Last night I wished a friend of mine a happy new year. She replied that I was too early with my greeting. Surely we’d speak again before the new year. Then I wished her a happy end of the year. She said I was still speaking too soon. Later, as the clock ticked past midnight, and the date rolled over to December 31, I wished her a happy end of 2011. She smiled, and bid me goodnight.
One of my favorite lines from the Pixar film The Incredibles is Mr. Incredible’s response to that classic car travel question, “Are we there yet?” “We’ll get there when we get there!” is his wonderful reply. These days, when the kids ask me that question, it’s with a smile forming on their faces. They expect the Mr. Incredible reply. Instead, they’re more likely to ask, “How much longer?” What they’ve learned, I think, is that unless we’re stopped in traffic, the answer to their question gets smaller and smaller each time they ask. It’s also a sign that they’re living in larger swathes of time. Six hours is long, but no longer an eternity. Five and a half hours is shorter. So is four. And three. Time gets longer in the last hour. That hour still takes forever. That’s a burden stemming from the wonder of anticipation. It takes forever for me, too.
Another year is upon us. It may take a long time to get to midnight tonight, especially if you are outside, and it is cold where you are. Soon 2012 will be done, as well. We’ll be on to 2013. That year will also pass faster than we believe. “Where did it go?” we will ask. I love the way finding myself in the flow of experience, removes the felt sense of time. You lose yourself so completely, you’re no longer aware that hours have passed, not until the trip to the beach is over, or the book you’re reading ends. Those are times when we’re fully present to life. It’s also the only part of our waking time, that resembles a good night’s sleep. The kind of night where sunlight streaming through a window is enough to roust you, and you beat the alarm clock at your side. I love wakings like that!
My favorite birthday greeting is a variation on the following. “Here’s to the year ahead and all it holds! May your lap overflow with all manner of good things. And in the difficult times, which will come, may you remember your friends and family are at your side.” I’ll let that be my wish for your 2012. Am I too soon? If you think I am, pretend you’re on the other side of the International Date Line. The rest of us? We’ll get there when we get there!