Angelo and I sat in our recliners in the middle of the afternoon on the first day of the year and remarked out loud to each other, “I don’t feel like doing anything right now.” Christmas decorations and general tidying were beckoning, but neither of us could move. We felt guilty about it of course, because we’re both the oldest child and it is ingrained in us to keep going. But after this year; after caregiving for almost four years, after missing our children, our grandchildren and changing nearly everything in our lives to be done differently, including holiday celebrations–we’re tired.
There is no real reason to treat New Year’s as something different than what happens at every moment of life. But we’ve trained ourselves to become introspective on that date and to consider missed opportunities, regrets and hopefully, rewards that are connected to the year gone by. Birthdays and anniversaries do the same kind of thing, but nothing equals the end of the year in its insistence that we examine our choices and decisions. For many of us that’s followed by a compulsion to come up with resolutions to accomplish the things that we’re sure will complete us.
This brings up all sorts of uneasy questions. What if we run out of time to do all the things we said we were going to do? What if we have the time, but just don’t accomplish any of our goals? Didn’t many of us discover just that during the last year of pandemic and quarantine? We had the time, and we still didn’t organize all the closets or finish writing our book.
Before we get pad and pencil or, rather, before we sit down before keyboard or tablet, we have to overcome what is often a sense of fatigue from the months past. At this time of year, we are also called to hibernation; to put aside our activities, to stop striving and to prepare ourselves for a period of dormancy. Not so fast with the resolutions . . . we need time to lie fallow. Fallow land is land left to rest and regenerate. We should take the time to be exhausted and regenerate ourselves. Accept the end of the year before we begin the new one.
We humans would do better if our time of resolutions were on a seasonal calendar rather than a lunar one, like the Persians have done for centuries when they celebrate their New Year Nowruz at the vernal equinox. The dawn of our new year is only a little over ten days into winter; there are 80 days left. Accepting such seasonal cessation is an end unto itself rather than a preamble to the new. Let’s not label this time before creation as fatigue–we’re not shirking our annual responsibility to a better self. We’re honoring a physical need and it’s only from this place that the truly new can originate. Until we’ve understood what we’ve been through, why start piling up new goals and ambitions until we’re sure we finished what we started this year. We’re all so exhausted, we’ve been through so much, we’ve learned a lot. What if we take the time to integrate the lessons we’ve learned to insure that we will go on stronger and wiser than before?
Can we trust that we will happen, though? Can we come out of such dormancy and still have the desire to do more? Who among us doesn’t have clear evidence that the ending of one year’s cycle didn’t produce all of the desired change? I’m pretty sure most of us have slipped up on a resolution or two. More than once. How could putting off making resolutions this year be any different?
Well, who’s to say? What if we fail again? What if we don’t? If there was a lesson this past year at all, it is one of taking care of ourselves. We wore masks to protect our health and the health of others. We stayed home and limited our family and friend activities and learned how to live in a world that had become unfamiliar and a little scary. It is frightening to give up what we once knew as safe and for some of us, that was who we once knew ourselves to be. We had to change in order to survive and I don’t think we’re being dramatic about this at all. Often, the first thing to appear when we recreate our self is fear, and one way to understand that is from Pema Chodron, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”
What Angelo and I wish for everyone this season is a time of dormancy. A time to rest, heal and learn in order to fully integrate the lessons of this past year to hopefully prepare us for what is to come. However, some of us can’t just stop, so maybe simply being present for the idea of dormancy is a resolution in itself of sorts. Staying still and responding with kindness to ourselves in this place of acceptance that it’s not time for the new; it’s time to allow the old to be accepted and not just be swept under new resolutions.
Because another lesson of this past year is that nothing is constant. Except change.