Each new year is a baptism of sorts, a release of one thing, a grasp for another. Whether one toasts champagne or simply turns the paper page on the calendar, we cross over, like mystics. Each of us. All of us. A new year.
I realize for most of us, life carries on today as usual, cup of coffee in hand, laundry, email, work. The ordinariness of time can sometimes mask its importance. I have been cleaning out closets and re-ordering spaces around the house this last week, recalibrating our home after the holiday whirl. These sort of inventories offer the best sort of reflection, a practical accounting of days and time and space. Let it go or put it in place, practically and metaphorically. The process has been that simple.
Yet through it, I have noticed more gentleness toward myself, an ease in letting go without excuse, something atypical to me. I have packed a large box of books we have outgrown, supplies we do not use, work we have completed. I threw away old planners and tangential ideas scratched on paper, opting instead to begin with a clear mind and working space. It is difficult to toss ideas aways, but they can become cumbersome and distracting to new ones. I am trusting that the ideas that matter will circle back on their own again, in their own time.
2016 taught me more about this, about letting go of failure and disappointment and unfinished dead ends, about working with steadfastness and patience. 2016 taught me more about creating in the face of fear, dreaming in spite of failure, putting down the litmus of comparison. It taught me about the power of voice and the value of silence. It’s funny how such powerful lessons can be woven amid difficult circumstances.
Like many people, I typically journal on the cusp of each year. This year, I will be journaling daily in this archival journal my friends Ronnie and Trish just released, filled with daily prompts for cataloguing the days. For me, this annual period of reflection is less about marking tasks to accomplish in the new year and is more about noticing the hidden narrative of my days, the magic lying within the ordinariness and even the hardship. I generally reflect on our year as a family relationally and spiritually. I reflect on our community relationships. I reflect on our homeschool year. Since I am goal-oriented by nature, I prefer to jot down goals for the year ahead. Sometimes I flounder; sometimes I rise. Either way, I am learning how to hold these plans a bit more loosely, to allow them room to take organic course. They are more or less a flickering light for the path ahead. They often keep my feet moving when I feel a bit lost, even if only toward the next step.
For those who are interested, here are a few of the thoughts below I use to process each new year. May they be a flickering light for your path, too.
What was the biggest success of the last year (expected and unexpected)?
What was the biggest disappointment or obstacle? Were these temporary circumstances or something ongoing/long-term?
Were your expectations/goals at the beginning of the year reasonable? Were you trying to do too much at once? Did others involved respond how you anticipated? Finances? Time?
How did you use your free time (unplanned time)? Did you even have free time? Did you rest well? List some factors or circumstances that prohibit rest/restoration.
How did you take care of yourself? Write one thing you did for yourself that you’d like to continue.
How well did you connect with or take care of others? Name a meaningful point of connection last year. Is there a way to re-create it in the new year?
How do you feel entering the new year? (excited, anxious, fearful, expectant, overwhelmed, etc.) Are any specific life circumstances contributing to this feeling? How does this emotion fuel you? Your family’s relationships/learning? Your work? How does it deplete them?
Take a moment to let go of accomplishment and disappointment. Acknowledge your emotions and release them. Imagine yourself being emptied and cleared. Pray and ask for wisdom.
What is one specific way you want to take care of yourself this year? Is this daily, weekly, monthly? Write it down. If possible, share it with someone you trust, someone who will help you prioritize it.
What is one specific, concrete way to connect with those in your home in a more meaningful way this year? Just one. Is this a daily, weekly, or monthly practice?
What is one specific, concrete way to connect with someone(s) outside of your home in a more meaningful way? Begin with one. Is this a daily, weekly, monthly practice? Write it on the calendar.
What is one area of your family daily routine you’d like to shift? (I ask myself this specifically for the homeschool, too.) What do you need to eliminate? Simplify? Add? Have more consistency in? Write it down.
What part of the follow-through do you need the most help? Physically? Logistically? Emotionally? Spiritually?
What encourages you the most in your daily living? Write down one habit change to cultivate encouragement.