Notes of Reflection and Resolution
A note on regret.
When setting out on the journey of reflecting upon the past year, it is not uncommon to bump into Regret standing squarely in the middle of our path. With Regret stands Shame; at other times, Disdain. We flip through old journal entries with ideas marked with naivety, swipe through photos with odd haircuts and regrettable fashion choices, and think back to who we once were at the start of 2018, with vastly different priorities—and we pause in wonder at how tremendously we can change in the span of just a few hundred days. Questions such as “Why did I ever do that?” or “How could I have ever thought that?” may fog our minds. However, the fact that we are in a more mature, new-and-improved space now ought to not give us the right to devalue who we once were or where we once stood. The scraped knee of a toddler cannot be compared to the heartbreak of a teenager, nor the failed job interview of a college graduate, nor the exhaustion of a parent.
Regret not what you have chosen to cry over, to dream about, to sing aloud during the year of 2018. Trust that the words and thoughts and actions of your past self remain just as sincere and valid as your words and thoughts and actions now. May Regret (and its friends, Shame and Disdain) fall far from our attitudes towards our younger selves. A critical eye is surely needed so that we may to learn from our past, but may we strive to always keep the other eye gentle and filled with grace.
A note on remembering.
To fully engage in the act of remembrance is a courageous commitment. We collect memories in a variety of ways—may it be a shoebox of birthday letters kept over the years, well-worn sweaters that remind of us home, or yet-to-be-organized phone galleries of photos. Meaningful paraphernalia nudge us into recollecting our memories, but it takes an intentional choice to enter into the act of holding a memory in two careful hands and remembering how it hurt or inspired or gladdened or angered or affected us once. To take the time to feel the weight of the pain and joy that unfolded over the course of the past year is not a casual task.
Despite its difficult terrain, remembrance is surely a worthy activity. We can deliberately hold the past with the weight it is due—recognize the collection of moments that have led us to where we are today. We can choose to revisit the highs and lows of the past year, as well as the moments of assumed mediocrity that are surely never any less significant than memories of vivacious peaks or sunless valleys. Who were we once? How happy that moment was!—and how devastating this decision was. How had we spent our busy mornings and slow Saturdays? What had been our most and least favorite moment, conversation, meal? How did it feel, what was it like, how did it change us?
And of course, remembrance yields a plethora of possibilities. Perhaps the next step is to pack the moment away, never to be held again—or to shelve it in a well-loved, accessible space, or to invite a friend in to hold a particularly poignant or difficult memory together. The beginning of a new year is an apt time to engage in remembrance of the past year. May we find the courage to look back and ahead with courage and purpose.
A note on dreamcasting and alternate endings.
Resolutions are, really, about casting dreams. Creating resolutions are not just about creating a checklist of actions to accomplish; resolutions speak to something deeper: to the dreams that we knit together in our deepest parts of our beings, to the narratives into which we weave our truest hopes. With each new year, we grow into a deeper understanding of who we are: of our joys and sorrows, routines and priorities, motivations and ideals—and we learn to cast the dreams that speak to who we truly are and who we want to become. Through our resolutions, we see our answers to questions such as: How much do we really value our mental and physical health? Which relationships do we find worth investing in? Do we actually care about the things that we claim to care about? What and whom do we really love?
With a deepening self-understanding that comes with the passing of every year, we learn to cast the dreams that speak more and more to who we really are and want to be. But of course, our lived-out realities never completely fall in line with the elaborate dreams that we create each January. However, if we view our resolutions through the lens of dreamcasting, we learn that creating resolutions are not really about tightly gripping onto a particular vision for the future. Perhaps the act of resolut-ing really walks hand-in-hand with an openness to alternate endings.
With the end of January approaching, we invite us all to reflect upon the past with grace; to engage in remembrance deeply and fully; and to cast our dreams with the expectation that the coming year will bring about unforeseen twists and turns. May we nurture a quiet hope for a fresh year in which we set out with meaningful purpose while embracing the unforeseen—to brave the storms and rejoice in the sunbeams of dynamic journeys and alternate endings.