Living Well: Step into January, Verna Isbister


On Dec. 31 at midnight, we stepped through a doorway into a New Year and the month of January.  If we had been living in Ancient Rome, there would have been the two-sided face of the Roman god, Janus (pronounced Jay-nus), mounted above that doorway. Janus means “an arched doorway.”  One of Janus’ faces looked backwards to the past and the other face looked forward toward the future. The first month of the Roman calendar was called Januarius. 

Janus was the god of new beginnings and considered the most important of their gods. In his hands he held a staff to lead travellers and a key to open gates.  These archetypal symbols of walking through doorways, journeying with a trusted guide and holding keys to unlock a door or life’s mysteries, continue to offer us direction as we enter a new year.

Beginning a new year offers us an opportunity to reflect on the past and the future.  Looking back at 2020, this Roman god would have seen death, fear, isolation, confusion, trials and tribulations.  He would have also seen human ingenuity, compassion, creativity, and flexibility.  As the year closed, he would have seen the glimmer of a vaccine that would bring healing and hope.

Looking forwardto 2021, I don’t know what Janus can see.  One thing about this past year is that it’s taught us that we can’t plan too far ahead.As we approach the doorway of this new year, some of us will step slowly, carefully and cautiously.  Others will limp across the finish line of the 2020 marathon.  Some people will jump forward with anticipation, optimism and a desire for new beginnings.  How will you go through the doorway?  The end of a year provides us the opportunity to reflect.

Who have been our heroes? Who has held a staff to protect, support and keep us safe this year?  What did you hold on to for support?

What keys have we used or discovered to get through the obstacles of this past year?  What keys have we learned to living better or more responsibly?  What have the keys unlocked in your heart and soul?  Have you learned new things about yourself?

Dec. 31 is often associated with making New Year’s resolutions: to resolve, to find answers, to behave in a new manner or to change.  We do not know the resolution to the Covid narrative that we have been part of this past year and the sequel hasn’t been written. The word “resolution” comes from the Latin word “to loosen”.  I think we all have a longing for the loosening of the Covid rules and guidelines.  We want to see a resolution to this surreal story that has held us engrossed in its pages.I long to read a new story.

Janus was also known as the god of transitions, particularly from wartime to peace.  The year ahead will be a year of transition.  We have been through the wars and will now begin transitioning towards an unknown future.  January may be a long, stormy and trying month.  Already I’ve found myself more impatient than usual.  Saying, “sorry” is the firststep in the right direction. My emotional life and fortitude (“emotional strength that enables courage in the face of adversity”) also needs to transition towards a peaceful posture.

So as we turn our faces to the future, let us remember what we have learned as we step to the doorway marked 2021,hold up keys that will unlock the way and confidently step into this new year with our staffs in hand.  I invite you to find something to look forward to each day.

Join me in a common Roman toast (the Romans added toasted bread to their wine to reduce the acidity, thus the word “toast”)as we enter 2021:“To your health!”