Navigating the New Year:
One Face to the Future,
One Face to the Past
By Tom and Linda Peters
The New Year brings a desire for rebirth, which is why so many people—45% by some estimates—make New Year’s resolutions.
This year, Linda and I resolved to simplify our lives by clearing out clutter and paring down our possessions. We thumbed through high school yearbooks, through 30 year-old vacation photos, through journal entries and childhood toys, through the myriad reminders of the joy and pain that we’ve carried with us from place to place. And we talked about why we were keeping them.
January is a time of transitions, a time of reflection as we review the triumphs and disappointments of the departing year. The emotional kaleidoscope of Christmas-time gives way to stillness and introspection. It is the time of Janus.
In the Roman pantheon of gods, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted as having two faces, looking at both the future and the past at the same time. He watches over us during his namesake month as we resolve to lose weight, or to exercise, or to unpack another box full of memorabilia.
As the New Year approached, we examined moth-eaten teddy bears and faded photos of old flames. We talked about our memories and the intangibles associated with each object. A pattern emerged, and we noticed that the main emotion our old things evoked was sadness. So why were we holding onto them?
Our culture encourages us to cling to our possessions. If our closets can no longer hold them, we can outsource them to climate-controlled storage facilities. The self-storage industry in the United States generates more than $20 billion in annual revenue and is the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry.
We had formed lifelong attachments to physical things, to items we’d outgrown, to feelings and memories that were standing in the way of new growth. But we were reluctant to release these things because we were scared. Because we thought that our stuff could somehow define us, that our history was etched onto dusty relics from earlier life, that the strength of our identities depended on the continued possession of unused items. We worried that maybe we were not enough, just as we are, without overflowing boxes of documentary evidence.
For 2015, we’re resolving to keep only the things that we use, releasing the emotional weight of the things that no longer support us. We’re helping each other to move forward unencumbered, to replace old keepsakes with spiritual strength, and to trust in an abundant universe where a new path is always waiting.
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