“New Year’s most glorious light is sweet hope!”
~Mehmet Murat ildan
Of the many milestones in a year—birthdays, holidays, anniversaries of any kind—none force us to reflect or compel us to look forward as much as the New Year itself.
In late December, we are bombarded with “Best of” lists—movies, music, theatrical productions, and books. There are also “Year in Review” lists—recaps of newsworthy events occurring over the past twelve months. Photographs. Last week, a posting of 2015 in international photographs brought me to my knees. There is no denying the world is a hot mess.
For months we’ve been encouraged to book reservations for New Year’s Eve. Book early, lest they sell out! Then, what? We might be forced to stay in and watch the bell drop on television! Even if we prefer to stay in on New Year’s Eve—which I do—there is the pressure to make it a special night.
While the New Year is universally recognized (on different dates in some cultures) the way it is celebrated varies greatly. It is not all fireworks and champagne.
Years ago, I had a patient who is Buddhist. She taught me, in her religion, the New Year was not about wild parties and resolutions that won’t be kept. She said it was, instead, a time of meditation and contemplation. A time to reflect on the past. A time to learn from and rectify any mistakes.
I have another patient who is Chinese. She has taught me, in her culture, the New Year is a time of leaving behind the negative in order to attract health, prosperity, and happiness moving forward. Houses are cleaned, old and worn objects are discarded, and debts are repaid in preparation for the New Year. In addition to fireworks and parades, Chinese New Year celebrations focus on family gatherings and strengthening of core values.
My personal practice, like my life, is still a work in progress. I love what I’ve learned from these women and I have incorporated their lessons. In addition, I find it crucial to focus on gratitude. Whenever possible, I reframe negative experiences as opportunities for learning. Sometimes, all that can be learned is empathy—which may be the greatest gift of all.
Here is an example of how my process works. Last week, I started reflecting on my personal 2015. It started with a cancer diagnosis last January. My first thought was, “I had a rough year!” My reframe was, “I beat cancer once again!”
I then made a list of everything wonderful I could remember—We Move Forward 2015 in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, making new friends, visits here and in Arizona with long-time BFFS, a wonderful vacation in Maine with my husband, my fabulous family reunion in California, East of Mecca making the semi-finals in a screenwriting competition, East of Mecca (Kindle version) making the best-seller list in Middle Eastern fiction on Amazon, being accepted into Ragdale again for next year, my everyday blessing of being a psychologist, and—most wonderful of all—the news that I will be a first-time grandmother next June!
My life is filled with abundance, and I am filled with gratitude.
This list is not inclusive of all the good things that happened in 2015, and I do have a (mental) list of things I’m not so happy about. There are mistakes I am reflecting upon and learning from. I have an amends to make. I wish to begin 2016 wisely, mindfully. With hope.
I’ve long stopped making New Year’s resolutions, but I have plans! I plan to continue to let go of what no longer serves me. (Code for de-cluttering!) I plan to pursue good health with the long-term goal of watching my first granddaughter graduate from college in twenty-something years! I want to spend more time with family and friends. I want to laugh more. I plan to be kinder, gentler, and more aware of what really matters on a daily basis. I plan to live more passionately and compassionately. I plan to continue to grace the lives of others in truly meaningful ways. I plan to continue to express gratitude for all the blessings in my life.
Thank you, my readers! Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for being in my life. I wish you all health, prosperity, and joy in the New Year. And, above all, I wish you sweet hope.
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