Despite my love of bonfires, gravy boats, and an R&B Christmas playlist, the closing of a year is generally coupled with substantial anxiety.
Sometimes it’s in connection to the list of things I had sworn myself to accomplish and didn’t, or from the knee-buckling pressure to create another hefty list to start off the next calendar year — “New Year, New Me” has felt like an expectation, and unfortunately, so has disappointment that mirrors self-flagellation.
A snapshot of my prior New Year’s list includes:
- Finding a new planner for the upcoming year
- Thinking hard about going to a New Year’s party and then remembering I’m an introvert and deciding not to
- Strengthen relationship — work on communication
- Creating several lists of things that I want to accomplish over the next calendar year, highlighting the things I missed from the year before
On the surface, that list doesn’t seem awful — common and harmless, even. However, that’s before feeling the painful weight that the bullet carries.
2020 and the first quarter of 2021 hit me like a mack truck.
The job I held in 2020 no longer served me, and I left. It focused on productivity and capitalism despite the state of emergency our country held and the continued televised uprisings in response to police brutality.
Even though this was the best move for me, bullets surrounding career goals were high on my list of To-Do in 2021. I carried feelings of failure along with me into January, piling on benchmarks and metrics around finding THE job to my list, which was supplemented by subscribing to several email lists, Facebook groups and Twitter accounts — all with the goal of doing it right this year.
My last relationship was rocky, to say the absolute least. It left me more fragile than I’d like to admit, resulting in me questioning myself for a lot of the unhealthy things that I endured and blaming myself for staying in such an unhealthy environment for as long as I did.
With the trauma I’ve endured standing heavily on my shoulders, my desire to juggle while dodging rubber bullets on a unicycle were thwarted, and all of this — the weight of expectation, toxic relationships, the consistent looming self-imposed deadlines — was literally killing me.
I wound up in the hospital in early 2021 as a direct result of focusing on everything but my own health and wellbeing.
In years past, I would have made these hard experiences about what I did wrong, and utilized that in the self-reflection part of my New Year’s ritual, but I was shaken.
Recently, I was told that I “…made the best decisions based on the information I had at the time,” and that’s something that I’m holding close to my chest. I’m letting the dust of others’ expectations begin to settle, leaving room to see that I am not to blame for the hurt and harm I’ve dealt with.
This year, I’m not making a list. Instead, I’m focusing on forgiving myself for ever thinking anything different.
My new ritual will include intentional breathing, quiet, and surrounding myself with things that make me happy as a reminder that my peace and joy is what is needed to get me through, not painful and continuous productivity.
This looks like setting up an altar space to include things that bring me joy, like flowers, lit candles that smell like tropical fruits, artwork that reminds me of the beauty of bodies like my own, and several stones with positive energy that vary in texture and color. Then, breathing in what I’m manifesting and breathing out what no longer serves me.
The intentional quiet time will allot me the opportunity to sit with myself completely, in the reality of what happened and the feelings that come with it.
This requires stillness. This requires time. This requires honesty with myself, and not attempting to explain away my experiences.
This time around, I’m focusing on what I am accepting moving forward, which looks like:
Breathing in —
Being open to the details changing as my life does, but the most important factors include the allowance of uncertainty for the next year (and beyond) and to take things as they come.
Breathing out —
Despite my Capricorn rising, accepting that I can’t schedule everything in my life, nor can I create enough lists to prepare me for any and everything that may come my way.
Breathing in —
Recounting the times I could have given up and I didn’t, the times where I asked for the help I needed, when I shared how I was feeling and spoke my truth regardless of how it made other people feel and the times where I rested; Uplifting myself for when I sat down before I reached my capacity, when I asked for help or allowed myself to be supported.
Breathing out —
Exhaling scarcity, resentment, and self-doubt; Leaving behind negative comparisons and shame; Not leaving any room for leaning so far into the future that I lose sight of what’s happening now.
Breathing in —
Calling in stillness, quiet, and centeredness; Leaving room for mistakes, sadness, anger, and insecurity; Manifesting abundance, opportunity, discernment, and being present.
Breathing out —
Rejecting the idea that I am to blame for the hurt and harm others caused me.
I overcame an ongoing pandemic, exiting a tumultuous and unhealthy relationship, hospitalization, navigating white supremacy & capitalism through all of the above — all with no preparation.
Rituals by definition are a practice, so I know I won’t immediately shake off the inherent desire to add action-based bullet points to my list. Even so, I’m committed to it no longer being the focus.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love a list. What I no longer want, though, is my survival through another year to be minimized or validated through productivity-based checkboxes.
I have to actually be here to see my plans through, right?
RITUALS is a nine-part miniseries edited by Vanessa Friedman. The writers who contributed to this miniseries will share all sorts of rituals: rituals for love, rituals for grief, rituals for forgiveness, rituals for inner peace. We’ll publish a few pieces each week through December 31. Please share your rituals in the comments, and let our contributors know which rituals in particular speak to you.