Ushering in a new year can bring with it a host of jumbled thoughts, reflections and some less than desirable feelings. I used to work hard to "tune out" as much as I could on New Year's Eve, find a large party, and just drink the evening away. The ball drop hardly mattered. I just went along with my crowd of friends, being cheery even if I did not truly feel like it. I was just grateful to have friends to be with. And yes, the drinking made this a lot easier. Not happier, but easier.
I would silently tell myself, "Next year has to be better than this year" and it pretty much became my yearly mantra. Underlying that declaration were essentially two main pieces of information: the knowledge that the past year was hard, painful, and disappointing; and two, that I held out a bit of hope for improved conditions with a fresh slate of 12 months lying ahead.
Each year was the same, however, as I just hoped for a better new year without putting a lot of thought or effort into it. "Ruins in search of ruins..." is a partial quote of a sentence in an essay I read while in college (I am fairly certain it was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson). This quote is in regard to the person who travels to far off countries to go in search of himself. This concept hit close to home for me, as I knew I was a traveler too in search for the "thing" that would make me happy, enable me to understand, find that missing piece. I was a person crumbling inside. I even went to Europe and traveled the historic ruins, hoping to find a sense of something there. Rather than understand what Emerson was saying, I kept seeking out betterment outside myself, rather than on the inside. The more I kept running, the further I got away from the truth of who I really was, the impact of mental illness and how all of it had a say in my daily living.
It took me a long time to discover that I was in "ruins" only because I was not giving myself the opportunity to see myself as something other than a pile of rubble. Facing the decision to search out the "ruins" inside me was daunting. Was I up to such a trek? Giving myself some credit for the capacity to build a foundation, a healthy foundation, was the first step. (In truth, I wanted an easier answer... once I started to build, however, each stone was lighter to carry and strengthened my resolve.)
That metaphor aside, what I have taken upon myself at the close of the calendar year is to journal out an accounting of the past year and simply take notice of what worked, what did not work, lessons learned (some new, some for the tenth time!) and weigh-in on my sense of value, where I am standing now versus previous years, etc. I know I don't always get it right (meaning responding the way I would prefer to various situations) but I also no longer beat myself up for it. I just notice it. Noticing patterns (behavioral and thought patterns) and how some old beliefs still pop up is really helpful for me. There will always be room for growth. Each year I allow myself to be human in my recovery process.
Creating such a "document" each year for myself is like a cleansing. I am freed up and clear to begin a new year with more than just a bit of hope. I have my hope combined with commitment to myself to engage in the process of maintaining my balance, perspective, and well-being. Peacefulness is no longer a foreign concept, and it is this sense of peacefulness that I now celebrate on the New Year.
Published On: January 01, 2008