At year’s end it’s customary to look back to review while looking forward to renew. It’s a time of transition, when a new portal opens to us to either pass through to a new beginning—or cling to a past that cannot return.
This is why ancient Romans built their cardinal temple to Janus with one door facing the rising sun and the other its setting.
The familiar, two-headed likeness of Janus crowned the doorways of many Roman residences. His name, in fact, was taken from the Etruscan word jauna, which means "door."
He was thought of as the Porter of Heaven and invoked at the start of each day. This Guardian of Exits and Entrances symbolized both beginning and end. He was supreme gatekeeper, presiding over the start of all activities. He inaugurated the seasons. The first day of each month was his holy day. He served as a constant reminder that we must pass through a portal in order to enter a new place. Deference was paid to him at life's most important beginnings, such as birth and marriage.
That’s why I’ve been thinking about Janus lately. Because on December 1, 2015, my companion for most of my life died.
When my wife transitioned from this life to what we trust will be her next, she passed through the portal alone, thereby presenting me with a portal of my own.
In her book, Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships, Diane Vaughan described the phenomenon this way:
Uncoupling is a transition into a different lifestyle, a change of life course which, whether we recognize and admit it in the early phases or not, is going to be made without the other person.
We might better understand life’s transitions if we think of a portal not only as a door, but also as a choice. A choice between potential and act, stasis and motion.
The choice I face as I enter a new stage of my life, of being “single” again, is whether to enlarge my life by embracing new possibilities offered by a changed lifestyle or see myself lessen through self-indulgent inertia.
The nature of life is change. Even the ancient Romans recognized this fact when they created their god of transitions. The nature of human beings, on the other hand, is to resist change.
Elizabeth Lesser, author of Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, puts it so well:
How ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.
The choice I face as I enter the new year of 2016 is one that none of us welcomes, but one that each of us must make in times of unwelcome transition. We must choose between the rising of the sun and its setting.
*The painting of Janus is by South African artist Christo Coetzee (1929-2001) from the Sanlam Collection.
Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Guy-Boat-Peter-Yaremko/dp/0990905012/
Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.
- Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R3SF200
- iBooks (iPad): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-light-from-within/id950880424?mt=11
- Barnes & Noble (Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-light-from-within-peter-w-yaremko/1120862902?ean=9780990905004
And my weekly reflection on each Sunday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy can be found at: http://www.peterwyaremko.com/mercy