For most of us, the holiday season is a blur of expectation, preparation, and celebration blended with equal parts stress, fatigue, and excitement. With the added complication of COVID-19 and the general atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, this holiday season is a mosh pit of angst.
After the year that was, it’s more important than ever to step back, take a breath, reassess, and marshal our resources before 2021 whooshes across the threshold.
Here’s one way to do that.
- Carve out some time on New Year’s Day—at least half an hour. Usually this isn’t hard, especially this year, because this day is a moment of held breath between the celebrating and a return to normal life.
- Prepare for it by literally and figuratively opening a blank page. Find a special journal for 2021, not some dog-eared notebook. Let thoughts of the year past and future gently simmer. Set aside a space and time on January 1 in which you can be alone, comfortable, and uninterrupted.
- Create an ambience with a candle, scent, lighting, photos, music if it helps, and a Bible or other spiritual guide at hand. This will be your space, your moment to reflect, feel, and look ahead. It’s not a time for resolutions, judgment, or actionable planning (if that’s even a word).
- Sit down with your clean page, your timeless space, and your only self. Take a moment to shake off the dust of the day, the year. Begin to reflect on the year just passed. What stands out? What emotions—joy, sadness, fear—arise? Any specific experiences or responses come to mind? Write down your thoughts as they come, but don’t focus on the writing or force the thoughts. This year was a doozy. Give it the time it deserves.
- Once you feel you can turn away from the year just past, begin to visualize the year to come—it’s uncertainties, but also your dreams and hopes. "Let yourself be drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray," writes the poet Rumi.
What is the source of your greatest joy or satisfaction? What are you good at? What are you happiest doing? Where does your passion—or your pleasure or your interest—lie? What have you always wanted to attempt? Do you have dreams that you decided had passed you by or that you are too afraid to try? Is there anything you would regret not having done before you die? Write it down. Write it all down. This will be your lodestar for the year.
And that’s it. Return gently to today. You don’t have to figure everything out, answer every question, confront every demon, or create a detailed plan. But you’ve begun. You’ve placed a footprint on a clean field of snow. As Annie Dillard says, "How we spend our days is how we spend our lives." Today has begun.
Happy New Year!
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.