Linda Downing

Another year or New Year?

Here come the resolutions and if we're not careful, they'll be a repetition of all previous years. That's where one of Dr. Phil's favorite questions comes in: "How's that working for you?" The answer for most of us is, "Not well." Is there a way to advance? Instead of just another year, could we really make 2014 a New Year?

This is the year 5774 on the Hebraic calendar which started back in September. One prognosticator says that when assigned meanings for the numbers are broken down, it renders "leaping forward." If superglued to the same, unmet, frustrated desires, we cannot leap. If the right outcome is not there, we can continue doing what we've always done and resign ourselves to getting what we always got; or, we can change.

Of her own changes Maya Angelou writes: "The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind." That's a key: How badly do I want it? We must define our own "it."

What if the change we need to make involves admitting we have had the wrong goals and consequently made the wrong decisions? That demands the kind of willing soul-searching that threatens core foundations. It may also destroy the pictures other people hold of us. That's another key: Let them go. They are responsible for themselves. Your job is you. Change demands we mind our own business like we have never done before.

Too many of us are too needy. We latch on to people and projects as if our lives depend on it. That is because we think they do. Another key: They don't.

Soul-petting hugs from humans like ourselves offer only temporary solace. Maybe most people prefer solace to change. That would help explain the popularity of Amma, the "hugging saint," who has people all over the world waiting in line for hours for a prolonged squeeze. According to a profile of this Indian guru in December's Oprah magazine, her mission is to comfort humanity. Meredith Bryan, the article's author, received "the hug" in Massachusetts where Amma sat on a cushioned throne that demanded the "huggees" join her on the floor.

Bryan, describing herself as a "failed Mormon," wrote: "No Bible stories to believe, no strict rules to inevitably break: Just bury your head in her bosom and wait for existential comfort, for lightning to strike." Considering that lightning strikes are common but statistically very few hit people, we could be in for a long-if-ever wait. Besides, that kind of change could kill us. We seek a better life.

There is no quick fix to our need to start a New Year; it is enough to embrace the hope. Exercising our will is the most godlike attribute we have, offering the potential for success or failure. To define our own quest rather than let others govern it offers the only new path.

Direction comes in odd packages. A recent poll finds the majority of Americans do not want the prohibition on in-flight phone calls lifted. We need quiet somewhere. A new study says vitamin supplements do not help prevent chronic disease. We need healing from an outside Source. We might consider that "if any of us be in Christ," there is promised change: He or she is a "new creature" and "all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17) - a true New Year.

Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at