertia that drags us on, day to day. Perhaps that is why we have created social conventions which are very similar to the cyclical movement of the planet, to the change in season, to our physical evolutions.
Each of us has a birthday, and as a whole, a new year and three season changes. Each date is an opportunity to breathe in the air and refocus our gaze. If there is something we have learned over time it is that human beings need to measure their life in stages; otherwise, it is very likely they will lose meaning and their vertigo will be greater, more paralyzing, than their drive to move forward. Our ability to let go is, without a doubt, the most essential and the most difficult of all, but finds strength in the ceremonies. And the fact that the New Year, for example, is a social consensus, doesn’t make it less true but ever more powerful. When so many people around the world identify a calendar date with the same meaning (in this case a marked end and beginning), this date becomes what we attribute to it. The New Year is already a portal of individual and planetary change, regardless if we have resolutions, regardless if we fulfill them or not. On January first the world is a little cleaner than the day before, a little less inert. Without those symbolic cleansings, which infuse us with a little bit of bravery, the daily occurrence of life would lose its motivation along the way —the motivation that, by definition, requires constant renewal.
Now, there are moments in each person’s life when ending and recommencing are unavoidable events, and in which life can be heard more clearly than ever. These moments often occur after a breakup, a death or a major betrayal. But they may also arise as the result of an urgency to tackle the road we have been ignoring for so long and is palpitating so hard we can no longer postpone it. Sometimes even traumatic events are the opportunity we require for, finally, as Rilke would say—act with beauty and courage. Each person goes through one of these moments —if not several— and while they can be profoundly painful, they are the true turning points in our history, and the last call to let go of the life we planned and tried to manipulate at our convenience, and embrace the life that awaits us.
Amid these events of tremendous finitude and birth, we have the opportunity to not turn the page as in a birthday, but rather change the book entirely. And we have to stop to breathe. Beginnings are X-rays of endings. Thus, in the liminal space between one thing and another, which might be quite uncomfortable and long, we understand which parts have to be cast away forever and which ones are good foundations for what is to come. That is why we require absolutely all the patience and courage that we have foreseen in our spirit; new capacities for compassion and beauty; but mostly we require a sense of lightness and creativity which, although unprecedented in our life, occurs at that time and place because its always been there. New reefs and the secret gardens of octopuses are often born in shipwrecks.
A new heart for a New Year, always!