I have never really celebrated the new year on New Year’s Day, but instead like to do it later in January, or February, more at the time of the Chinese New Year, or Imbolc, at the first breath of spring. Also, though I do make lists of things I want to do or accomplish, I do those all the time (and often don’t get to them and sometimes do), so it’s nothing special to make a resolution. As I approach the new year, I do clear stuff out – unused things, old grudges, outworn beliefs, repetitive and useless thoughts. And I try to bring in new things – love, friends, plans, plants, beauty, meaning.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what I can let go of – a sense of failure — and what I can bring in – hope. I don’t see either of these things as very simple. For me, the sense of failure has come from losing the strings of my story, feeling things as meaningless, to some extent. I have little kids (who have been the object of much meaning and creative energy for the last several years) and I’m also very independent as far as my career choices go (so I don’t often have some institution or well trod highway to gauge my progress by). These two together have led to a bit of a muddle when it comes to where I’d like the next many years to go workwise. So I have a sense of failure lately around work, because I’m not sure what I want to do, what I have done and what it means. I think it is a mid-career transition time for me, and often this requires some letting go, as you wait for the new meaning to emerge. So this is where hope, or maybe faith, comes in. To have hope or faith that these strings will emerge.
As far as I can tell, most people are writing and rewriting their stories as a life project. Without meaning stories, we feel extremely bad. We feel happiest when our story coincides with some larger story, which is why we love myths, why religion is so lovely for some people, and why we join causes and tribes. It is also why so many people feel lost, because the consumer story is a lonely road to nowhere, isn’t it? It’s a rat pushing the dope button kind of story. It makes people feel bad. Because there is nothing really beautiful at the end of it, but — more! Not that more wouldn’t be the best thing ever for the poorer half of the world, and I wish for that. But I already have plenty and so do all my friends.
So, at 45, I wish I could drown out the noise of that story for myself, and for as many others as possible. (A string to my story!) I’m not saying drop out, quit your job and go find Buddha (unless that’s your thing). I’m just saying that there is a richer story that is about character rather than collecting. My kids brought that gift to me recently when I asked myself what I want preschool (and our family) to accomplish for my littlest. What do I want to give her by 5? It’s not the ABCs! It’s not all the cool classes in town!
I would like her to gain the ability to make connections, to build and maintain friendships (even when they are a struggle). I also want her to have a sense of her own power in two main areas – her ability to make (either meaning or beauty, same thing as Keats reminded us) and her ability to overcome obstacles and fears. I admire the owner of my daughter’s preschool for the way she acts this out for the kids and in her business model. I want my daughter to believe that she can do these things because we all can, and for her to have models of that all around her –in story and life. I want her to understand that this is life, making (beauty or truth or something good, same thing) and overcoming. Nothing more, nothing less. For everyone, all the time – no one more important, no one less. Can you imagine some basic sense of this by 5. Or 45? Or 85. To me, this is it. Maybe it is unrealistic, but that is what I want for her. Not all the crap, but the real stuff, a real sense of what might get her through the midnight traumas of life. Making, overcoming (ice cream?)
This new year, what will I bring in? Hope! The symbol: two beautiful orchids on the mantle. Are all the threads of my life all organized and neat? Can I make sense of the meaning? Hell no, but that won’t happen until my story is done, hopefully a long way down the road. But do I see the strings there, dangling like orchid flowers on their long stalks. Yes, I do.
How do you celebrate the New Year? What is meaningful to you? Or, oops, like me, did you forget what you think is meaningful in life?