Spread Your Wings

Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.—Yvonne Woon

Annually I love sharing this piece on transitioning into a new year. I hope you enjoy . . .

The end of the year. Another completed chapter. Let’s tie a ceremonial bow around it and honor our evolution—highlights, lessons learned, struggles, dreams, experiences. Each of these played a role in the year’s unfurling.

To awaken memories, set aside time to flip through places you kept notes and dates, such as your planner, online calendar, and journal. Scroll through your photos for visual cues. Pull out cards, ticket stubs, conference swag, and/or exhibit brochures (I keep these items in a shoe box wrapped in pretty paper labeled “memories”). Collect any mementos you may have tucked away from this year and pile it on your kitchen table.

According to Sarah Susanka, author of The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters (interviewed on Tranquility du Jour), “The end-of-year review process is very similar to sowing seeds. When you plant a garden, you don’t sit and stare at the seeds until they sprout. You know that some will germinate and some will not, but it is not up to you to make them grow. All you can do is set the conditions for their growth with good soil, adequate water, and the right amount of sun. And that’s what this exercise does—and while you are sowing seeds during this period, you can be enjoying the fruits of the previous year’s harvest at the same time.”

Grab writing tools and paper. Sip tea and list what you recall from the year in no particular order and answer the above questions. Capture big moments (e.g. started graduate school) along with tiny ones (e.g. sipped a cherry limeade at the drive-in with mom). Let the list flow.

Here are a few questions to help you get started:

  1. How did you spend your time? There are 168 hours/week and 8,760 hours/year. Where did yours go? Break it down into categories such as family, creativity, work, spirituality, etc. Compare where it went to where you’d like to see it go next year.
  2. What journeys did you take?
  3. What were your accomplishments and disappointments?
  4. What lessons did you learn?
  5. How have you grown from this time last year?
  6. How do you hope to show up this time next year?

Design a visual representation of the year by printing an assortment of photos and creating a collage. Or if you’re more techie, use an app like Collage Creator to assemble an electronic history that can be a desktop or image to share with loved ones.

Sometimes I paste a beautiful image pulled from a magazine into my art journal and list memories on it with a Sharpie. This reminds me of the year’s ups and down, allows me to express gratitude for what transpired, and honor the evolution.

After this process (which can take days, by the way), review your answers, images, hopes, and dreams. Light a candle to honor losses. Acknowledge how every experience has made your year unique. Set an intention for what you hope to see unfold next year. Allow this process to nurture who you are and who you are becoming. Sans judgment, simply observation filled with loving-kindness.

Spread your wings and fly, dear one. You are beautiful. Namaste.

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