My Kind Of New Year Celebration
For most people, New Year’s means one of two things: Either it’s a night to party and get wild, or it’s a time to start planning for the year to come. (Some people are talented enough to do both, I suppose. Maybe you party first, plan later. Or is it plan the year, then party to celebrate? I don’t know.)
Here’s where I admit that New Year’s used to make me feel like a misfit. I’m not someone given to partying, and despite my control-freak tendencies, the notion of planning an entire year gives me palpitations. Heck, I don’t even have a Bucket List or a Life List or whatever it’s hip to call that these days. And I have no desire to make one. A while back a friend tried to convince me that I was limiting myself, without such a list. She assured me that it didn’t have to hold all grandiose and fanciful items; I’ve seen plenty of lists that hold items like “learn how to tie a fancy knot” and other sorts of “little accomplishments” which are easily realized. “It’s about the process,” she said, “and tapping in to what you really want and can make happen.”
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not knocking anyone with a list—but contemplating such an exercise felt both indulgent and short-sighted, to me. I was supposed to find it empowering, but mostly it made me feel selfish and dissatisfied with reality. My daily challenges tend more towards accepting the stuff I can’t control and being grateful for the good bits. Coming up with an entire list of non-essential desires (whether attainable or not) felt counterproductive in terms of increasing my overall life satisfaction. Starting a new year with such a list struck me as positively depressing. (“Here’s a whole list of things I’ll probably either never do or will have to eschew some other essential life activity in order to complete!”)
And resolutions… sure, I’ve done those. I’ve even kept some of them. But again, does a new year have to demand quite so much from us? Can’t we pace ourselves, find a way to give our brains the whole “Yay, we lived another nearly-400 days!” message without being exhausted by January 8th?
If there was a New Year’s equivalent to “Bah, Humbug!” I’d feel compelled to add it here. I’ll bet I sound like a curmudgeon, eager to do away with the whole thing.
Not so, actually. A few years ago I stumbled into the perfect New Year’s activity (for me): allowing a ritual that would mark the passage of another year, let me do a bit of dreaming about what I want next (without having to commit to a specific regimen or declare my intention to jump out of a plane or anything), and is something I can do with one or both kids. If I—a non-crafty, unartistic, fairly grumpy human—can get into it, I have to believe it’s the sort of thing that can be fun for anyone.
Ready for this? Consider making a vision board. Especially consider making a vision board if you think that vision boards are silly and woo-woo and not at all for a practical person such as yourself. I can tell you that I am emphatically not a “vision board kind of person” (whatever that means). And yet, I’ve become a vision board person, somehow. (See?? Power of the vision board!)
At its best, the process feels somewhat spiritual and leaves you with a one-of-a-kind art collage that’s a little bit like peering into your soul. At its worst, the process reminds you of art class in elementary school (in a pleasant way), and leaves you with a one-of-a-kind art collage that reminds you of why you shouldn’t quit your day job. I promise that it’s good either way, and it might work out a lot more like the former than the latter, no matter how cynical you feel heading into it.
Last year was the first time I made a board alongside my daughter, and sharing the experience with her made it a hundred times better. It felt more important than any resolution I could make. It was better than dreaming up all of the wishes I could muster about experiences I wanted or places I should visit. It was the best possible way to mark the end of a difficult year; simultaneously grateful and hopeful and wanting more, yet accepting of life’s curveballs, too. My board told me things about myself I hadn’t dared to so much as consider, much less say out loud. My daughter’s board did the same for her, I think. And we looked at each others’ boards and then saw one another in a new way, too.
Today I think about how much better this year was than the one that came before it… and how much better still I hope the next year might be. I’m looking forward to sitting down amidst stacks of magazines, again, and turning off the constant chatter of my conscious brain for a few hours. I can’t tell you if it influences how my new year plays out, I can only tell you that this process makes me feel more ready to face it. And all without either a hangover or a gym membership!
Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s to another year of whatever makes your heart happy.