~This is Us, Season 1, Episode 1
There is so much pressure around New Year's: pressure to look back saying good riddance to the past year, pressure to have a grand vision going forward, to have figured out the bungles of the last 12 months, even pressure to feel and openly express gratitude. It can be overwhelming for someone that is feeling strong and healthy and focused, but what if you are in a rough patch? What if you've hit a bump (or two or twelve) in the road? What if you're in bed with the flu?
What if we just let ourselves BE this New Year's Eve? Hear me out. Whether we are hustling to win the game of who's most exhausted or who is more motivated for the months ahead, the fact still remains that if we are hustling on either side of this coin, we are still competing, still trying to live according to someone else's standards and not our own. What could living feel like if we were free to feel and rest and explore and BE, on our own time table? To accept that we are where we are on this New Year's Eve, and any way you slice it, that's ok? That it's even ok not to be ok.
Tara Brach, in her book Radical Acceptance, talks about the power of accepting where we are right now, not as a means of denying reality or stagnating, but as the first step in loving ourselves and having the courage to face the reality of where we are at this moment so that we can walk forward with faith and grace. "Yes, this too", she suggests saying when we find ourselves dealing with that expected car repair payment, a rude cashier, or a head cold that has you in bed. It's not about resigning yourself, but be bravely willing to see the reality of a situation, whatever it might be and letting yourself feel whatever feelings it might bring. Once we accept where we are, we can plan for where we need and want to go--but we can't skip the step of accepting where we are starting. We can try, but life doesn't let us move forward without at first letting ourselves see and feel and accept.
I think of a firefighter as a wonderful example of someone practicing radical acceptance: a firefighter does not deny or ignore the reality of being in the middle of a burning building. Rather, they accept that this is their reality at the moment, and this acceptance allows them the ground zero from which to take steps to rescue any people or animals inside, put out the flames, and bring themselves to safety. Acceptance is not denial.
So where are you today? Maybe you're dressed up in fancy clothes for a night on the town with your partner or your friends. All good. Maybe you are in your pajamas with your pet, watching a favorite childhood movie. All good. Maybe you are dreading 2018. Maybe you are little-kid-on-Christmas-morning-excited about the whole New Year thing. All good, all good.
Start where you are. Don't feel pressured to jump with joy or get motivated right this moment. Sometimes the next step forward is rest. Take the pressure off yourself to be whoever it you are supposed to be, or feel whatever it is that you are supposed to feel. If I've got a New Year's resolution this year, it's to be a bit more FREE. Free from the shoulds, the coulds, and the supposed to's. And to try to take whatever lemons I've got and make something resembling lemonade.
This New Year's Eve, I'm fighting a cold, so I'm in a favorite sweater propped up on the couch, with my second batch of chicken soup cooking away, alternating between reading and binging This is Us on Hulu. I've got a backlog of emails, texts, and messages to respond to, the fallout of a full fall schedule, and I've got an ever growing to do list that I'm not allowed to look at until January 2nd. I'm not feeling particularly energetic at the moment, and I'm not going to use more precious energy fighting that feeling. I am where I am and I trust that there is time for it all.
Wishing you a moment of radical acceptance today, wherever you might find yourself and all the best wishes to you for a healthy, curious, creative, and adventurous New Year ahead.