New Year – Time to Celebrate or Reflect?

I might be alone in this, but New Year never seems a huge deal to me. Just because we switch the calendar from one number to another, why does that give license to burn thousands of pounds (or dollars) of fireworks? And what is the deal with getting so drunk you don’t even remember seeing those fireworks?

Okay so I’m a big wet blanket these days. I wasn’t always. I do remember the excitement. One year in particular sticks in my mind. Or at least the sparklers do. We were in a nightclub and the guys who ran it gave everyone sparklers just before midnight. That was fun.

The year I was sixteen, I went “first footing” with my Dad and older sister. First footing is a Scottish thing, where you go to visit people after midnight – in theory to be the first person through the door that year, but really it’s just a way to party. If the first person is tall, dark and handsome that’s supposed to bring luck, and you’re also supposed to bring a lump of coal and some whisky.

Hardly anyone took coal, even way back when I was sixteen, and as far as I’m aware, the whole tradition is dead or dying. This year, the German supermarket Lidl has given out lumps of coal to customers to try to revive the Scottish first footing tradition. Given that hardly anyone burns coal any more, I can’t see this idea catching fire.

Unlike Lidl, I’m not particularly nostalgic for first footing and lumps of coal, and nor do I have much desire to go out into wind and rain to yell, “Happy New Year” at a bunch of tourists.

Perhaps that’s what took the fun out of New Year for me. We live in a celebration city, and people fly in from all over the world for the street party. The only time I’ve been to it was twenty years ago. I’d had a miscarriage a few weeks before, and was possibly more depressed than I’d ever been in my life. My husband and I wandered around crowds of people with beer cans, our feet crunching on discarded and broken bottles. We couldn’t get near enough to any of the stages to hear the music properly, and the whole thing just felt artificial and pointless. Shortly after midnight we went home.

Depression can make you feel like shit, but it can also show you where your life isn’t working and point you to what you need to heal. For me, that was not partying, but finding authenticity.

Fast forward three years, and while most people were toasting the New Millennium, I was sound asleep. However, a few hours later, while most people were sound asleep, I was in the kitchen with my toddler, and through the window, I saw the first dawn of the New Millennium. It felt a special moment.

Those are the moments I think are worth celebrating – the moments that matter to us, whether they are at New Year or at any time. I don’t need someone else to tell me it’s time to celebrate. I can feel it in my heart.

For me, if New Year serves any purpose, it’s as a time of reflection. It is a time to pause and notice how far I’ve come, and where I’d like to go.

2016, by any standards, has been something of a shocking year, particularly when it comes to politics. We all know that, so I’m not going to add to the commentary apart from to say that like my depression of years ago, we can either say no good can come of it, or we can let it show us where life isn’t working and point us to what we need to do to heal. I don’t entirely know what that is, but I have a feeling it starts with allowing authenticity. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in this brilliant article, authenticity isn’t being “brutally honest.” However, it is allowing our true feelings and my posts on How to be your own friend during sadness and disappointment and When someone you love is suffering – be real were two of the more popular ones on my blog this year. The latter also featured on Hasty Words. I also had a few posts featured on the Good Men Project this year, including the one I wrote Post Brexit.

One of the highlights of the year for me was visiting Sedona in Arizona to take part in a Sedona Method retreat. This was a completely awe-inspring trip. The Sedona Method is a process “that shows you how to uncover your natural ability to let go of any painful or unwanted feeling in the moment.” It was created by Lester Levenson over half a century ago after doctors had given him months to live. He began to question his way of life and to let go of emotions and his desire so change almost everything. Lester lived for another 42 years and then Hale Dwoskin took over the Sedona Method and developed into a process that combines mindfulness, compassion and deep releasing.  As well as relishing the opportunity to deepen my practice, I made some lovely new friends on the retreat and was totally stunned by the beauty of Sedona.

As far as writing goes, it feels like a good year for me. I won an BlogHer 2016 Honoree Award for the post I wrote inviting people to join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. I’ve had a few essays published in places I’m proud of, such as the HerStories Project anthology: So Glad They Told Me, and Motherwell Magazine. Both those essays were about some aspect of the early days after our second daughter was born three months prematurely. She’s now seventeen and I’m finally getting round to writing about that time.

Digging back even further into my past, Where is home? – a post I wrote while visiting my mother and listening to the wind howl around my childhood home was also popular with this blog’s readers. I was genuinely surprised by the lovely comments this post received.

Talking of home, this year, I began editing Cotswold Eco-Build, a blog where my friend Pam Bennett is recording the eco-renovation of her 17th century Cotswold cottage. It’s an incredibly ambitious and exciting project and Pam is truly an fore-runner in the race to save our planet. If you haven’t yet checked out Cotswold Eco-build, you are missing out!

