While the calendar might be telling us that's its time for resolutions, new beginnings, and planning, my mind and body say otherwise. Many of us still feel in limbo as we process the year that was 2020 and look toward the future with uncertainty. In fact - if we're being honest - I'd say it hardly feels like a new year, but simply a continuation of time. (Which, by the way, it is.) As someone who has never really bought into the promises of wiping the slate clean in January, this is a bit of a relief, but even I have realized how much we depend on that new year feeling to start things fresh... and that feeling hasn't entirely arrived.
So how do we bring some good energy and focus to this unique time? Well... here's how I'm thinking about it this year:
A saying that recently crossed my path felt like an appropriate mantra right now: "Old ways won't open new doors." I've been sitting with this idea a lot. We are seeing a massive shift in our society, and that means it's time for us to shift too. Which is actually quite exciting if you think about it. You may have come across a reference to this little history lesson going around - that after The Plague came the Renaissance. If this is true, then it's a really good time to start asking, what will your renaissance be? Can we reframe all this scary energy as something exciting? Momentous? What if instead of focusing on all that we have lost, we look ahead to all that we have to gain?
Think about how you want to show up in this world, and what changes it might take to get there. To me, this doesn't feel like the year to be making superficial goals, but rather an opportunity to take everything we learned about ourselves in 2020, and continue the work. It's time to reframe and re-imagine the world that we want to live in now while laying a few foundation for our future. And while those may seem like huge concepts (fair!) they are also things that we can shrink down to everyday life.
But let's back up for a minute.
This past year, it was easy for me to slip into some pretty negative thinking. There was the constant emotional barrage of politics and injustices, and so much collective grief. The challenges we faced as small businesses. And of course the frustrating side effects of this pandemic and limitations of staying home all the time. (Side Note: It takes a lot for an introvert like me to be frustrated with getting to stay home!). While I powered through spring and summer, finding joy in being outdoors, by the time fall arrived, it took a lot of effort to show up here. Where I had been appreciative of a slower pace of life early in the year, by the end I just felt stagnant. I was grasping at straws of gratitude, and tiny joys, simply because I was exhausted.
At some point in December, I knew I needed a break. I had to allow myself to feel all the things. To process the grief. To reflect on my growth. To acknowledge how hard this past year was. To wrap my head around the fact that a new year was coming, and I had no idea how to deal with that. Collectively, we all seemed to be making a final push toward some invisible finish line, only to realize it wasn't actually there.
And then something shifted for me. In the final days of the year, I attended a beautiful reiki session with my friend Lisa Thiele. During one of the meditations, she led us through each chakra, asking us to purge the things we no longer needed, clearing any blocking energy. Each chakra had a message for me, but the one that was the loudest came from my Sacral Chakra: Stop getting in the way of your own happiness.
Look, I fully recognize that while 2020 had some moments worth celebrating, it did not make life any easier. It broke us down in ways we have never experienced, and for those who suffered through massive grief, loss and mental health challenges, I cannot pretend to know what this past year was like for you. But for me - someone who has gotten through this past year relatively unscathed in comparison - happiness should not be so hard to come by. So what's the problem?
Well, first of all, I think it's important to note that while we are dealing with a pandemic, a government meltdown, social justice movements, continued climate change, and whatever else this era would like to throw at us next, we are all also continuing to lead our daily lives. And those lives need some tending to. By allowing myself to get overwhelmed by external energies, I had forgotten how to claim some self sovereignty - to think for and connect to myself. I also neglected to tend to my relationships, my community, and myself. If we get what we give, and we haven't been giving, then it's no wonder we become depleted.
But taking a further step back and looking at my own habits - it's always been naturally easier for me to prepare for battle than to invite in joy. As a recovering hustler and perfectionist, slowing down might have been a good first step, but now it's time to up the ante and bring back something that has been severely lacking: pleasure. I'm not talking about capitalist pleasures, but actual pleasure. Celebrating small wins. Feeling good my own body (no matter what shape it's in). Finding my creative flow. Reclaiming that confident, even sensual feeling that has nothing to do with instant gratification and consumerism, but simply living life in a way that truly fills us up.
So where does that bring me to now?
Well, here's a perspective shift for you: Instead of spending a year resolving to do something that feels like work, how about we invite something in that feels like joy? Not only for ourselves, but for others too.
Each year I choose a word (or a few) to guide me. This year I am asking for two things: Pleasure and Ease. Does that feel a bit audacious? Sure. But, I believe that when we take better care of ourselves, we are better equipped to take care of each other. And this world needs a lot of taking care of right now. Most of us know how to work hard, and will continue to do so. But do we remember how to play hard, too? (Or should reframe that phrase as well, and call it play easy? Nothing else needs to be hard right now!)
Last week, I took some time away to focus on the year ahead, for me and my business. (I'll share some biz stuff with you all soon!) What came out of that time was a simple list. Dare I call it my Play List? Some of them are direct actions and some are reminders for days when I'm feeling off. All of them are ways in which I can get back into myself, and into my flow.
MY 2021 PLAY LIST:
- Creativity for the sake of creativity.
- Honor self sovereignty.
- Seek out collaboration.
- Less screens, more books.
- Double down on love.
- Meet people where they are.
- Choose empathy over ego.
- Get into your body with meditation and movement.
- Ask for what you need.
- Create space for new ways of thinking (and add to this list).
I'm giving myself permission to see 2021 a building year, and these prompts as a way to build new habits. We're coming out of 2020 with new perspectives and lessons learned, but all of our thoughts and ideas are still just babies. They are going to take some time to grow into their new roles, and they're absolutely going to stumble along the way. This year is going to be bumpy (really bumpy if you listen to astrologers) but if we use can use this 'newness' to energize us, then we can go into this year with that fresh energy that we are looking for. We can create our own Renaissance.