For me, the prelude of a new year starts in early December, with my birthday, and lasts for three weeks. A few years ago a good friend of mine called her birthday the take-off point for her next journey around the sun, and I liked the image so much, I’ve begun to also see it that way. (It is a little confusing though, since how old I am and my xth journey around the sun are two different numbers, and sometimes I get them mixed up.)
Then the hibernal solstice comes a couple of weeks later. I mark this day as significant because the days begin to grow longer. It’s the ending of darkness. so to speak, and offers another point of reflection. What do I want winter to be for me? Mellow? Introspective? Creative? Focused? Do I choose to see it as a time of renewal? As I write this, we’re experiencing record-breaking cold temperatures and three inches of new snow. The new snow is inviting, the -10 degrees is not. I also ask what I want to make of the coming year. Which of my core values do I want to focus on – or to make stronger.
And then comes the New Year. Out with the old, in with the New. This can be a seen as a New Beginning, and it often is. It’s also acknowledged by many to be a time of false starts, of good – but often unrealized – resolutions. Many years ago, I realized there was nothing magical about January 1. Just because I hung up a new calendar, I wasn’t going to stop biting my fingernails. I wasn’t going to start (and maintain) a stronger exercise program, I wasn’t going to keep in better touch with friends and family.
I have, over time, found value in a yearly practice of reassessment, and that these three significant dates at the beginning of winter anchor me and help me focus on all that’s meaningful to me.
I begin my year-end review on my birthday by looking at the intentions I set the year before – and this is always interesting. Because my intentions are often about the person I want to be rather than about things I want to do, there’s no real marker of accomplishment. For instance, four years ago I set and intention to expand my sphere of influence. Great intention, from my point of view, and one I’ve put at the top of my list every year since. Except I haven’t figured out how to measure this. I write stuff, and I put it out there, and I have no way to gauge where it lands. So that intention is mostly about who I am than what I did.
Last year, my list of intentions included a fruitful, beautiful yard (strong for half the summer, then so-so), strengthening my relationships with people I care about (consistent all year), staying strong and healthy all the years of my life (okay, with less focus as the year progressed), and making a contribution to the well-being of the world (my latest book came out in print*). This year, without really realizing it, most of my intentions are far more specific, with definite tasks and projects (such as regularly posting a blog).
Of late I have been reassessing my intentions and my commitments to them more frequently. Monthly, in fact. It’s always nice when I can look at my list and see I actually completed a project and don’t have to move it on to the next month. (I haven’t decided whether the lack of timely completion is because I’m unrealistic in my planning, or because I’m too lazy to put forth consistent effort. I expect it’s the latter.)
As 2022 ends, and 2023 begins, I wish you all a year of joy, learning, love, and adventure.
Look at the world with wonder and at yourself with love.