L ast New Year’s Day, as the clock struck 12 am, I sat in my bedroom with my eyes closed, meditating, immersed in an act of self love. On my mirror I wrote words by Carl Jung, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
To bring in the holiday with as much serenity as possible, I purged my body and house with sage. And as the countdown approached, I reread mantras—loving reminders—that I had previously stored in the notes app of my iPhone.
My room was dark as the clock neared midnight. There was no light except my wishes and the flicker of candle light. It was official, 2017, I declared, would be the year I gifted myself a complete restoration. To do so, however, I knew I would have to take more risks than I ever had.
In previous years I marked every turn of the calendar with a party—be it an intimate affair at a friend’s home or a warehouse sized club, I could be found in a social setting. The tradition had become closer to an escape from the reality of 364 days of hard work than an actual celebration of what was to come. On those New Year’s Eve nights my mind would straddle between the idea that resolutions were stupid while knowing my instinct included an ever-present desire for improvement. Similar to invoking a wish before blowing out candles on a birthday cake, I would quickly offer a resolution over casual conversations, as the champagne bottles popped or in my head as club music interrupted my thinking process. One year I would attempt to give up white bread, another I would abstain from alcohol and most years included a resolve to save more money. But as my memory of the party faded so would my commitment to my deepest desires.
In previous years I marked every turn of the calendar with a party—be it an intimate affair at a friend’s home or a warehouse sized club, I could be found in a social setting. The tradition had become closer to an escape from the reality of 364 days of hard work than an actual celebration of what was to come.
It may sound cliche, but this year was, in fact, different for me. The newness included a combination of “first-world problems” and the everyday complications that come with being human. A year ago today, my home, which I own, was filled with heat, a fully stocked refrigerator, clean running water and a walk-in closet full of clothes. Things were well, for the most part. Yet, Trump’s inauguration was just on the horizon. He promised an immigration ban, a wall on the Mexican border, hiring of multiple white supremacists in his administration, proposed reversal of LGBTQ rights and many other violent policies. I found myself wondering if I, and possibly my future children, would continue to live relatively well, relatively safe, and relatively peaceful lives or if what was to come would swirl us back to times when our rights would be reversed similar to that of my parents who were born in the years of Jim Crow, or maybe worse. With so much negative change, it became evident I would need to be even more unapologetic about doing all I could to find my center in the midst of potential chaos. I needed to be resilient and to become an expert at creating healthy moments especially when everything seemed to be falling apart in the country and in my community.
But I remember the first mantra I repeated on New Year’s Eve. “I will keep the promises I make to myself.” I resolved to be true to myself at all costs, despite the circumstances and trials I would encounter in 2017. Should America collapse, I would be fine knowing that something more valuable than the fragile concept of citizenship defined my existence. Should all Hell break loose in my personal life, I would still land both of my feet on the ground.
I realized I needed to be aware of my attributes and my faults. What worked? What didn’t? In the past, for example, I’d say “yes” more than I needed to for purposes of concensus or the agreed upon collective good, but doing so often drained me. I needed to do some things for me, but turning mantras into habits takes practice and comes with costs.
I resigned from my job without a new one lined up, dissolved multiple friendships which added to my leisure but not my growth. I was forced to establish a new routine; keeping the promise to improve my health meant choosing the gym over sleep, for instance. Instead of causing a void in my carer or social life, the simple commitment to say yes to what is most fundamental to me brought about new attachments. I have taken on new projects which speak to the core of who I am and what I believe to be true in the world. My connection to family and friends are more honest and stronger. But none of this would not have happened had I not set intentions.
But I remember the first mantra I repeated on New Year’s Eve. “I will keep the promises I make to myself.”
As I look forward to 2018 I have hope for many things. Like watching a chicken lay eggs, I am unsure of how much awaits me, but I am certain what does will be original. More than hope, my resolutions are clearly defined and were written long before the countdown to the new year. Ahead is another year of saying “yes” to me, another year of giving to others knowing I have the resources to do so guided by a spirit of abundance. On this New Year’s Eve, that is my purpose for celebration.
Our world continues to turn, the economy is shifting in a harmful direction, politics are being redefined and I wonder what it might take for all of us to see ourselves on a journey to being healed? But maybe that’s a privileged request to lift up when so many people in the U.S. are at risk of being harmed on their healing journey. Yet, I want to believe that we have the power collectively, and individually, to restore our peace, our contentment, our wellbeing and all of the most essential aspects of life to which we have been deprived. And if I learned nothing else in 2017, I realized giving to others, with an unlimited capacity, is a practice that will enable the giver to be continually filled in kind.