Letting go of the bad and starting fresh in 2020

Joe Pisani bemoans the endless cycle of shoveling snow.

Joe Pisani bemoans the endless cycle of shoveling snow.

Joe Pisani /

A new year is upon us, and it’s time for revelry, romance and revenge and anything else you can think of, but as my mother often said, “Don’t get your hopes up.” You’ll only be disappointed.

Instead of having hope in the future, I often find myself thinking the new year will be the same old, same old or something worse.

Things never seem to get better. Taxes go up, 401(K)s go down, we get older, our coworkers get younger, politicians get crazier, our health deteriorates and problems that weren’t solved last year persist into the next.

People who drink too much drink even more. Compulsive spenders head toward financial ruin. We pay more for less and have to buy our own bags. The hole in the tailpipe of your Toyota goes from an imperceptible sputtering to a full-blown roar, and the muffler falls off while you’re driving on the turnpike. Life can be absolutely unbearable.

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, here’s my free advice for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year: Keep your head down, take one step at a time and watch out for the FBI, not to mention the IRS, because no one is safe.

When life becomes overwhelming, stop what you’re doing and start living a day at a time. Generally, we’re overcome by anxiety when we concentrate on things beyond our control and fail to focus on the things within our control. Just because the world is spinning wildly out of control, doesn’t mean you don’t have to be.

From personal experience, I’ve learned you can’t live a 72-hour day, with one foot in the past and one foot in the future. You can’t live three years in one. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.

A family member who shall go unnamed is always nursing a past resentment or worrying about a future calamity, and she usually brings the rest of us along for the ride. She reminds me of the Roman god Janus, who had two faces, one looking back and one looking forward. She still agonizes over what So&So did to her in seventh grade, and she’ll obsess over having to deal with an annoying coworker on an assignment that won’t start for weeks.

I suppose she got this character defect from me. More nights than I care to remember, I’ve lain awake staring at the ceiling, worrying about paying bills or how I should deal with my boss. And if I wasn’t preoccupied with an uncertain future, I was obsessed with an unchangeable past, recalling arguments or insults, regretting things I’d done or failed to do or wished I’d done differently. My father once gave me some great advice. They were three magical words: “Let it go.”

Too often, we brood over things beyond our control or fear what the future will bring ... and often never does. All of us will feel pain at some point or other, but when you live a day at a time, those occasions are manageable. This much I’m sure of: Things can change for the better if you focus on making positive change in small ways because miracles occur in the present moment.

Yes, the new year can be better than last year. Things can improve. I’ve seen proof of it. I’ve seen people with substance abuse problems overcome their addictions and liberate themselves from despair. I’ve seen angry, resentful people find peace and forgiveness. I’ve seen emotional wounds heal with compassion and love. I’ve known people who lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol, although I’m not one of them.

Living a day at a time lets you appreciate the beauty that surrounds us in the natural world, in our friendships and in our family. Forget the pursuit of happiness, look for the joy in the present moment, which is easy to miss when’re you’re distracted by things beyond your control. If you look for the joy, you’ll find it. Then share it.

Joe Pisani can be reached at joefpisani@yahoo.com.