Updated: Apr 24, 2021
Throughout quarantine, there has been a general sense of waiting. Waiting for the pandemic to end, for schools and jobs and entertainment to resume. To be able to make money again, see our families and friends, to bring dishes to potlucks and to redeem our expiring airline miles.
Memories occasionally sweep past me from what seems like a previous life - eating chocolate in the park with unsanitized hands. Complimenting my best friend on her new lipstick color. Grabbing on to a support pole in the subway when the train car lurches.
I wanted so badly for things to go back to the way that they were. So badly for my life to resume. I realized that for myself, and perhaps for so many others, the end of 2020 became the symbolic end of my waiting. Something to look forward to, a full stop punctuated to contain the events of the last year into one neat calendrical cycle. 2020 became more than a span of time - it became a representation of grief and loss and frustration on micro and macro levels.
A funny thing happens to me where my actions are prompted by the expectation of feeling ready. That seems pretty obvious, you might think. How we feel does dictates how we act. But it's not just a feeling that I chase - I find myself full of the expectation of a feeling state of readiness that then gives me the green light to go. I have to feel ready to practice piano, otherwise I will not sit down and play. I have to feel ready to exercise, or I will not get on the treadmill. I have to feel refreshed and rejuvenated by the advent of a new year, or I will not treat it as an opportunity to make changes in my life. My expectation that of feeling is tethered to my intended result - unless I feel ready, I will not do the task as well, and my result will be unsatisfactory. This, of course, is false. Some of my best work has been done under pressure, under uncontrollable circumstances that allowed me to unlock some freer and more creative part of myself.
I suppose this is the time to mention New Year's Resolutions. I’ve never been one for them — my teenage attempts at dieting were quickly abandoned, the One French Word a Day textbook abandoned on my bedside table.
So I, at this point, have worked myself into a tizzy of confusing emotions about the end of the year. Waiting to stop waiting, wanting to start moving forward. Craving the feeling of readiness before I could get up and go. Disdain towards unsustainable media-dictated resolutions.
I could have slunk back into bed, added fuel to the fire of unmet expectations that burned especially bright last year. I am not naive: the solution to the world’s many woes wouldn’t be as simple as a changing of dates — but some deep subconscious part of myself believed that something must activate with the dawning of a new year, even if just a feeling deep within myself that could propel me forward into the life I’d been waiting to take hold of.
My therapist and I have been working on the concept that feelings are not facts. Feelings are fleeting and, while useful in some situations, are not indicative of truths about the world around us. As I was getting so concerned about feeling some transcendental changing of chapters, I forgot that I could reach out and turn the page. I forgot that I could hold the pen and write short, manageable, meaningful sentences that I could handle reading consistently.
I forgot that I could choose to do this every single day.
There’s so much pressure put on us by the media to slap an extra yardstick of intentionality on the beginning of the year. My challenge - to myself and to you - is to welcome every day as a chance to become who you want to be, and to work hard and smart to get there in small increments. To remove the need to feel ready to allow yourself to breathe and to just do it; after all, the breath and its benefits are not diminished by the intricacies of misguided expectations.
Happy New Year, friends. I am so glad to see another sunrise with all of you. I hope that this year will be filled with mindfulness and joy, peace and persistence, and the strength to turn the page to begin writing the chapter in your life that you’ve always wanted to read.