2009: So Many New Beginnings

New Years Day is just another of the multitude of new beginnings in life.

As 2009 begins, I am reminded of how many new beginnings we experience throughout our lives. Perhaps we all know that saying that every moment is a new beginning (’today is the first day of the rest of your life’… blah blah blah) but only when there is a radical shift from past moments to present is the evidence for that truth big enough, the transition bumpy enough, that we recognize it for its profound truth.

New Year’s Day does mark a new beginning by date but that doesn’t usually lend itself to some radical shift or change in our lives. Those changes happen at times when we least expect them, marked by extraordinary moments in ordinary life.

For example, a few months ago I went to a routine lecture at UCLA and bumped into a colleague I hadn’t seen for several years. Enthusiastically I shouted her name and walked up to greet her. She reacted oddly, as if she wasn’t sure who I was, and when I asked ‘how are you?’ she remarked, ‘old’. She clearly wasn’t the colleague I had known; something had changed dramatically. I found out later that she has been diagnosed with a form of dementia and was beginning to show signs of it.

It brought to the fore of my thoughts the physical changes that happen with age, some more serious than others, and the reminder that change – new moments – arise again and again in life.

My children being home from college over the holidays was another reminder of this repetition of new beginnings (and endings – or ‘deaths’ that accompany them). My son remarked over Christmas how much he ‘loved my help in his life, when he asks for it’ but appreciates it if I don’t get involved otherwise. Wow, that realization – that my children are now the directors of their lives and I (and my husband) are but the support team for them – again marks a ‘new beginning’ and ‘ending’ of a previous existence.

I am constantly amazed by how radical the shift is with the last child leaving home and how large the divide between the role as parent when your children are young to the role as parent of adults. And as they become comfortable in directing their own lives, the tables begin to change with my husband and I noticing their nurturing behavior toward us and us as recipients rather than the other way around.

So many mini moments since our last child left for college are constant reminders of the necessity to ‘let go’ of one role and embrace a new one over and over in life.

Such new beginnings make New Years Day pale in comparison.