Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist.

~Natalie Goldberg

It’s New Year’s Eve and the pressure is on! The busyness of the holidays is coming to a close, but first we must ring in the New Year and ring out the old! There must be a ball drop, a countdown, fireworks! 2017 must end, not with a whimper, but with a bang. But, what if we need to do it differently?

I’ve felt my own internal pressure to write once more, before year’s end. I want to share my thoughts on how to healthily reflect on the past year and move mindfully into the new. And yet, I’ve long known I cannot write under pressure…my own or anyone else’s. When I try, I run smack into writer’s block. And procrastination. Friday, when I began trying to write this post, I recorded my mental and physical process. It was, as follows:

Procrastination is a wily beast! I really want to write. I have so much to say! Yet, there are things to be done…like washing and drying my lunch dishes. Other urgent tasks call to me, too…cleaning the hall closet, rummaging through the junk drawer in search of AAA batteries, dusting the top of every picture frame in the house. Such is the nature of writing…housework is suddenly seductive. Procrastination is the foreplay of writing.

I’ve set the stage nicely. Viennese waltzes play on the stereo, a fragrant candle flickers, the Christmas tree glows. I sip yerba mate tea with honey. Yerba mate has magic powers for concentration. Still…no words. Outside, a salt-truck rumbles past, so, I check the weather. It’s 15 degrees with snow showers. I resist the urge to go peer out the window.

I set a timer for an hour…my recommendation to everyone facing a seemingly impossible task. I cannot leave my chair for an hour. I cannot do another single thing except write. And, finally, I was able to. Here’s what I want to share!

Many cultures and religions feel New Year’s Eve is a perfect time for looking back…an opportunity for reflection, learning, and gratitude. Yet, coming out of the frantic pace of the holidays, it’s all too easy to succumb to the momentum of New Year’s Eve celebrations and bulldoze, helter-skelter, into the new year.

I’m all for rituals of celebration, but I also gently encourage carving out quiet time for reflection…for what I call, compassionate journaling. In a journal or notebook, record events from the past year that come to mind. The book doesn’t have to be fancy, and your words need not be poetic. It’s about finding your own, authentic voice.

My wise-woman spiritual advisor, America Martinez, uses the term “classrooms” when referring to our learning experiences…good and bad. As I wrote in my last post, 2017 was a particularly difficult year. So, I well understand the urge to be done with it. And, yet, for me, there were so many “classrooms.” So many opportunities for learning! What I did right, what I could’ve done better, or differently. Lessons I can take forward with me into the new year and beyond. I’m on a quest to come home to myself.

The trick is to look back with compassion. For others, and for ourselves. Jot down what you remember, good and bad, without judgment. Look for the patterns, the lessons, the blessings. This overview gives us perspective and helps us live more authentic lives.

When I did this exercise, I learned I’m stronger than I realized, and also more vulnerable. In 2017, I learned to ask for and receive help. I now see more clearly what is healthy for me, moving forward, and what is not. What to keep and what to let go. I’ve learned if I show up and trust my process (in life and in writing!), things might unfold in unexpected and delightful ways. I’ve learned to say “No” and I’ve learned to say “Yes.” (Just this week I said “Yes” to snowmobiling for the very first time. I felt so brave, and had a blast!)

Looking back, more than ever, I recognize the abundant blessings in my life. I’ve learned to begin and end each day with whispers of gratitude…for my family, my friends, my patients. For my Wednesdays with my granddaughter Ada…the love and joy of my life!

While I don’t make resolutions, I intend to mindfully move forward spending time and energy on what I find truly meaningful and healthy. Writing more. Making time for people and activities that bring me joy. Letting those I love know how grateful I am to have them in my life. Learning more about myself. Continuing to grow spiritually. Creating opportunities to live more authentically, passionately, and compassionately.

My New Year’s Eve will be quiet. I’ve said “No” to a party and, instead, in the light of my Christmas tree and the warmth of the fireplace, I’ll write in my journal. I’ll bring in the new year with delicious food, good champagne, and conversations with friends and family. For me, 2017 will end, not with a bang, but with a whisper of gratitude.

Thank you, my readers, for your continued love and support. I wish you all robust health, hopefulness, and much joy in the New Year!