Janus and the duality of new beginnings

It’s January – a new year! Yaaaaaay! and UGH!

Today is the fifth day of January and I already have mixed feelings about this year. I feel like I am on a rollercoaster and on a hamster wheel – a hamster wheel on a rollercoaster? One moment I am feeling cozy and reading a book for the joy of the story, not for research. Fully enjoying “wintering.” The next moment I’m creating a new website to try to start some new career that I can’t really imagine, so it’s hard to get going but I just know I am on the right track, so I spend hours working on it – publish it and see 5 people looked at it and none of them went past the first page. So, was it a waste or was it my first step towards something new? Only time will tell for the future is SO unknown.

Lately, I’ve been anxious. I think that is the best word. I feel excited that the future is unknown and full of possibility, but the unknown is also scary and full of insecurity. My studies taught me to become more observant and see patterns, so I do not allow these feelings to rule me as they once did. Part of how I understand what is going on – because when I get like this – anxious, restless, excited, agitated, and basically at a loss for how to cope, I say ‘what is going on?’ – is to turn to stories for guidance.

I have been bouncing around between myths, trying to figure out how relate myth to myself and to others. I went from painting an octopus, to studying the Kraken, to the Hawaiian god that transformed into an octopus, and finally the octopus-woman that returns to Earth every few generations to have offspring with her offspring. I decided this was not the rabbit hole for me at this particular time. I have been continuing with this pattern all year (all five days of it!!) actually it’s been going on for weeks – I started drawing and painting and then realized I didn’t know what to do with all these paintings and drawings and painting and drawing take a lot of time and I want to learn the guitar again and how to sew and start a new writing project and also do a myth workshop and the list is endless. So, I stopped painting and started writing – why do I write? I do not know – I have like a bazillion things to say about winter, about transitions, and Janus and all these things – it all makes sense in my head – it begins good – but then it starts to split and spread, and I feel myself chasing the ideas – my ability to start is so much stronger than my ability to follow through and finish.

My Octopus painting

Last year, I finished my dissertation and I completed clearing out and selling my old home. I had two, very major areas of my life end. It was wonderful and liberating to be DONE – I do not have to work on the paper I worked on for more than five years. I do not have to deal with caring for a home I did not live in and things I did not use. I’m DONE – so the big question is – now what? Time to begin – and where better to begin than at the beginning. As a starter, actually finishing these two major milestones left me in a strange state. I like the freedom of not having these things to work on – but don’t really know what to do with myself. I know things to do – I have a million things to do, but what can I do that will be meaningful, that will be helpful, that will give me fulfillment? What makes me happy and how can I do that for employment? What makes me unhappy and how do I stay away from that? There are more questions about the future and the instability of the world makes the questions that much more difficult to answer.

According to the Romans, at the beginning – there was Janus. He was the first god to be invoked in prayers, the first month of the year is named after Janus, and his two faces represent the dual nature of beginnings – because we all know that beginning is exciting AND scary – it’s liberating AND paralyzing. It’s crazy and mixed up, but if we do it right – we can use January to reflect on the past, plan for the future, and be ok with the doorway of right now (the present).

The past does not exist, it is done – it only exists as a story. The future is also a story, we can make plans and can make predictions, but until it happens – it does not exist. Now exists, but it is always gone – now quickly become then. Trying to be in the now – to experience life and not be swept up in what came before an what goes on after is almost impossible – so we have to see now as the threshold of the past and present. Janus the god of thresholds, the god of in between has two faces. He looks both behind and forward. To me – this says reflection and planning. January is frustrating because planning is not doing. Planning is only telling the story of what you want to do. January is exciting because planning is full of possibilities. But does not just look forward with his plans – he also looks back. He reflects – and hopefully learns from the past. I think it is important he has his eye on both. The past without future is death and a future without a past is foolish. January – beginning the new year (ending the old one) is a time to winter, a time to plan, and a time to plan. This is the time the seeds lay dormant – but they are not dead. We can nurture those seeds – feed the ones we want to grow in the spring, summer, and reap in the fall and let those that harm us stay in the winter of the mind for next year’s reflections.