Sunday, January 1, 2012


In 2012, 51% of Americans intend to exercise more often and 35% are committing to a diet (1). Resolutions like these, as well as fresh starts, occupy our thoughts around the New Year (when we’re not thinking about football, that is). Why does advancing one day in the calendar equate to new efforts and new hopes?

Ignoring any connotations the word has acquired through the current political scene, flipping from 2011 to 2012 suggests the possibility of change. We reflect on the past year, and envision how we can make the next one better. For those who had good fortune in ’11, it is also a time to appreciate the past. For my family, we are happy to be rid of ’11 and look forward to happiness in ’12 (Though ’11 did bring us nephew Baby Chase and my remission, for which we are very thankful). But why does January 1st feel like a fresh coat of paint or a blank check?

It’s easy to see why the health-related resolutions come after the last major holiday of the season. From Thanksgiving through New Year's, we gorge on appetizers at parties, booze it up, and eat more cookies than Santa. Weight-loss and exercise goals are a way to recover from the binge.

In terms of fresh starts, the emotional connotation of the New Year is grounded in the physical. A calendar year is one complete orbit of the Earth around the sun. Yesterday, we returned to the position our planet held one year ago, and today we began another 150 million kilometer lap. Literally, we are starting a new trip. (At least we don’t have to pack for it.) January 1st is an arbitrary place in orbit to mark the start and finish, but the same could be said about the starting line of any racetrack.

The New Year is a perfect time to feel energized about new efforts and new beginnings. Why not draw inspiration from our planet?  If our Earth can huff it around the sun, we as individuals can take on much smaller challenges (2). Also, we have the opportunity to view each galaxy and constellation that appears in the sky as we round the sun with a different perspective than we had a year ago.

Although our planet has been at each place in its orbit approximately 4.5 billion times before, this path will be different than all those that have come before it. Even the slightest friction in space can alter the planet’s course. For us, 2011 represented the year of cancer and the year of losing Lily. A single instance of friction—one mistake in the DNA replication process of a single cell—knocked us into a different orbit. We are excited to have that lap behind us and hope that 2012 will be remembered as a cancer-free year.

Whether ’11 was a great or lousy year for you, it’s over. Even if January 1st is an arbitrary starting point, our next lap has begun. Why not plan and hope for the next year like you would any other trip?

(1) Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll
(2) Technically, the sun’s gravitational pull is responsible for the Earth’s orbit. Regardless, a heck of a lot of energy is required to move this rock.