The Mayan calendar just ended, but the world is still here. Anthropologists tried to reassure worried people, to correct the misinformation about the calendar: the Mayan calendar ends this month, but so does the calendar on your desk. And like our desk or digital calendars, all that happens is we get a new calendar. And so with Mayan calendars, they just start over and the cycle continues.
We think of life as moving only forward, then stopping like a Mayan calendar; after all, babies are only born once, then we age ever-older, and we die. That looks linear.
But not always. There is a jellyfish that reinvents itself into a nymph, after its adult version dies, and begins again. Other animals can regenerate parts of themselves, at least.
In many religions, the departed's essence survives, and loved ones may be reborn, continuing a cycle. We grieve for who is lost, but believe that not all is lost.
Much of our lives is cyclical. We wake, we go to work where we usually work, we return home to the same house we left hours earlier. We are washing the same dishes over and over, neverending, as we eat meals we have had before. Then at night, we sleep, to wake and begin again. These are routines, and familiarity is comforting (except for those dishes!). We rarely finish a chore conclusively. Filing income tax returns may soon be done for this year, but next year brings another round of making sense of new receipts and forms.
And here come The Holidays again. We prepare for family visits (or trips to family), we buy gifts to exchange, take out menorahs or tree decorations, and attend holiday parties, just as we did last year.
Now that Mayan calendar worries are out of the way, we can go back to worrying about the "fiscal cliff." But we are not doomed if we go over this imaginary cliff; some things will be different (at least for a while, until they get tweaked), but we will not fall into an abyss. Life, even politics, is not a one-way ticket to oblivion.
We revisit places we love and people we love, or have loved. Holidays are a time to contact old friends and let them know we are thinking about them. Holidays also bring up old memories, good and bad, from throughout the years. We never lose who we were.
For those who have rediscovered old flames, the relationships will be different; life has intruded, after all. Although the lost love may be recycled, some things do go inextricably forward -- the two former sweethearts may have married in the interim; then, there are only a few ways to go forward: leave the spouses, leave the lost loves, or enter into affairs and decide later. This is a stressful time of year for many people, but for married people who are in lost love affairs, even more so. They have cycled back to long-lost parts of their pasts (and themselves), but they are still in the present. They may remember holidays they spent with their lost loves years ago, but they will spend this year with their current spouses, children, and families (and not be able to talk about their feelings for the past).
Some rekindlers will miss their lost loves immensely while they do holiday-scheduled things with their families. For others, the holidays with families and the time out from the lost loves and the past, can recenter them back into the present. Nothing is settled, just different stressors.
Hang on: the holidays will soon be over and real life (whatever that is) will return with those familiar patterns that repeat endlessly -- with a new calendar, and with or without the fiscal cliff.