With the turning of the year, I like to reflect on major themes: What changes had the biggest impact on my life, and how can I keep the momentum of growth rolling into the new year?
I go for meandering hikes, voice recording insights as I walk through the woods; I think aloud with my husband and friends, sharing what we’ve learned, where we’ve stumbled, where we’ve made quantum leaps; I journal until my hand cramps, and I sift through my dreams for clues.
Many days and two-thirds of a journal later, here are the three major changes that are definitely accompanying me into the new year, complete with a while-you-read soundscape.
#1 I Don’t Need to Figure It Out
Over the holidays, I received a cheery well-wishes text from a relative. It was very sweet.
And yet, when the notification pinged and I saw who it was, I watched my thoughts stomp on the gas pedal, accelerating in time with the anxious up-fluttering in my stomach. I really didn’t want to reply. A voice in my mind immediately countered this desire with, “What?! You HAVE to! They’re just being nice!”
They were being nice–that’s very true. And I still didn’t want to respond.
I talked to that voice in my head (i.e. worked with my inner parts, Internal Family Systems style), and in learning what this part was afraid of, should I choose not to engage, I could see, clear as day, how young this inner voice was.
This inner part wasn’t the least bit equipped to grasp the entirety of the situation.
The tangled matrix of past, present, and future that is me, and the tangled matrix of past, present, and future that is my relative–either of those things on their own would be layered with abundant complexity. Yet we also share a family history that extends beyond our lived experience, patterns echoing through who-knows-how-many generations, and every “simple” interaction is embedded in this web of inheritance.
But my inner part was far too young, its capacity and maturity much too limited, to be able to grasp all of that complexity. Hell, even as an adult, I can’t grasp all of it; I just know it’s there.
From the part’s POV, I had gotten a nice text and wasn’t responding, simple as that, and stripped of its context, the “logical” way to view this situation was that I was choosing to behave like a poopy-diaper jerk.
But in that moment, faced with the innumerable, crisscrossing threads of meaning, rather than feeling overwhelmed, for perhaps the first time ever, I felt comforted. Of course I can’t figure all of this out (whatever that would even mean). But I can check in with myself and determine how I want to respond right now, which is: I don’t want to reply.
I don’t know what this means for our relationship (or lack thereof) in the future, I don’t know if I’ll feel differently about this tomorrow or next month, I don’t know what my relative will think about this, I don’t know what (if anything) other family members will say about this…
I don’t know.
I just don’t know.
And I don’t need to figure it out.
What I’ve seen, time and time and time again, is that when I’m frantically racing through thoughts and feelings and memories and internal programming and other people’s two cents…I’m not my best self. Not even close. I’m scattered and ungrounded, which leads to feeling impatient, resentful, fearful, and defensive.
But when I slooooow down, I don’t harry myself into taking immediate action, and I allow my feelings time to arise, communicate their messages, and gradually ebb, like treasures revealed by the tide, I’m gifted with the clarity of how I want to respond in the moment.
If I can let that be enough, instead of grasping for future permanence, the temptingly sticky fantasy of finding the ultimate, end all, be all, forever-and-ever-amen solution…I settle into myself. I touch down in the present and choose to stay awhile.
I make better choices. Maybe not ones that neatly tick off the boxes of people pleasing–a never-ending, go-nowhere game–but choices that recalibrate me with my own values.
And that, for me, is worth the sacrifice of not having it all figured out.
#2 My Parents Aren’t My Parents Anymore
Sure, yes, my parents are still upstream on my genealogical tree, but they’re not my parents parents anymore.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to one of them on the phone, having a really lovely conversation, and at one point, they revealed that another relative, whom I’m intentionally no longer in contact with, didn’t understand why I’d made the decision to step away (even though I’d explained to them directly multiple times).
In the past, my immediate reaction would have been that my parent was sharing this to make me feel guilty or with some other shitty subtext in tow.
