from 1.2.23 newsletter
I am sure many of us have been inundated with talk of the New Year this past week. Whether it be the constant prodding of loved ones asking what your resolutions are, the advertisements from predatory diet and fitness companies urging you to “lose the holiday weight”, or jobs conducting performance reviews and other yearly strategy sessions, there is always an onslaught of (excuse the language) bullshit to sift through this time of year.
I preach a lot about the need to reflect, hibernate, and even connect with mourning and death during this time of the year, but the reality is that many see this time as a resurgence of life and renewed determination. A time to recommit to old goals or set new ones.
I, too, see the power and potency in this.
Especially with the recent winter solstice, the return of the light is not far away. The darkest, longest nights have indeed passed.
So what can we do with this liminal, transitional field of time between the winter solstice, the New Year, and the spring equinox?
This is still a time of deep reflection. A time to wriggle under the blankets most days, but also to step a foot in a new direction every once in a while. A place of shifting perspectives, but with emphasis on low effort.
In an attempt not to sound too preachy or prescriptive, I want to share my practices this season and also some of the insights I have been offered by the warmest people in my life. Perhaps you will find something useful to carry into 2023.
Each year for the past five or six years, my best friend Rayna (if you’re in the Denver area, she has awesome guides and Denver-centric content over on Tiktok and Instagram) and I sit down for several hours and dig through a series of questions that work us through reflecting on our previous year and goal-setting for the year ahead. If you’re interested in our list of guiding questions, feel free to respond to this email and I’ll send a copy.
Anyway, it feels so potent and important that I do this with someone so close to me each year because we can offer each other insight and inspiration into our own personal reflections while also grounding each other. I believe that connection and support to be among the most valuable experiences in my life.
This year, I attempted to reflect on my accomplishments and realized I have never taken the time to appropriately and properly celebrate my achievements. Instead, I spent the year focusing on everything that I felt had gone wrong: dissatisfying and difficult relationships, the terrifying state of the world, my own perceived shortcomings and “lack of productivity”, and all manner of “life comes at ya fast” kind of moments.
What is it they say? Just when your life seems to be on track - BOOM! Car troubles.
That’s how I defaulted to reflecting on my year, as one big Universal fuck you to each of my attempts at moving forward. Metaphorical leaks, flat tires, and broken windows all the way.
But in connecting with loved ones over the truth of my year (or a version of it less clouded by my own pessimism perhaps) I realized the year wasn’t awful. Not at all terrible. Certainly not one endless chain of fuck ups.
No, the year was filled to bursting with moments of achievement, connection, love, and joy. All things I forgot to celebrate at the time. All things I forgot to thank for their gifts in the moment.
I published my first poetry book, I started a Patreon to share my fantasy series/passion project Tales from Niveen, I started an original fiction podcast, I started this very newsletter, and that’s just the tangible creative projects I’ve worked on. There are also countless works of art I’ve kept to myself (some on my website now though), and endless trips, hikes, joyrides, late evenings, and moments with my loved ones that brought so much joy.
Many of you have even celebrated these achievements for me this year, but I have to admit, my heart was not in it.
I am always critical of my output, the quality of my work, the reception of my work, and am always looking to correct, fix, and “do more” - the curse of perfectionism.
So every minor celebration was met with an intense game plan for how to do better on the next project or the next phase of a project. Every “wow this is so amazing” was met with an internal, Maybe, but…
I never sat down to just be grateful for the things I did or received.
However, I’ve set out to honor myself and my work in the new year.
Part of my practice of honoring and expressing gratitude has involved celebration dinners and parties in this last week of the year, as well as taking stock of what is and isn’t working in my production schedule and fundamentally slowing down to accommodate. Giving myself the chance to do my many projects with intention, love, and gratitude for how amazing they actually are. This, rather than focusing on all the things I can identify for improvement. Because sometimes, we are just being hard on ourselves. Sometimes, the faults we perceive are nonexistent or invisible to those around us.
All this to say that now is the perfect time to seek rest and reflection and to perhaps not spend too much time finding something to fix, but rather, find something to appreciate. Find something to honor. We can return to our corrections, our hibernation, and our grief momentarily, but this little burst of life that we collectively produce at the beginning of each year is a wonderful time to reconsider our needs and desires while offering gratitude for everything we have already been.
It is so very easy to think ahead on our year with trepidation and a fear that things will be as bad as we thought them the year before. It’s even easier to only think in terms of everything we think we need to do better. Consider instead, perhaps, that there is still something beautiful to be found in whatever balance of light and dark filled your year.
It brought you here, after all.
How boldly could you move through the next year if you allowed yourself to believe that the person you are right now is exactly who you should be? That change will come regardless, so there’s no need to destroy ourselves and rebuild each time we are prompted?
As always, your responses are so welcomed and appreciated.