If New Years were a shape, it would be the gentle curve at very bottom of a "U". It's quiet in this cozy cradle of a spot. Time slows, almost to standstill as you rest against the transitioning slope. From here you can look back in one direction and review the year before, and when you are ready, turn to contemplate the year ahead.
For the past ten years we have set aside a day around January 1st to fully inhabit this unique place in time and space. We made up this ritual as a way to stop, catch our breath, and think about what was ending and what is beginning. We give ourselves a whole day with no particular schedule, but include good food, and time to relax and exercise. We think of it as a spa day for our psyche.
To begin, we read our New Year's notes from a year ago. There is a message-in-a-bottle quality since we don't tend to look at them but once every 365 days. What were we thinking on the cusp of 2013? Can we see any patterns, any ruts? Reviewing our thoughts from the past offers a chance to travel back in time and connect with what was true for us then.
Now we are ready to turn the metaphorical prayer wheel one more time as we sit, think, and eventually record our current ruminations:
Acknowledgements and Appreciations — What happened last year for which we are grateful?
Regrets — What happened that left us feeling sad or disappointed?
Good Byes and Letting Go — What are we saying good bye to and what do we want to let go of?
Reflections and Insights — What did we learn about ourselves, others, and life? (FYI—This is the most intriguing section to read from year to year.)
Hopes and Intentions — What do we want for the next year?
Time for a break! Take a walk, more tea, more blankets ... is there any chocolate around?
This next part we do together, as we read our freshly inked annual reviews out loud. Speaking our thoughts to someone who is listening deeply adds yet another layer to the experience. More memories and insights come up as we give voice to our reflections. According to the rules—which we made up—the person listening can ask questions along the way. You learn things, even about someone you think you know well. It's like looking at life through their eyes, their heart, and their dreams.
Lastly we make a bumper sticker. Not quite, but kind of. We put on our creative beanies, squint our eyes softly over what we have written, and make up a phrase that expresses our highest intentions. What do we want to proclaim for ourselves for the coming year? What words vibrate with the spirit and focus we wish to bring forth? We write this up on a special piece of paper and place it on our altar (a refrigerator works too). Done!
In actual fact, we are just beginning. But it's time now for something tasty like Chinese food. We've plotted our inspiration, and we are ready to fuel up before setting off on the slope of the year ahead.
That's our New Year's ritual and, as we said, we've developed it over a decade. If you haven't already, we encourage you to make up your own. (Cue pixie dust now granting you oodles of inspiration and creativity.) In a similar vein, a friend recently told us that he was planning a "personal conference"—several days full of activities and topics he wants to explore. He was taking some of the same time, energy, and money he would spend attending conference offered by someone else, and putting together his own. While there are many wonderful courses, workshops, retreats, etc. in the world today, there is much to be said for the joy of designing and experiencing D-I-Y holidays and events.
It's a new year. The slate is blank, the snow not yet trod upon. What do you want to create in 2014?
Riffing on our ritual, invent your own New Year's tradition.
Whatever you do, take some time for yourself during this very special interval between old and new.
Here's wishing you gumption to devise personal rituals, conferences, celebrations, and good life (of course!) in the year to come.
Happy D-I-Y New Year!
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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