Faith, Family, and God: Time, Death and Not Looking Forward to the New Year

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bible_smBy: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist–

New Year’s makes me depressed. I’ve never liked the holiday. The more time passes, the more distasteful it gets. There’s much on my to-do list and time is diminishing at a faster clip.

This is not about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Nor is it about Blue Christmas Syndrome where millions struggle with sadness during the entire holiday season. Although a Christian, I’m indifferent to Christmas, a co-opted Pagan holiday that conveniently ignores the birth of Jesus in late spring or early summer.

Thanksgiving is nice, but the only thing most seem to remember about it is the inevitable family drama and petty feuds. Still, it’s New Year’s that brings me down.

It’s as if instead of having a light bulb over my head offering a wealth of good ideas and solutions, I have an hourglass and I can see the sand running out. I almost feel as if a force is pressing down on me.

I’ve even developed a bizarre ritual of sometimes not letting myself go to sleep. If I don’t go to sleep then it’s not tomorrow. It’s still today. Tomorrow has been delayed.

My anxiety about time isn’t about death. Death doesn’t frighten me. Perhaps it should. Although I haven’t been to the other side yet, I sincerely believe there are far worse things than death. In fact, death liberates the soul to move to a higher spiritual level.

No one knows for certain what’s waiting for them on the other side, but I’m curious to see it. I hope to be reunited with my precious Seal Point Siamese cats, Tristan and Isolde. The possibility of reincarnation bothers me. One life has been enough. I’m not interested in coming back as man, cat, mineral, vegetable or anything else. Just let me move on to a better place.

New Year’s revelers enjoy the holiday because it’s another chance to party and also look ahead to a brighter time. It can signify moving beyond the trials and tribulations of an awful year, whether from unemployment, health issues, or relationship breakup. Ironically, even in years objectively considered challenging, I’ve never been enthusiastic to send a bad one on its way.

The maddening discussion I have with myself about time, and probably purpose, is tempered by one of my favorite writers – Leo Tolstoy.

“You say you would do twice, ten times, a hundred times, more than you did,” wrote Tolstoy. “But if you did ten thousand times ten thousand more than all men [and women] have done what would that have been in the work of God? A mere nothing! God’s work … is infinite. God’s work is you … be not a laborer [but a son or daughter], and you will become a partner of the infinite God … your work will be neither small nor great, it will be God’s work.”

The quote keeps me grounded. There are a lot of very old, bitter, unhappy people I’ve met. I’ve realized they were probably as nasty when they were in their 30s as they are in their 80s. It speaks to the quality of one’s life, not how many years you live. It speaks to celebrating something every day with friends and the family you make. There’s always more you can do with your career or in trying to make a difference for others. Just do what you can, where you can, and find joy. If only I could follow my own advice.

*Paul is an author, attorney, and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY. He recently authored “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis – Learn to Live and Work Ethically,” and is founder of www.CorporateChaplaincy.biz.”