It was either Elsa or Anna (I should know which) who implored us to, ‘Let it go’, as she belted her message out, Disney style. And why not take advice from a cartoon character when the conventional leadership and global governance of the day plays out like a poorly scripted soap opera? We may take it where we find it, and ‘let it go’ is sound advice, up there with that most prosaic of motherly advice to young children: “go now whether you need to or not as it could be a while before we’re near one again.” (In some ways, advice not dissimilar to ‘let it go’.) Back to the world according to Disney – eventually we all have to let it go: people, places, worldly possessions; all of which boils down to letting go of time and of the past, lest we become, dare I say, frozen. Regardless of how tightly we may grip onto it, 2018 is letting go of us, so it may as well be a mutual break-up, a cordial parting, a calm slipping of the anchor, taking leave of the ups and downs, and settling for ‘no hard feelings’ as to what did or didn’t come to pass this year. There are many more colourful ways to utter those three little words. My friend’s father, for example, employs a fine turn of phrase when referring to shuffling off misdemeanours that might have tumbled across your path and lie on the road like an unmovable boulder – ‘sure there’ll not be a word said about it the day you’re getting married.’ Whether or not you are already married, or the notion to wed is well past its sell by date, the message is clear: let it go. Alternatively, you could adopt the style of The Proclaimers, singing in best Leith accents, “It’s over and done with, it’s over and done with.”
A message was forwarded to me this morning recommending we tie up loose ends before letting go and moving into the year ahead. Appropriate – I thought – as I spent yesterday stitching the undone seams of a pair of 21 year-old tan, kid leather gloves that an ex-boyfriend’s mother gave to me as a Christmas present in 1997. Back then, I was delighted with them, I’d never owned anything quite so sophisticated, and I’d worn them to near death as they entered a third decade. But I’m not ready to let go of them. Every so often, like I did yesterday, I rescue their loose ends with the finest, sharpest needle I can find, plant a thimble over my thumb, and with it, press the end of the needle through the leather in neat, elfin stitches. I daresay the message was meant to be more metaphorical in nature, but I’m pleased with the loose ends I’ve secured, I’m happy that my gracefully ageing gloves will finger their way into 2019 and see another year’s use.
Tying up loose ends, stitching gaping seams, shaking the dust off the old year – whatever our chosen small, symbolic act is (intentional or accidental), it will help us jump free and unfettered into next year, releasing the unknown to come trundling towards us unimpeded. And isn’t it just as well we don’t know what lies before us? I don’t mean this in a doom and gloom sense – I think it is as important not to know about the joy ahead, as much as the trials. For if we knew what joy was to come, its pleasure would be diluted, the surprise less sweet; and if we knew what sorrow lay ahead, we would probably underestimate our ability to weather it, and we’d have absolutely no idea that any good could come from failure, breakup, destruction, or loss. “We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen,” said D.H. Lawrence, in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and a new year allows the sky to open up once more. The year is going, let him go. A new year is rapping on the door, take your gloves off and usher her in.
In Memoriam (Ring Out Wild Bells), by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.