The change of calendar years is just one in the long series of “new” year celebrations I like to acknowledge. First, the pagan calendar celebrates the new turn of years on Samhain, aka Halloween. Then I celebrate my personal new year on my birthday in mid-November. Usually, the next new year I recognize is the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, and at last Winter Solstice, the return of the light feels like a new start as well. With all these occasions reminding me to reset and celebrate new opportunities, you might think I’d be unimpressed with the modern calendar’s new year, but au contraire.
2020! Wow, what a year. So many challenges (opportunities for growth?) that I can’t help but feel great relief at saying goodbye to it. Borrowing from Judaism’s tradition, I looked up and recited the Shehecheyanu, a prayer often said at the beginning of a major holiday or new venture such as the first night of Hanukkah or buying a new house. After the religious stuff, it is a basic gratitude blessing:
Gratitude to that which has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
I learned to think of the Shehecheyanu as a prayer of gratitude that we have made it back around the sun to experience a momentous event again even though that’s not quite the literal translation. As January 1, 2021, ushered in a new calendar year, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that we have an opportunity to move forward beyond the fear and devastation of the pandemic, the systemic racism that undermines our culture day in and day out, and the current US presidency (enough said there.) We know from history that a significant date on the calendar does not immediately change everything.
In fact, I am currently reading President Obama’s new book, A Promised Land, and remembering that presidents inherit the failures and successes of their predecessors (Obama took office at the onset of a major economic depression.) And, though there are now vaccines and promising treatments, the Covid-19 virus continues to ravage much of the world. And we all know that a summer of protests does not change the very pervasive fabric of racism. These challenges are our work in progress and our ongoing legacy.
But I have hope. I hope that we have the fortitude and commitment we need to keep growing and changing.
I also have faith. I have faith in the ability of our species and our planet to heal and survive and even thrive.
Finally, I believe. I believe that each of us can do our tiny little individual piece to collectively create change. I am starting right here, on my computer, in my living room, with my stubborn, perfectionist, over-thinking, reactive brain. I am meditating and focusing on breathwork and doing my bits and pieces of Yoga with Adriene (her new 30-day series is called Breath.)
I am exercising every day to calm my finely tuned nervous system. I appreciate being so sensitive and “finely tuned” and all the gifts it gives me that I can share with the world, but it sure takes a lot of work to avoid feeling overwhelmed all the time. I am committed to doing the work. Since I’m a high sensation seeker, it is work for me to rest enough, but I’m trying! I’d love to hear from you about how you rest. I know you might think it’s just the same old stuff over and over again, but I do think it helps to hear from our community what works for individuals—to make it personal. I always feel inspired when I hear what others are doing to rest, reset, and return to an optimal level of arousal.
We can’t all be Elaine Aron (meditating many hours some days and more than an hour every day). I know we can’t all be retired or wealthy or live in an idyllic setting (I do have this one, and I’m very grateful.) I hope we can all get outside and enjoy the rain or the profound cold or the sun on our faces.
May you find your path to thriving. I know you can. I know I can. That doesn’t mean it is easy. I don’t think life was meant to be easy. Humans have all kinds of abilities, and with them, we can do so much if we turn to face the world and walk boldly into it. Fear is not a bad thing, and neither is anxiety. They are simply tools and information about how we are processing in the moment. So, take that first step through the snow or ice or quagmire, or maybe the warm sand, and look around to see the potential.
You can take a breath.
Remember to breathe.