But this time, instead of that tightening grip of suspicion, the constriction of false certainty…I just felt space. Lots and lots of space. Who knows why they shared it? Intuitively, I wasn’t sensing anything underhanded, and–I understand if this sounds odd–what would it matter anyways?
Not in a “Screw them! What does it even matter?” sort of way.
No, what came over me in that moment, like the cuddliest cashmere blanket, was the warm awareness of, “They’re not responsible for me. We’re two adults, with our own lives, just talking.”
In the past, I was so oriented toward my parents through my young inner parts. They still felt like My Parents. They still occupied the archetypal thrones in my psyche that represent near-godlike authorities–thrones that, actually, I needed to be occupying myself.
My parents, like everyone else on this planet, aren’t responsible for making sure I’m comfortable and feeling good about myself at all times. Maybe they were when I was like, two years old, but those days have long since passed (let’s not even count how long).
I mean, absolutely, I want people to be kind, and if they’re consistently not they won’t continue to have access to me.
But this feels galaxies apart from scanning every interaction, analyzing whether the other person has my best interests in mind, like the perfectly (and mythically) attentive parent–that they’re not saying or doing anything that might make me feel left out or embarrassed or angry or sad.
I’m responsible for myself. Yes! Hallelujah. Of course I am.
As an adult, I’m my own parent now, and there’s something gloriously, spaciously, (and slightly terrifyingly) liberating about that.
#3 How Do I Want to Approach This?
Not, “How is everyone else and their neighbor’s mother doing this?” or “How should I do this to somehow magically avoid all possibility of criticism–both my own and the world’s?”
But: “How do I want to approach this? What would I do if I wasn’t obsessing over how it’ll turn out or what people might think? What makes me feel most alive to pursue?”
This lesson pinged me from every conceivable angle, relentlessly throughout the year. It showed up in my dreams, in waking-life synchronicity, in therapy, in journaling–with far too many instances to count.
But one meditation, in particular, shortly before the holidays, really stands out.
I astral traveled to a new location at the edge of the woods surrounding my Inner Sanctuary (a technique we’re learning in Splendor), following a winding path through thick undergrowth, the entire twilit landscape shrouded in a purplish-blue glow.
At path’s end, I found myself before the sturdy oaken door of a castle, and before I could puzzle out how to open it, the door swung inward with a creeeeeeak. I was standing before a double-curved staircase, impossible to see where it led in the inky-blue shadows.
The magnetic pull to ascend was impossible to resist, and at the top, the space opened to reveal a vast library, shelves upon shelves spanning so dizzily high, it felt like an optical illusion. The ceiling was a living galaxy, with one star burning brighter than the rest, expanding as it descended into a humanoid shape, hovering above me.
Much of what this guide shared feels softly private, but what’s relevant here is the writing advice they imparted. In short, they asked me to think of each piece, not “merely” as, say, a blog post or an Instagram caption, but as a key. A key that unlocks a pocket of the universe.
Each time I sit down to write–lighting a candle, cueing up music, taking a few drops of 69herb’s Clear the Way–I imagine forging a magical key that’s designed to unlock a very specific place.
Just a few weeks of exploring this new approach, I’m already feeling multiple, simultaneous unfurlings of self-permission and a burning desire to see how information wants to be channeled through me.
Rather than anxiously scanning to see how everyone else on the planet has done it and whether mine is as good or not or better or not enough or or or…
I’m finding immense joy and fascination in mapping my preferences, stretching out my creative limbs.
I’ve begun writing a series of essays exploring the fundamentals of Jungian Magic as seen through this new cosmic key-hole of mine, and I’m excited to share them with you in the coming weeks.
Until then, here’s to discovering what wants to be lived, spoken, dreamt, felt, and marveled at through you.
You’re so miraculously unique. You know that, right?
And when you peel away all the stuff that doesn’t feel quite right, the stuff that doesn’t truly light you up unless you talk yourself into it…there you are. Bright. Shining. And one of a kind.
Happy New Year xx