In the days leading up to December 31, many people I know ruminated about the year’s difficulty.
Personally and professionally, people struggled: Fall outs with partners. Job stress and changes. Deaths of family, friends, and pets. The climate crisis. Political upheaval. Financial uncertainty. Medical problems.
Family and friends with whom this resonates: I hear you. I acknowledge you, and I know you had a difficult year.
Looking back on the past year, I struggled too. I spent days on the verge of tears, unsure why I felt sad or off balance or incomplete. For some reason, I clung to things that made me feel small, incapable, and unqualified.
These moments lingered. They often defined my hours and days, and sometimes my weeks or even months.
How easy it is to hold on to those particularly negative moments, to let them cloud out those that made me feel empowered, strong, smart, and meaningful.
Why do humans lean into the seemingly negative moments — those that make us feel sad, bad, angry, or less than?
Why do we prioritize those feelings and memories over those that made us feel good? Those moments where we laughed, ate great meals, had meaningful conversations, felt warm and cozy and loved, watched interesting movies and finished interesting books, met fascinating people, tried something new, fell in love, took chances that ended well, positively impacted someone’s life, made someone else feel good.
The last yoga class I taught in 2019 was based on this quote by William Blake: “If the sun and moon should ever doubt, they’d immediately go out.”
When we turn the metaphorical page on the calendar, we look at the days ahead and see a clean slate. We commit to ourselves to start strong, to begin anew.
This is the chance to Do It Right.
We start the year as the sun. We are bright and focused, ready to take on the world.
But as days turn into weeks turn into months, the unexpected pops up. As the sun crosses the sky, it encounters clouds, rain storms, patches of fog. That bright sun has to burn through the bad weather.
It takes effort to always be bright.
But not every moment is bright.
No one can be happy all the time. We won’t always succeed. Things won’t always go as expected.
There will be shitty moments. Obviously. That’s life.
When I introduced this quote into my yoga class, I encouraged my students not to wish the year away. Just as they came into 2019 strong, present, and aware, I suggested they remain strong, present, and aware. Instead of running into the new year with the idea that a change of the date will change the way we feel or react to our circumstances, I think we should embrace the moment we’re in — good or bad.
Instead of quickly, quietly, and meekly slinking across the finish line, what would happen if we embraced right now? If we committed to being present regardless of whatever this moment might bring?
The end is just as important as the beginning — whatever it may be. One balances the other. They are yin and yang. Good and bad. Light and ark.
Sun and moon. Moon and sun.
And if either ever doubts, they’d both go out.
Even as people shrug off 2019 for a fresh start, there’s a curious thing happening to society. Lots of research points to the fact that social media makes us feel crummy. We see the (positive) highlight reel of everyone else’s lives: their smiles, their laughter, their friends and happy moments, their picturesque backdrops and amazing travels and perfectly curated meals.
How can everyone else possibly be so happy when we struggle so much? Our relationships, jobs, and dreams feel like they’re going to shit when everyone else has their lives figured out.
Yet, tucked in among these picture-perfect Instagram and Facebook posts, people publish short heartfelt manifestos. They are real and authentic, warning friends, followers, and readers upfront that this post is brutally honest. That this is the real person. That life isn’t always so easy and all those pretty backdrops are just that: Backdrops.
And in front of those backdrops are real, complex people who feel real, complex feelings dealing with real, complex situations.
Last night a friend of mine told me she stopped blogging because she couldn’t be honest. Two years ago, she wrote about the highlight reel of her life as an international teacher — the places she traveled, the new experiences she had, the beautiful backdrop against which she lived.
In publishing the highlight reel, though, she hid her real self.
Because life is messy. Nothing takes place against a picturesque backdrop all the time.
She didn’t feel comfortable putting her real self forward, to talk about the struggles and day-to-day difficulties. She traded in a comfortable, reliable, and predictable life for something unknown. And she worried that writing about and sharing these struggles wouldn’t invite the support she needed to feel strong, capable, and empowered to work through these difficult moments.
Instead, putting out perspectives and observations that are brutally honest invites criticism: Subtle messages that she is the only one to blame for putting herself in these difficult situations. Slightly guilt-tinged suggestions that she is “lucky” to have this lifestyle, and she shouldn’t complain. Invitations to “come home.”
Knowing she won’t find the support she needs from the people she loves, she can’t be completely honest about her day-to-day life with the world.
We are complex creatures. Leaning one way or the other and not embracing who are completely is, first and foremost, a disservice to ourselves.
We can feel a spectrum of emotions. We can have good and bad experiences — and positive and negative reactions to those experiences. And all of those things are legitimate.
They are what makes us who we are.
Welcome to 2020.
We made it through 2019. It was a year of highs and lows and everything in between, and for that I am thankful.
We turn the page on a new decade, a new year. A new month, a new day. A new hour.
A new chance and a new opportunity.
And all this is available to you, to me. To us. Exactly as we are.
What we do with these moments — how we choose to experience, interpret, and share them — is up to each and every one of us.
In this new year, I commit to being the sun and the moon.
I invite you to do the same.