Janus was a two-faced Roman god in charge of doors, time and possibly liking the social media posts of people you really don’t like, but you want to make them wonder what you mean by that.
He was literally two-faced — one in the front and one in the back. This meant he could never lie to himself about whether the squirrel that ran under the chariot wheels made it safely. If Janus were a Minnesotan, his back face would be smiling serenely as he drives 55 in the left-hand lane.
The Romans considered him a very important god because his double-face noggin let him look to the past and the future. That’s why he was in charge of time. His oversight of doors isn’t quite as obvious. Perhaps Jupiter swung by his cubicle one day and said, “I know you’ve got your hands full with keeping the cosmos running in chronological order, but I wonder if you could handle doors. You know, house doors, stable doors, temple doors, swinging gates, cupboards, now that I think about it.”
Janus probably didn’t like the idea, but you have to say yes when it’s Jupiter asking.
And that’s why Monday is the last day of the year: Because the Romans wanted the first month to be named after Holy Mr. Doorway. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, everyone with an automatic garage door should hit the button to let in the new year.
But we all know the timing is wrong. Why start a new year now, when all is bleak and the fun is over? The year ought to begin when the spring stirs and hope blossoms — the fishing opener, the start of spring training, the first day when you drive home from work and realize, “Hey, it’s still light out.”
At least, that’s what I used to think. But what if I’m wrong?
I’m as tired of complaining about starting the new year in January as I am of all the other clichés this time of year: the top 10 lists (best burger for eating while reading the best book while the best album plays), the recitation of resolutions (I hereby resolve to eat less jellied eel) and the look back at the highlights of the previous year, even if it had no highlights.
Still, what if it’s really a wise move to start the year now, when we’re exhausted from the holidays and looking forward to nothing but gray ice and salty slush? When better to get a kick in the pants, to push yourself to do something new, break out of old ruts and find new ruts?
For example: I joined a gym last week. On Tuesday, I’m canceling my membership.
Janus would understand. Just because you walk out a door doesn’t mean you have to walk through it again.