So, here we are.
It seems many of us (and when I say many, I am referring to my significant research conducted while reading Facebook posts on New Year’s Eve) were very happy to see 2012 go away. In fact, some were shooing it away as quickly as they could. I was definitely part of that crowd. 2012 started out rather poorly and, unfortunately, there were far too many moments that would fall into the category of events that I would prefer not to include on my highlight reel of life. Despite this and even though I was anxious to see the year end, I was determined to close it out on a high note, making way for a very positive and optimistic entry into the new year. On Monday afternoon I began my decidedly low-key new year’s eve celebration by going to a movie with a friend – frankly, it seemed somewhat odd to go out to a movie during the day when everyone was prepping for their big NYE spectacular celebrations but it was just right for me. Afterwards, my younger son, who had been cooped up in the house for days with a cold, asked to go out to spend some of his holiday gift cards. I obliged, again thinking that this was an odd activity for the day but committed to keeping my expectations of the day low with a hope for great outcomes. We took a little drive to some stores to find even more video games and toys because the ones he received on Christmas were simply not enough to sustain him through, um, let’s see…December. All in all, it was simple, easy and pleasant. The quiet time in the car on the return home from shopping left me some space to contemplate the results of the soon-departing year.
I was waiting to turn on one of the various jug handles that signifies you are driving in New Jersey and I heard an interview on the radio with yet another person expressing their relief that this year was coming to an end. I know we had a particularly rough last quarter of the year with Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hook shooting and a scary fiscal cliff but, even with all that, it suddenly struck me as odd that so many people were overwhelmingly grateful to move into the next year and kiss the current one goodbye. And, in truth, it was not just year that I noticed this phenomenon. I wondered why we so often end the year this way. It is great that we are optimistic for what is to come, hopeful for a better result, wishful that the good will outweigh the bad. But, it feels as if when we get to the end of the year we spend a great deal of our time focusing on our regrets and shortcomings. Certainly life is really not all that bad. Perhaps we tend to use the new year as a moment of cleansing to rinse away the muck and make room for all the bright shiny new opportunities. Of course, we all have misfortune – it is part of the ying and yang of life. There is no such thing as having a perfect life and even those of us who live with intention and make a great effort to focus on positivity have struggles and moments when life pulls us down. It is natural. It is unavoidable. As I was pondering all this it made me think hard to summon a year that ended with me sad to say goodbye. I had to do some deep reflection. I suppose the years when my children were born I was still aglow from their arrivals – especially since they were both born towards the end of the year. I doubt I ended those years on a low note but, of course, I was also probably too sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with the business of dealing with newborns to indulge in such reflection.
In truth, I think that I (and probably some of my fellow year-chuckers) tend to welcome the excitement of the new year and the promise it holds by justifying and balancing its arrival with the dismissal of the current year where there is no more mystery and the story has been revealed. We know the outcome. We can see the crappy moments and the less-than ideal circumstances. We know what we are tossing away while we can wistfully hope for something better in the new year.
I posted on Facebook on Monday that I was borrowing my friend’s ritual of writing down my top 10 list of bad stuff from the year and burning them in the fire to ensure their permanent departure. It was my own version of smudging my year. I loved the symbolism of releasing any negativity into the fire, freeing up space for positivity and possibility. But, alas, I am not ignorant or naive. I know that the coming year will bring its own set of struggles and disappointment and I might very well end up on December 31, 2013 lamenting those less fortunate experiences and, once again, be anxious to welcome a fresh start in 2014. The activity of throwing our disappointment into the fire seemed very cathartic to me but I feared it would be a ritual that would yield only short-term results. Then, today, once again thanks to Facebook I saw something that possibly solved my conundrum about how to end the year on a positive note rather than toss the baby of regrets and disappointments out with the proverbial bath water.
While this has seemingly gone viral, I thought it worth sharing yet again. Someone has suggested creating what I refer to as a celebration jar where you jot down on a scrap paper all of the wonderful things that you are grateful for throughout the year and place them in the jar. On December 31, you can open the jar and read off all of those delicious memories and experiences and acknowledge the positivity in your life. So, even if you are excited about the promise the new year offers, you do not have to walk away from the current year sighing in relief that the torture is ending. This enables you to build goodness on top of more goodness, resulting, hopefully, in a sustainable happiness that can translate from year to year. Rather than lamenting and being awash in disappointment, this is a beautiful way to remember those spectacular moments – big and small – that made your year special and impactful.
All of this inspired me to think deeper about the shared comfort so many of the people in my circle felt as we turned the calendar page and put 2012 behind us. Perhaps it is easier for us to focus on the negative aspects because we are simply wired that way. As a society, we certainly tend to dwell more comfortably on negativity because focusing on the good stuff feels indulgent and, frankly, sometimes scary. It is as if we will jinx ourselves if we believe that good is the norm rather than the exception. And, at the same time, so many of us set intentions for goodness and positivity and still fear it when it comes because it might only be temporary. There is a fear that if we allow ourselves to embrace the goodness in our lives, we may set ourselves up for disappointment when things go wrong. It is human nature. The Celebration Jar allows us to chronicle all the wonderful moments throughout the course of the year and then safely and joyfully reflect on them as we wave goodbye at the end of the year, perhaps with a sense of accomplishment and wholeness knowing that, even though we may have faced struggles and challenges and unpleasantry, we also had some pretty amazing times. The truth is we always do. We just need to hang on to them a little bit longer.
Here’s mine. Hope you create one too and embrace 2013!