Sorry, Happy What?

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m not sure what to say to you.

On New Year's Eve, when I was young, too young to go out and party, my Dad used to take down his twelve gauge shotgun at midnight and go out into the front garden and blaze both barrels into the night sky. Our neighbours would do the same and, for a minute, the street was filled with the clap-clap noises that shotguns make. 

This may sound like criminal, backwoods, behaviour but it wasn’t. The people on our street were fishing people. People who sometimes hunted for their dinner. They came out and made a noise and saluted each other across the gardens then went back into their homes, another year older. 

When I was bigger, and able to get out to parties and dances, those big New Year’s Eve moments were taken up with the kissing of every willing girl in the vicinity. Booming music and flashing lights and a manic scramble from  mouth to mouth. More kisses were exchanged in that ten minute period than would ever be meted out through the entire rest of the year.

These type of celebration had some things in common. They saw off the old year with a little unusual excess. Perhaps more importantly, they allowed little or no opportunity to say anything out loud. You kissed someone or you shot your gun. You didn’t have to speak. 

Perhaps this was no accident. The more the years tick along, and the more we learn, the harder it is to know exactly what one should say when the minute hand finally skids across into another year. We can say what we always say and we can get away with it. ‘Happy New Year!’ We shout it, we whisper it, we mime it across a crowded room and it seems okay. It gets us through the moment. But it doesn’t really stand up to an awful lot of scrutiny, does it?

It’s a tall order, to wish someone an entirely happy new year. It’s a sort of an unattainable goal, like wishing someone a huge lottery win or eternal life. A noble sentiment but, by the very nature of its remove from any reality, it becomes something less than a simple greeting. It becomes almost a kind of a taunt. 

If I wish you a happy new year (and I probably will), we both know, deep down, that you’re probably not going to have one. This isn’t rocket science or even excess negativity. It’s just the way it always is. None of us will have a simply happy new year. The new year, at best, will be like all the other new years. There will be moments of personal sadness and stress. The world will throw up a number of disasters and man made horrors. There will be elements of struggle and worry and fear. There will be good times too, though. Great times, we hope. But it won’t be a happy new year or, on the off chance that it is, then the one that comes after it probably won’t be and next year’s wish will just become the same taunt only slightly deferred.

But I don’t mean to be churlish or petty. Not today. I want to wish you something. I want to wish us all something.

So, can I just wish you a Year? A New Year.

Can I wish that it will be as full of happiness and good things as it possibly can be and can I wish that the bad things, when they inevitably come, are bearable and that they may a least make us a little stronger or wiser or kinder than we were before.

I wish you a year. I wish you 2018. And I wish that we may all be here so that I can wish you a 2019 too, when that finally comes around.


Sod it. 

Happy New Year! 

You know what I mean.


Jim Murdoch said...

You’re right. Words lose their meanings if we’re not careful. For how many of us is “I love you too,” just the thing we say in response to our wives? It’s not that we don’t love them. They put up with all our shenanigans. How could we NOT love them? But the passion with which we once felt those words has long gone and probably for the best or we’d burn up with it. “Happy New Year” to my mind falls into the same category. We say it because it’s expected, like “I’m sorry for your loss” or, “No, your bum doesn’t look big in that.” It’s easier and the older we get the more easiness appeals. How often these days do I take the easy option? Most of the time. There’s no fight left in me, very little anyway. Do I hope you have a happy year, Ken? Yes, obviously. More realistically I hope you have a no bad year. No bad isn’t good but it’s bearable, liveable with. We Scots may be dour but we’ll also realists. Which is, I suppose, why we’re so dour. We know full well that happiness so often gets confused with the things we do to distract us from misery. So I suppose what I’m saying is I hope you have a thoroughly distracted new year and if a few moments of actual happiness sneak in don’t scare them away; they’re skittish.

Ken Armstrong said...

Cheers Jim. A very distracted New Year to you too. :)