Last week I read that “the way you spend January 1st sets the tone for how you spend the rest of the year.” This made me feel sad because on the first of January I lazed around while also feeling ill at ease and bored.
Last year at this time I had my fiftieth birthday to plan and a commitment to making the year a wonderful, memorable one so that the milestones I hit (25 yrs of marriage, 50 yrs of life, etc.) would be suitably marked with celebration. This year, however, is devoid of such obvious milestones; as a result, I have been feeling a bit adrift, like I’m tossing and turning in the waves of my mind.
In our culture, we are trained to view the start of a new year as a wellspring of hope and new beginnings, giving us that anything-is-possible feeling and focus. In reality, at our house on January 1st, we had the TV on, half-watching the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl while visiting with family and playing on our devices, zoning out. On the TV and web were a deluge of advertisements for weight loss and exercise, getting finances in order, and taking vacations; all marketing campaigns capitalizing on the rhythm of new year energy, and the desire to finally, THIS YEAR, change our lives for the better, to stop waiting for the time to be right to make our lives resemble what we see in our dreams. I found myself mildly annoyed and not inspired by these images.
As I navigated January 1st and the days that followed, I felt like I was floating, a bit numb from the overindulgence of the holidays and a desire to stave off the back-to-work energy that January brings. However, I also noticed a new level of awareness, as if I was observing what was happening from a distance, not 100% sucked into the new year flurry of activity and the resulting action-oriented energy it normally brings in me, but rather a subtle feeling of quiet detachment and, dare I say, peacefulness. This awareness has stuck with me, feeling important and something I want to cultivate more of. In my more grounded moments, I recognize that this is my being, rather than my doing, taking center stage (in contrast, my internal doer normally runs the show).
Who am I? I’m the 50-year old woman who feels at times comfortable in her skin and at other times completely out of her element. I’m the citizen who feels saddened by the state of the world and frightened at the prospect of the Earth and its beings not being preserved for future generations. I’m the person who feels at once depressed and excited, expectant and disappointed, resourceful and spent, the person who doesn’t know whether to gather her energy and start moving again or slow to a crawl and go to sleep.
I look at social media and see business owners making announcements about specials and new programs and rallying cries for the new year, and I feel a bit of distance from it all, alternately sorrowful and dire that I don’t feel that same surge of energy, and yet noticing that I have choice for how I want to be in this moment. I am finding myself holding things a bit more lightly and at a distance than before, an interesting phenomenon that is a new, and fleeting, awareness for me. Could this new muscle stem from my intermittent meditation practice and past four months of regular writing as I work on the crappy first draft of my book? From wherever this well has sprung, I want to keep nurturing it.
The feeling that keeps coming in, strong and clear, is a voice inside me that says, “Simplify, let go.” I hear that message again and again. I don’t want to be afraid of letting go…and yet, at times I find myself paralyzed with the need to control, to over-do, to obsess. My analytical mind is panicked to not have this sorted out. I grow impatient with myself, frustrated to sit with more questions than answers.
It reminds me of when I was failing in the Master Coach Credential (MCC) process, and the way that made me feel inside, like I was clawing and desperate for the magic formula that just evaded my grasp. The ultimate learning from that experience was that there was no magic formula or solution, but rather an organic answer that came slowly, over time, as I let go of the need to know. The learning there was transformative for me.
I find myself standing before a door I’ve been sidling up to for a long time and am about to walk through, and I realize that this is the doing vs. being threshold. At this moment, I have to let go of how I have derived meaning from my life up until now (my doing) and embrace instead that I am valuable, loveable, and successful, just because of my being. It’s here where I must let go of the need to know and instead embrace being present. I can see that that is from where the answers come.
This is not easy for me, and a lesson that I keep learning over and over again. The recent holiday excess and New Year’s expectations have put me to the test, where I have needed to continually ground myself in the here and now and accept that I don’t have it all figured out, that I don’t know the way forward.
I find myself wondering if perhaps that is the answer—the acceptance of not knowing, of letting go of the need to know and control outcomes. Instead, if perhaps the path forward is to be willing to walk into the darkness with a soft, hopeful heart that I will find my way through the wilderness, one step at a time.
It feels anti-intuitive to operate in this manner, as it is so foreign to how I normally have navigated my career and life…and yet, it feels like that is all I have the energy for now, and ironically is the path of ease.
Perhaps that is the key: I’ve had to fundamentally exhaust myself to the point where there is no other way to operate except by staying in the present.
Photo by Lynn Landry, 2018