I say the same thing at this time every year: I don’t make resolutions.
I find the practice exhausting, weighted by clunky expectation and bearing perhaps the sting of all that was abandoned in the previous year, the hopes that faltered and burned, the plans that dissipated after shimmering on a sea of possibility in the face of new beginnings.
But I do like intentional exits and contemplative entrances. Letting go of the old in a way that connects me more deeply to myself, that gives my heart room to speak and gratitude a place to soften whatever challenges and sorrows may have come before.
Though I have often celebrated New Year’s Eve in festive fashion with friends and family in years past, I have learned that I enjoy more a quiet that allows me to simply be, to sit with each unfolding moment.
In recently bidding farewell to 2017, that meant making myself a delicious dinner from scratch with ingredients bought fresh that day from the co-op and setting the table for company — with myself as the honored guest. Candles. A fancy wine glass. The napkins I was saving for a special occasion, planning on delivering their “You’re simply amazing” message to a gathering of treasured friends.
Being present and intentional also meant writing, giving the words in my head space to play — indeed pausing long enough to even notice their dance — and have them spill across the page.
Despite the frigid temperatures, I took myself to an interfaith kirtan in an old church, carrying the gratitude that had been rising in tender waves all day — thinking of no better way to express it than a chanting rain of praise.
As 2017 drew to a close, I felt full, nurtured by this deep and mindful slowing down. And as I looked back on the year, I was surprised to hold its luster in my hands. Yes, 2017 was calamitous, heartbreaking and infuriating in many ways. On a national and global scale, there was no escaping the cacophony of the dire and destructive — the news that routinely sparked outrage, tears, the struggle to make sense of so much that was unfathomable, while searching for shards of hope.
And yet…and yet still…I was swallowed by love, buoyed by kindness, saved by the everyday beauty of this world. 2017 brought me back to Tanzania, to my children whose lives have been woven into the marrow of the one that I call my own. It invited me to push my edge at work, to take a stand for the values I believe in by marching with thousands of women on a bitter January day. I traveled to places new and old, explored unexpected writing opportunities, gave myself over to the joy of every couple I married, the wonder of theater and art.
There were hard moments, yes. Sorrow settled in, seeping its song into days that set me adrift. Disappointment reared, with its crush of “what-ifs.” But if nothing else, 2017 reinforced in me my commitment to keeping an joy. To dedicating myself again and again to happiness. To choosing that steadfast companion, whether it be a sliver or a rounded offering in any given day.
Such a choice is not meant to deny the suffering and inequities that throng us but remains a leavening, a loving-kindness to ourselves. It is an honoring of life’s duality, the way it shatters and renews us, splays its feasts of beauty beside its ravages of hope.
I believe risking joy in a world that seems bent on denouncing its right to flourish builds and grows resilience. It is how a fine year blooms against the backdrop of despair, how the hands hold light to make a way where none seems possible.
In a year-end yoga class, my teacher encouraged us to think not of what we resolve to do in 2018, but how we would like to feel. To start there and make that the framework for our every action and choice.
I was still making my way into that answer, perched in that reflective space of greeting another year, when a different teacher in a different studio on New Year’s Day asked: “How do you want 2018 to feel?”
The first word that came to me, so simple and seemingly uninspired, was “good.” And just like she suspected and cautioned us against doing, I tried to discard it. Cast about for something more substantive, enlivening, even lofty.
But “good” kept making its roost, drawing its ease about my shoulders, opening space to breathe in its many possibilities. And so here I am in a year of being guided by what feels good to me. Not just from a place of pure self-absorption in my own personal care, in where and with whom I spend my time, and the energy I want to carry in my body with the commitments and choices I make.
No, what feels good can also be a counterbalance to the barrage of negativity and suffering that cloak these times in which we live. An invitation to give where we see lack, to support where injustice sears us, to love more, create more, choose courage, openness, generosity — any act of will and heart that upholds our vision of the world we’d like to see.
A good 2018 feels even more expansive to me than a joyful one, though I will keep a joyful spirit, trusting in both my intention and my nature to steer me forward into the shape of summoning days.