New Year’s Eve has always held a bit of magic for me.
It’s the idea that we made it.
We went the distance. We survived (and thrived, maybe…hopefully). We took another trip around the sun and, no matter how much stress or loss or sadness or trauma was thrown our way, we lived to tell about it.
And the magic comes in the idea that we get the chance to do it all over again. To keep going. To experience more. To feel more. To learn from our pain and lean into our joy.
To celebrate the many lives we lived in each moment of the past 365 days.
But what doesn’t feel so magical is the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to become new people every January 1st.
I don’t have anything against growth and self-improvement and giving up bad habits and trying to do better, but why do we insist on starting this process—which can often be mentally and physically stressful—at a time of year when we should be slowing down. When we’ve spent months planning and prepping and gifting. When we’ve worked ourselves silly to honor traditions and engage mindfully with our family and create memories and moments that will fulfill us throughout the year.
Why do we wait until our souls are exhausted and depleted to up the expectations we have for ourselves?
To demand more. To achieve more. To push ourselves to the limit.
Why don’t we give ourselves the space and time to be still?
To put down all we’ve been carrying the past year. To reflect on what we did well and what we’d (eventually) like to do better. To sit with our happiness, our anger, our pride, our tears, and our grief. To congratulate ourselves for making it through.
I gave up on New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. I’m anxious enough to begin with, so it seemed a bit ridiculous to add to my anxiety on purpose. I also don’t subscribe to the idea of choosing a word or intention for the year. I can see the benefit of doing so, as it gives us something to focus on and a way to center ourselves, but it also feels like one more thing I need to accomplish or stick to—another expectation.
Instead, I give myself permission to tip-toe into the new year. I welcome this new trip around the sun by slowing down long enough to hear what my heart wants.
And I whisper a two-word prayer that guides me into the new year with zero expectations:
“One of my favorite spiritual teachers says her only prayer is ‘Show me.’ Show me what to do. Show me what life’s about. Show me.” ~ Martha Beck
It’s in these two small words that the magic of a new year exists for me.
It’s the idea that we don’t need to have all the answers yet. We don’t need to have a plan or a goal or a timeline as soon as the clock strikes midnight. We don’t need to know how this year will unfold or who we’ll be at the end. We don’t need to hold ourselves to a promise we made when we were in the midst of heightened holiday emotions or societal pressure.
We can step into each year not knowing but being open to whatever the world has for us.
We can slow down enough to become aware of the signs all around us. We can give ourselves time to figure it all out. We can recognize that it’s okay if we never figure it all out.
The magic is simply being around to experience it all—to take in every single second of our painfully short, wondrously full, and fundamentally good lives.