Originally published as a column on CFJC Today on January 2, 2017.

img_1035Today, on the first day of the year, I had the sweet chance to hold an 11-day-old baby for a few minutes. It’s a form of therapy you could say. Blissfully unaware of the hubbub around her, the baby slept, and her tiny face with occasional newborn grimaces was mesmerizing.

There I was, having just stepped into the new year hours ago, yet the ‘new’ was no longer attached to the year we have just transitioned into but to this new life that reminded me of my sons, of all the new beginnings we crossed together since, of all the lives mine intersected with since I can remember. ‘New’ is an inebriating concept. The desire to do better, to do more, to do, is a powerful one.

My thoughts curled around the many promises I made at the beginning of each year. Lullabies I promised to sing to my boys but sometimes forgot, too caught up in daily must-do activities to remember, too tired to sing out loud.

Promises to keep grace on my side no matter what, to be a better parent, a better friend (to myself included) and a better spouse, to be all of that with room for more… Life got in the way enough times to bring me to my knees. Some promises you keep and some you break, and that brings the humbleness in, the understanding that it is not the performance that matters in the end but the presence.

That some lullabies were never sang is a fact. The snuggles that became deep slumber at the end of the day are lessons I understood later on. Funny thing, that’s what I remember the most. It is about the presence, rather than about the performance. Doing your best under the given circumstances.

It’s what prevents me nowadays from making new year resolutions of any other kind but the ones that bring me closer and truer to those I love. Presence. When well connected to those we care about, we become better, whether we’re aware of it or not. Presence and unconditional acceptance of each other put the wind in our sails. No date stamped on any promises, all that counts is remembering that we are the ones giving meaning to days rather than the other way around.

We saw the end of a year that packed tragedies of many kinds. Every one of them, whether it was war, drug or accident-caused, brought forth the same: people’s lives were ended. People were lost from the loved ones. There is no antidote for absence.

Every one of the stories I read made me cringe in different ways, yet the thought rising every time was the same: presence is what matters in the end. While we still are, while the ones we care about still are, being present keeps us willing, inspired and discerning of the beauty of the journey rather than the promise of a set-in-stone destination.

This year’s promises have to do with holding someone’s hand when they need it the most and reminding people of the smiles they locked inside and can set free. It’s not the beginning of the new year that gives meaning to the rest of the days but our presence in every one of them that moulds them into meaningful bits of life to cherish.

The stories that I’ve learned about throughout the year that passed reminded me of the one simple truth we’re all too often guilty of forgetting: everyone is fighting a battle or more, everyone is carrying a story within. Many have but shreds of happiness in them, yet presence makes everything hurt less.

We are born craving presence, that’s what holding the new baby reminded me. It’s not a feature that requires upgrades or special talents. It requires us to slow down to be someone’s parent, someone’s child or spouse or friend. May this year be the one when we do it a bit more than last year or the years before.

Happy New Year to all!