Happy New Year! Although I might (dare I admit it?) be a member of the Xmas ‘Bah! Humbug!’ brigade, I do like the feeling of new beginnings that the New Year brings.
How apt that our Roman ancestors named the first month of the year after Janus, their god of doors and gates. Doors and gates serve as both ways out and ways in. I love it that Janus has two faces, one looking forwards and one looking back. The beginning of January seems a good time for looking back at the last year, and forward to the next.
On a global level, the past year has, as always, brought devastating events and situations that we might only learn about through the media, but which will have affected those involved on a very deep and personal level. My own highs and lows are so small in comparison.
Looking back over the last year, among my personal highlights are winning a local speech contest and being the runner up at the area contest. Low points include my mother-in-law dying but, at 95, we could truly think of celebrating what had been her long and fruitful life.
Looking further back at previous years … but I wonder sometimes if I look back too much. Writing my memoir, The Dark Threads, made my troubled teens seem like only yesterday. Is writing cathartic? I’m not sure. I couldn’t stop looking back after its publication either. What was once a secret I tried to push away, has become something I’ve thought about, talked about, written about, chewed on, choked upon and spat out until I’m sick-sick-sick of the disturbing memories. I do think it’s important to face the demons of the past, to look them full in the face, to reflect, to try to understand and, hopefully, to learn from history and to change things for others if we can. It’s also important to look forward, to move on.
Perhaps my old childhood friend, Wendy, had the right idea. We’ll have been aged around nine when her mum took us on a train journey to Blackpool. Wendy pestered her mum to swap seats with her because, after a while, she decided she didn’t like travelling backwards. Her mum was settled in her seat by then and reluctant to move. But Wendy insisted. She said: ‘I want to see where I’m going to, not where I’m coming from’. Over the years I have often thought about those words when I’ve found myself bogged down by my past and in danger of getting stuck in it.
Thinking again about the face of Janus that looks back, I am reminded of how, when I was a child, like most children I was curious about things and I didn’t always do as I was told. Intrigued by the Bible story of Lot’s wife, I used to think, if I had been Lot’s wife, I, too, would probably have looked back, just as she did. Hey, be careful, Janus, or you might get stuck and end up as a pillar of salt.