Thinking Out Loud: Happy New Year! Better or Bitter…

John T. Catrett III
John T. Catrett III

  Was 2021 really a good year?  Or, would you call it an unlucky year for you?  Are you really looking forward to 2022 with hopeful anticipation, eager to explore new opportunities?  Come on, let’s be honest, do you really want to be better or bitter in this New Year?   

   Many, maybe even most, feel inspired this time of year.  They are ready to make changes in their lives and let go of those things that have held them back.  They want to grow into a fuller expression of their best self!  If this is you, you are already motivated and on your way!  However, for some reading this article, the upcoming year only seems to shine the light onto more pain.  Maybe you have had a year that has been tough, filled with struggle, stress, hardship, defeat, and loss.  You may have lost hope, given up, or resigned yourself to an unhealthy or unhappy existence.  If so, you are reading the right article today.

   As a Hospice Chaplain, I talk with many people who want to feel happier.  They know they are not happy now and are not quite sure how to experience great joy.  Happiness, fulfillment, and joy are not things that merely happen to you.  That is because they are each a state of mind – they come from within.  Each is a choice, a way of being totally in the moment, choosing to find elements in your everyday life to enjoy.

   How do you do that?  It helps if you know what types of situations or environments that are most pleasing to you.  If you do not yet know, then it is time to find out.  We all have interests and pastimes that fill us up, make us feel light, and help to put us in a positive frame of mind.  Experiment, try new hobbies, visit new places, pursue one of your passions, seek a fresh touch from God’s hand, and do these things until you discover something that seems effortless, validating, inspiring, and fun!

   If you are waiting for the perfect person to come into your life, then stop waiting!  You are the perfect person to spend the rest of your life with each day!  No other person on earth is better for you than you.  If you are waiting for ideal circumstances or waiting for a year with no upsets or heartache, then you will be unhappy for a long time, because there is no “perfect” time.  One thing is definite; if you do not choose happiness this New Year, you probably will not experience much of it.  You choose whether you carry around inner peace and calm, or whether you carry anguish, discontent, strife, worry, or anger.

   Did you realize that you have the power to decide now, way ahead of time, how you will respond to whatever life throws at you this next year?  You can!  You do not have to react to challenges and upsets by going into a dark abyss.  You can choose to look for the positive, loving hand of God working in your life and refuse to see yourself as a victim.

One more thing - be sure to give yourself permission to enjoy your life.  Some of us feel guilty if we have fun; some think it is almost frivolous, but it is not!  Being unhappy does not make you a better parent, boss, employee, child of God, friend or spouse.  Being unhappy is not your destiny!  You have an opportunity to be better or bitter this New Year, and you get to make that decision!

   If you focus on finding happiness somewhere out there, you will miss it, as it is right in front of you.  Here and now.  Find a way to experience happiness now, today: look on the light side, enjoy the Lord’s presence, dance in your living room, and laugh until your sides hurt!

   Have some fun this year!  Make it a Happy New Year in the Lord Jesus!

John T. Catrett III is ONHL hospice chaplain and writes a regular column about loss of loved ones and how to cope with grief.