Brendan Hoban: Gratitude is the key to a life of happiness           

Western People 29.12.2022

May you live in interesting times is a well-known wish. It has been called ‘the Chinese curse’ and though it presents as a blessing the opposite may well be the case – in the sense that life in uninteresting times of peace and tranquillity seems to have much more going for it than in times of trouble. Hence ‘the curse’.

At any rate, as we wish each other well at the turning of another new year, few will offer that Chinese phrase as a benediction. After all we’ve been through these past few years – Brexit, Trump, Covid, lockdowns, boosters, Ukraine, inflation and the cost of living crisis and a cold spell that has crept up on us unawares – we’ve had our fill of interesting times for the moment. Thank you very much.

Every new year is a marker. Traditionally, it’s a time for resolutions though in recent years they seem to have lost much of their appeal. As the years whirr by, the only resolution that appeals is, it appears, a resolution not to make any resolution.

Call it experience or self-knowledge or old age but the idea of turning over a new leaf seems destined to perish on the pyre of neglect or failure or human nature. As time goes by, falling by the wayside seems to have become the great corollary of turning over a new leaf.

Maybe it’s just a more realistic acceptance of the universal disparity between human aspiration and human performance. This is the way life is, this is what we are. And, all things considered, the probability is that this time next year we won’t be much different.

That said, every new year is a signpost, a marker on life’s journey, another flag on the ever-persistent wheel of time. It’s an indication that even though the sands seem to ebb ever so slowly – in days and in weeks in present time, such though not strangely in years or in decades in past time – there is an exorability about them that catches us unawares.

And even though many of us on reaching crucial ages – like 30 or 40 or 50 or 65 or the biblical 70 or the canonical 75 – tend to ignore such critical sign-posts on life’s journey, the passing of time registers not so much in the big numbers but in the small defeats as the diminishments of age assert themselves.

You find yourself not able to read the small print and you expropriate someone’s glasses. You attempt to cross what looked like a small wall and you find yourself suspended between here and there. You try to turn the pages of a newspaper but your fingers seem to have lost the requisite sensitivity. You find friends encouraging you to go out more in the general context of how odd we get with the years. You find yourself greeting major social occasions with rapidly decreasing enthusiasm. Or wondering to yourself how, in a relatively small space, so many things can get lost so easily.

Worst of all is that everything keeps changing, especially the geography of supermarkets. Or the words we use. Or how to make a phone-call, press 1 or 2 or 64, if you want A or B or C with some equivalent of Phil Coulter’s tranquillity banging on in the background.

Or the way newspapers imagine that using crude language, even if the words are peppered with asterisks, is a mark of sophistication or modernity when it’s just being coarse and obscene and sometimes indicative of a childish urge to push out the now imaginary boundaries of good taste when there are no such boundaries left at all.  

All of which generates an unease, even an impatience with the world we live in not to mind turning over a new leaf. But, apart from the moaners and the depressives, we do know of course that achievers consistently make new beginnings, plot out the future (even if it’s only tomorrow) and continue to be grateful for what was, what is and for (hopefully) what will be next week.

Otherwise, someone wouldn’t have finally ditched the smoking bug after 101 dismal failures; or someone else wouldn’t have kicked the drinking habit after years of struggle with that particular demon; or someone else again wouldn’t even be getting up in the mornings.

The point is that there’s something embedded in us that underlines a need to continually make new starts. Whether it has to do with conflict or failure or grief or the plethora of unhappy situations that we contrive to visit on ourselves. So much of that or even all of that lends itself to resolution if we are prepared to turn over that new page of life.

Who knows this might be just be the year that this time next year we will look back on as the start of something very special. This really could be it. If we are prepared to pay the price for making a dream come true, who knows what might happen.

It’s about seizing the moment, about being alive to possibility, about taking responsibility for ourselves, about not wanting to give in, about refusing to opt out when the richness of life’s ever-unfolding dramas are still beating a path to our doors. It’s about being able to see a bit beyond so that we can see what’s growing under our feet.

Ultimately, it’s about gratitude, the key to life, to happiness and to not getting on other people’s nerves, especially our nearest and dearest. Not easy to do but sadly easier if you happen to live alone.

May I wish all my readers health and happiness in 2023 and much gratitude for staying the journey with me over so many years. Bon voyage for 2023.

Similar Posts


  1. Eddie Finnegan says:

    And, talking about significant markers, we might wish Brendan and his classmate Joe a very blessed Golden Jubilee in advance of next June.

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    Thanks, Eddie. I met a Japanese friend I’d lost touch with for 4 years and found him wondrously renewed thanks to AA, a very joyful start for the New Year. For all of us, let the motto be: FULL STEAM AHEAD.

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.