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Sunday 23 September 2018
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As the second hand ticks….

Sharda Patasar writes a weekly column for the Newsday.

A little cartoon came in on a group chat just before I sat to write this last column of the year.

Character one, a little girl, asks: “What will the new year bring us?”

Character two – the cat – answers: “Three hundred and 65 opportunities.”

Well, that’s all well and good for a cat to say – nine lives and all. Has anyone ever wondered about that nine-lives theory? Seems that nine is a magic number and the nine-lives theory is linked to the animal’s resilience, from what I’ve read, its ability to survive falls or situations that would have killed another animal or human. A cat’s ability to land on its feet even from extreme heights also has to do with its skeletal structure, which makes it more flexible, according to internet sources. It’s a useful symbol for the new year, keywords being resilience, flexibility and landing.

The prospect of the new year fills many of us with the promise of new beginnings. It’s in the air and life feels as though it’s about to be renewed. But I’m not concerned much with beginnings at this point. What seems of most importance at the start of a new year is escaping the danger of euphoria – the euphoria of possibilities that creates an image about this new “thing” that we hold in our heads that we resolve with great determination to follow through on our plans.

What is always interesting in this exercise of resolutions is the way in which people set up and think about newness. These resolutions for many people most times are about starting something from the beginning, like, “I am going to start exercising from the first week of the year,” or “I am going to start eating more healthily,” or “I am going to plan my week.”

There’s so much “going to” in all the plans that I wonder whether we realise that “going to” is such an indefinite future that the likelihood of starting has already been sabotaged.

Why? Because most times, it’s really about how we think about resolutions. We know that we should do such and such, but the “why” is not usually the question that we ask ourselves. We make resolutions as usual because it gives those of us who do them a sense of purpose, renewed energy to confront an entire new year. The new year is both tangible reality (birthdays, semesters, deadlines for taxes and mortgages etc) – and imagined, for while the calendar will say January 1, 2018, our lives are pretty much similar to December 31.

What exactly changes? Perhaps it’s really about navigating our real and imagined worlds – external and internal time.

In the internal, with which I’m more concerned, the making of newness is important, for they give us a sense of movement; resolutions are always good, for they are goals and, therefore, I cannot discount their value, but rather than thinking of the new year as a time to begin, perhaps it might be more manageable to think of it as another opportunity to renovate. Sometimes renovations may require tearing down of old structures or just simply tweaking or bettering an existing structure but these all happen with a larger picture in mind. Resolutions in my own opinion should be about enhancement rather than re-inventing the wheel, a more manageable idea than that of “beginning.”

The year 2017 was a difficult year for many in Trinidad – retrenchments, high cost of living, forex issues and poor administration. On the international front, refugee crises continue, slave trades and the Trumpian order of reckless, irresponsible administration seem to be the general characteristic of the world that we inhabit. The average citizen continues to go about her daily life, living with the decisions made by those placed there and those who place themselves in powerful positions to govern their respective nations. But even while stories continue to develop across the globe, it may be wise this coming year to hold on to our own sense of self.

What matters in this trek towards the new once again, is that we recognise that the sense of the new is really self-created.

As the second hand moves us over 12 pm tonight and we celebrate the passage of time with the welcoming of another year, may we keep in mind that the new year is our own creation. Calendars simply organise time for systems to work. And while we are not completely immune to the impact of social, political and economic systems, we do have control over our own rhythms.

That being said, one recognises that that rhythm is never easy to maintain.

I do wish everyone a very happy 2018! And may we enjoy the stops and starts and plot twists that inevitably mark each of our lives.


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