So now, it’s almost 2017, and though there are a few hours to go, I can hear the sound of fireworks already. What does the new year have in store? I can tell you I plan to finish the novel I’m working on, and the book about those early days with a premature baby. Other than that – I can’t tell you! I haven’t got a crystal ball – but I do have a feeling it will better than many people dread. I also have a feeling that if we are more willing to be authentic, and less willing to be “brutally honest” then 2017 could turn out just fine.

I’ll drink to that! (Though my drink will probably be a cup of herbal tea – sorry!)

I’d love to hear from you – are you a celebrator, reflector or both? How do you mark the New Year, if at all? 

Comments

  1. Hi Yvonne. I’ve been so dreadfully neglectful of friends but new year and all that makes for a resolution to try better. I’m a bit like you in that a quiet evening in who those I care about is better than traipsing about in the cold. When we were young living in the New Forest in a small group of three cottages, as soon as midnight had struck mum would tell dad to ‘fetch Barry’ our neighbours son who, while only a young teenager was over six foot with coal black hair. Dad would give him a lump of coal, usher him across the threshold, swap the coal for a beer and a bottle of something for his mum and send him back home – that is unless they were round anyway for drinks in which case Barry would be sent out the back door to come in the front! Hope 2017 is kinder than 2016 and brings you more writing successes. Best Geoff

    1. Author

      Great to hear from you Geoff! I’ve also not been much around the blogosphere lately, and this is a rare-ish post from me. I am very interested to read that you also had the lump of coal tradition in the New Forest. I wasn’t sure if it was a Scottish thing, so googled it and the results all said it was Scottish. Clearly that’s not the case! 🙂 And I remember the thing of sending people out to come back in! The first footing tradition really does seem to be dying out now though.

      Anyway, Happy New Year to you, and I hope it’s a good one! Thanks for popping by. You were this blog’s “first foot” now I think of it… 🙂

  2. Yvonne, I agree that the moments most worth celebrating are the small ones that take us by surprise, like the sunrise you saw from your window. Your Sedona retreat sounds and looks wonderful – I’m so glad that you did that and look forward to your writings in 2017. As you said, goodness knows that the politics of 2016 were shocking and awful… and here in the US, I’m fearful for what’ll happen in a few weeks but again, the small moments will continue to happen, wonder and laughter will still be in our homes and our hearts. Here’s to 2017 and being authentic. I’ll toast to that.

    1. Author

      Kristi, I guess those moments are so precious because we get out of our own way, stop trying to control life, and let it reveal its beauty. Yes, the Sedona retreat was utterly wonderful!
      And yes, what you say is accurate – we will probably experience fear, but also those small moments of wonder and laughter. It’s not either-or, it’s all of it!
      Thanks for your comment and for joining me in toasting being authentic!

  3. Reflective, instead of wild drunk. Authentic instead of brutally anything. I like where you go with the new year in this end-of-the-previous-year post Yvonne.

    It looks like, from what you’ve assembled here, that you achieved an awful lot in 2016 and I truly value your words and your insights.

    All you describe, though traditions can be nice, reminds me of New York City in Time Square on New Year’s Eve. I have many many items I’d love to check off my bucket list, experiences I hope to have, but that cramped and crowded spot on the last night of any calendar year isn’t on that list. No sign of bathrooms…no thanks.

    🙂

    Happy 2017 and I will check out the posts you link to throughout. I’ve read some already, but some I wouldn’t mind rereading.

    1. Author

      Hi Kerry, thanks so much for your lovely comment. You saying that I achieved an awful lot in 2016 makes me aware of how easy it is to focus on what we haven’t achieved – I have been doing that a bit so thanks for the wonderful reminder to focus on what I have achieved.

      And happy 2017 to you too!

  4. I’ve heard of the Sedona Method…I think I even tried a voice recording of the guy showing how it was done. It was interesting. Hehe.
    But yeah…New Year. I decided to do my Tree of Life – but more for the “darkness of winter” and because I do intentions all the time. Eh…I figured New Year’s was a good excuse to make a bit of a show of it – but honestly, I have no intention of taking the tree down – at least not any time soon. I’ll put more intentions on there or take some off…but the New Year is a day when we almost always stay at home and are in bed by 10pm. Haha. I’m a wet blanket, too. 😉
    Interesting and awesome post. And I really, really need to make it to Sedona. 🙂 Those photos are amazing.

    1. Author

      Sageleaf, the Sedona Method has been such a supportive tool for me so many times in the last few years. And yes, I do recommend a visit there – it is truly awe-inspiring.
      I know what you mean about doing intentions all the time, and that’s partly why I don’t bother with New Year or resolutions. Your tree of life sounds interesting…
      Thanks for your comment.

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