I like a quiet new year’s eve. Looking in is always preferable to going out. I’ll write in my journal, make lists like this one, read cards, and send out messages of good will to dear ones when I hear the horns and singing ring out at midnight.
Sometimes, I’ll bundle up and take a walk, soaking in the vibes of the shift from one year to the next. Every year has an atmosphere of its own, and I like to recognize it. This year, it’s solemn and low with an edge of quiet defiance – we’re living through an Orwellian transition to the “new”, some kind of new that feels like an old struggle to anyone with a sense of historic patterns. But enough of that. We have all year to grapple with the challenges ahead. I think we may be so busy in our struggle to move forward that we may not have time to honor whatever we might’ve learned in this year that’s just about gone. I’d like to talk about what I came to understand this year. Maybe we can relate. That would be a solid way to end, to begin again.
Here are some things that circumstances drove home for me these past few months. It’s a jumble, but so is life:
- (A) When it’s wrong, leave.
- (B) Forget being right when it’s wrong and forget being graceful when you go. Take the task of leaving what hurts you as practice. Grace comes with getting better at recognizing what isn’t right for you.
- (C) Don’t stick around egotists, vengeful people, or people who refuse to grow. FFS.
- Don’t apologize from a place of insecurity, but from a willingness to correct the problem. This is a note inspired by Patti Smith’s performance at the Nobel Awards Ceremony in 2016. You can do something beautiful right after you make a mistake. You are not your mistakes. You are what you make with what you have.
- It’s important to surround ourselves with people we admire. Some of us are magnets for others who need help we know we can give. We call it empathy, but we extend none of that goodness to ourselves and these relationships can go out of balance very quickly, leaving us exhausted. We’re often too tired to recognize help when it crosses our own paths, because we are so drained from being the designated helper. The best way to change this is to actively make friends who live up to their own expectations and encourage you to do the same. This will put all long-term relationships in a healthier perspective.
- In the very recent words of a super wise friend: “You do not exist to make other people comfortable all the time.” It’s very sweet to dance around the world with love in your heart and fairy dust in your palms, but honor your feelings! Say what needs to be said. Harking back to my second point from above, it’s ok to be clumsy about it, but it’s got to be done. Honor your comfort zone…
- … And just because you push it doesn’t mean others get to. That can get abusive. You don’t have to sacrifice pieces of your sense of self to stay interesting for people who like to test others more than they like to know them.
- Art! Art comes from the practice of making things. It does not come from getting good ideas every other week or being recognized favorably by some critic. Artists have this very wonderful and scary calling, which is to use their abilities to structure their lives. You get ideas from doing things, not from being talented. You make a living by doing the work that comes from your own recognition of that talent, not from other people’s opinions. Be deterred by nothing from making things. Not even (especially) yourself.
- We really don’t need to explain ourselves to everyone we meet. It’s ok to be learned. It’s ok for people to be curious. It’s ok to remain a mystery (though that’s tricky to even define in this era of social media…).
- Don’t. Feed. Trolls. UNLESS you need practice keeping your cool under ridiculous circumstances or voicing your ideas in public and the person is, in some opposites-day-everyday universe helping you find the right words. It’s ok to use trolls, but don’t you dare take them seriously!
- Using time well is a matter of personal reflection. Reflect, then do what you think is right for you. And do it. And reflect more. And do more. And don’t stop the cycle, not ever.