There is something about looking out at the promise of a New Year that gets us thinking about hope. And growth. And the sparkle of the unknown. All of it beckons us to step in to the coming year with a dose of optimism and promises to ourselves that we will do it better.
There’s a part of me that wants to just go with that. I want to snuggle into a lovely squishy pile of hopefulness and growth and sparkle. But if I’m really honest, there is a bigger part of me that has a huge amount of resistance to all of that. Because it feels contrived and expected. And also, because I know better.
I have set out on new years before this one all full of optimism. And every single one of those years have come with unexpected challenge and difficulty. Some of them have in fact been a downright bashing, as wave after wave of struggle crashed upon me. Others haven’t felt like as much of a bash-fest, so much as an endless plateau.
Three years ago exactly to the day that I sit writing this post, my marriage to my boys’ father came to a very sudden end. He moved out the day before New Year’s Eve. I was devastated. As a wife. As a mother. As a human. I woke up crying. I went to sleep crying. I drank coffee crying. I took out the garbage crying.
I entered into a January that felt impossible. I wished on every star it would be a nightmare that I could just wake up from. The weight of it all felt indomitable. I had no idea how to pick up the pieces. My sad was very big. The dark around me was very big. The challenge upon me was very big. I wanted to hate all of it. Happy New Year? I couldn’t find happy.
This went on for six long months. It was hard. Very, very hard. I became unhealthily thin. My hair fell out. I was terrified. And angry. And so incredibly sad. I felt crazy in my sadness.
And then, something happened. It all gave way. It wasn’t a magic moment of awakening where everything changed but a gradual dawning. I sought out a wise teacher and counselor who helped me find my way. Who helped me find me. And with her support, I found a way to love the discomfort, the struggle. It was like I surrendered to it. I leaned into the challenge. I wanted to feel it. I wanted it to be this hard.
You see, I figured something out in those long six months. There cannot be light without dark. To experience up, you have to have known down. To understand here, you have to have been there.
As I stopped resisting my sadness and all of the darkness, the path ahead just seemed to emerge. My teacher said, “That which you resist will persist.” So I surrendered my resistance. Not easily mind you, but with dogged determination. And that surrender gave way to my freedom. Therein I found my hope, my growth, my sparkle. As Pema Chodron said in her book The Places that Scare You, “Lean into the sharp points and fully experience them.”
I sought the sharp bits. I wanted to know them. I am still seeking them.
So. New Year is a bit different for me these days. I am not placated by the comfortable beckoning of a New Year. I know the path will have challenges. I want those challenges. And because I know this, I don’t set goals. I set intentions.
These intentions focus only on what is inside me rather than actualizing things on the outside of me. It might be an intention to see my own innocence and the innocence of others in all things. Especially the hard things. Or it might be an intention to know my own truth so that I might live it with power and grace. Whatever it is, it is all focused on my inner world.
To live that out, I have daily practices around these things. Mantras that I repeat. An inner child who I collect. Work that I do on my thoughts. Gratitude that I make known to myself and to others. Ways that I pour love and care into my body. Space that I make for my relationships with the people I love. Time that I protect for creating and writing.
I do not set goals that are attached to a certain form or an outcome – like money or places or numbers or anything so prescribed. I have learned that these things are absolutely the wrong place to start. Not that I don’t anticipate at some point that some of those things may perhaps come. But I do not start there. And I am not attached to making those things happen.
I have learned that when the focus is on the form or the outcome, you become mechanistic in your doing. If you are focused on DOING then you are not BEING. You are not LIVING. At least not in the biggest, fullest, all-out, most spectacular way that you could be. To LIVE is to BE. Eckart Tolle captured this so brilliantly in The Power of Now, where he wrote:
“Surrender is perfectly compatible with taking action, initiating change, or achieving goals. But in the surrendered state a totally different energy, a different quality, flows into your doing … Through nonresistance, the quality of your consciousness and, therefore, the quality of whatever you are doing or creating is enhanced immeasurably. The results will then look after themselves and reflect that quality. We could call this surrendered action.”
So, moms and dads and other big people, as we head into another New Year, I invite you to think about how you will be surrendered in your action…
- How you will question the the glossy façade of comfortably welcoming a New Year;
- How you will allow the results to look after themselves rather than naively attempting to force their existence;
- How you will step in with the fullness of your power when that is appropriate, and step back when it is not. And, how you will endeavour to know the difference;
- How, when you struggle or when your children struggle, you will seek out and lean into the sharp bits;
- How you will surrender to the reality of the challenges that are coming your way;
- How you will envelop those experiences with BEING rather than DOING;
As you do all of this, know beyond the shadow of any doubt, that your light can only be fully understood for its glorious brilliance if it is first surrounded by that which is dark.
And, if ever along the way it feels too dark, open your eyes and look out into that darkness. I will be there. Others will be there. My intention this year is to let my light shine. So you will find me in that darkness. I will find me in that darkness. Most importantly, you will find yourself in that darkness. And together we will be reminded of the hope that sparkles in the shining of our light.
Happy 2020, loves. Shine bright. BE that. For you. For your children. For all around you. For the world.