Newness: The Time We Keep

For years, my husband and I have had a running joke about January 4th.

Sometimes, he’ll playfully bring it up when I resolve to try something new. He encourages me to break the January 4th Barrier.

Most of the time, perfectionism can be a heavy weight that holds us back even as we try to achieve, but at least in one respect, the perfectionism of my teenage years was kind of cute. Here’s why: I have a multitude of diaries from middle and high school which recount my experiences in great detail on January 1, 2, 3, and 4. But once we pass that fourth day, my experiences of angst, adolescent love, and cafeteria food always cease.

Each year, I would resolve to keep a diary, and eventually, when I would get too busy and miss a day (sorry, January 5th) I would just give up on it altogether. I missed a day; therefore, I would miss an entire year.

Our running joke about January 4th is that if a documentarian ever wanted to use my life as a case study to explore teenage experiences from the 90s, I would provide untold amounts of detail, but only through a tiny window of time each year.

silk shirt

(P.S. Documentarian, this outrageous, overly posed silk shirt shot from middle school must make it in your film. Because look at it.)

In all seriousness, we know that this is the time of year when many of us make new resolutions. Some of them are surface level commitments, some involve changes of habits, and others include deep hopes for sustained transformations in our character and actions. My hope is that we’ll all pass the January 4th Barrier this year.

But we don’t do that by flexing our perfectionism muscle with an even greater resolution to practice our resolutions beyond January 5th. We do it by recognizing that every moment presents itself as a new opportunity.

And I realize that sounds like such a platitude.
I feel like we should superimpose it over a “just hang in there” cat.


There we go.

But it’s also true. Every moment does truly present itself as a new opportunity. Every moment can be the needed springboard toward a new beginning.

earth and sun

An interesting thought popped in my mind last year on New Year’s Eve as the world was transitioning from 2014 to 2015. I decided to run this thought by my astronomer husband.

I know that. . .

A 24-hour day exists as the earth rotates once on its axis.
There is a physical, astronomical reality to mark this time.

A month corresponds roughly with the regular moon cycle.
There is a physical, astronomical reality to mark this time.

A calendar year exists as the earth revolves once around the sun.
There is a physical, astronomical reality to mark this time, BUT 

Why January?

I asked my husband, “Is there any astronomical reason that our calendar year begins in January? I don’t think there is. . . I think it’s just arbitrary, right?” We both concluded that there might be some historical reasons for placing the beginning of the year in January, but astronomically, the year could just as well begin in May or September.

So each year, we have this agreed upon time that we mark as new, and we feel the time beckon us with hopes and possibilities. The agreed upon moment rolls around, and even though it’s arbitrary, we allow this transition of time to orient us toward newness.

And so here we are in January. It’s our collective time of newness, and I hope it transforms us. But I also hope we’ll recognize that new beginnings can come in March, June, August, and even December. This can happen. . .

When something unexpected shakes us, and we discover strength we didn’t know we had,

When a new pathway opens that we never considered,

When we’re up to our eyeballs with household to-do lists and are suddenly overcome with gratitude for the people who live in the household,

When we go to a trusted friend for advice, and she reminds us we don’t have to settle for the way we’ve been living,

When we lose sleep for those who are suffering and then resolve to walk alongside them,

When a stranger meets us and hopes we’ll notice him, and we do.

All of these moments can initiate our new beginnings.
So let’s look for them, celebrate them, and break the January 4th Barrier.

Renee Roederer

This post was the first in a series about newness. Here are the other three:
Newness: Belonging Marks Beginning
Newness: Rehearsing Beloved
Newness: Redeeming the Time

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