The first month of the year is named after Janus, the two-faced Roman god of doorways. With one face he guarded the front door and with the other he also watched the rear entrance. A duel-dimensional designation for January is appropriate since, as far as I’m concerned, at first glance the month has but two good things and a host of unpleasantries surrounding it.
My wife’s birthday occurs halfway through January and our wedding anniversary is near the end of the month. Those are good things, because if I hadn’t met my wife, I probably would be more arrogant than I already am. She often makes me face my shortcomings and realize my potential to be a better person.
Now for the unsavory elements of the month:
With the onset of winter in earnest, the “elements” are number one on my list of things I don’t like about January. The glow of the holidays that makes snowfalls “magical” and winter “inviting” has passed, leaving icy temperatures and dirty slush in its tracks. The Dutch once called the first month Lauwmaand, the “frosty month.” Someone should write lyrics for January similar to Maxwell Anderson’s “September Song.” The words for January’s jingle might read: “Oh, it’s a long, long while from January to May, and the days drag on when everything is grey!”
Even using the word grey or gray is two-faced. It’s an intermediate color between black and white. It is a neutral color or achromatic color, meaning literally that it is a color “without color,” because it can be composed of black and white. It is the color of a cloud-covered sky, of ash and of lead.
Putting weather aside, the next negative I associate with January concerns money; namely, the necessity to spend it. January means the arrival of bills from holiday charges along with higher heating bills. The first month also serves as a reminder that it’s time to begin preparing paperwork to pay the tax man again.
By mid-January, most of the resolutions made so fervently at the start of the New Year have been broken. I’ve said in the past one always can and should begin again, but it’s disheartening to realize how difficult it is to honor a commitment, even just to ourselves.
Finally, with the beginning of the cycle of time for another new year, it’s discouraging to realize the year is 2021! How can that be? Why aren’t we still somewhere in the 1900s? It seems like yesterday when in college I was assigned to read a book about the future by George Orwell titled “1984.”
On a more positive note, while the year is only a few days old, why not consider being like the two-faced Janus and look forward and backward simultaneously. Look ahead not only to the coming months but also back over the past 12 months. As my good spouse will most assuredly advise, we advance best in life by looking back at our mistakes, miscalculations and offenses against others, so we don’t repeat them. At the same time, we need to look ahead as best we can and plan for the future.
On some nasty day this month – “when the weather outside is frightful” – it would be good to sit inside in a warm place and look backward at the year that just became history. Even with the vivid memories still fresh of the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, ask yourself what you wish you had done differently regarding your family, your work or your leisure time. With that information at hand, look ahead and jot down some concrete corrections for your course this year. Be both bold and brave. And instead of making New Year’s resolutions, make new life resolutions to not only avoid repeating mistakes but to savor the sweet and sour moments of each day. Perhaps 2020 was not the horrible year whose end could not come soon enough. In the great adversity and calamity we faced, maybe this is the time of urgent need to place our complete trust in God and each other.
Yes, we complain about January even though there are many good things about the month. Who would deny the beauty of freshly fallen snow or frost-coated trees and shrubs, glistening in sunlight? Who doesn’t enjoy sitting indoors beside a warm, cozy fireplace while the winter winds rage outside? So, admittedly, I do enjoy the season of winter, just not so much of it.
It’s the overcast days that make the sunny ones appear all the brighter. And it’s the trials we experience that awaken us to the delights of the day. The season of spring would not be as welcome as it is if we didn’t experience the gloominess of a long winter.
My hope for you and me this month, and for the New Year ahead of us, is to be able to see clearly both backward and forward. May we be long-sighted to see what shaped out past so we might be wise in planning ahead for various possibilities hidden in the future. And may we have the foresight to consider all a blessing that lies directly in front of us, even if it’s six inches of snow we have to shovel!