Bye-bye, 2016. A lot of folks were happy to see you go; you didn’t play very nice.
And hello, 2017. We hope you behave yourself better than predecessor, but I suspect we’re in for a wild ride. Not to be Debbie Downer here, but it’s hard not to believe this is going to be a challenging year, and I mean truly challenging on a level we haven’t seen in a long time. At least not those of us who are lucky enough have lived in a relatively safe and prosperous environment.
I always have mixed feelings on January 1; I’m a little melancholy to see another festive season draw to a close, the time when our normal preoccupations simmer down and we focus on making merry (or escaping, or simply coping). On the other hand, the prospect of a fresh start is invigorating. It’s a chance to set intentions, which I like much better than resolutions, to let go of the past as the decorations are packed away, and ratchet up the energy to take on a whole new year.
This year the transition is more unsettling. The events of November were so jarring that the holiday season seemed like a respite from psychic whiplash, and I feel my neck cramping up again. There is just so much uncertainty, so much unknown, so many upended assumptions. It’s like the rulebook was rewritten all in one night, and nobody even knows yet what it says.
However, that doesn’t mean we have to slide into despair. Far from it. I’m going to sound very cornball here, but I’m 100% sincere in my belief that we are entering a time that calls on each of us to show up in a way we may never have before. How we conduct ourselves going forward is suddenly critical. While sobering (step away from the mimosas), the idea that it absolutely matters what each of us does and says and chooses in the coming days is exciting.
Here is what I wish for you, and for everyone you care about and influence. Because even if you didn’t think so previously, you just became very, very important:
- Courage. Nobody likes uncertainty, and lots of us don’t cotton much to risk. The coming year is likely to contain lots of both. I wish you the courage to take necessary risks to do what you know in your gut is right, whether it’s showing up to protest a pipeline or speaking your truth calmly and deliberately at a dinner party. All of us are going to need to find a way to embrace uncertainty, so I wish you the courage to do that as well. Don’t wimp out.
- Judgement. No, I don’t mean the judge-y kind, where you sit back and rain lofty condemnation on actions and people you don’t like. I mean discernment, rigorous critical thinking, and the discipline to examine news articles, actions, tweets, posts, whatever, for credibility and veracity. Beware of your own biases, because we all have them, and when unexamined they can so easily be used against us. Check your sources, folks. Don’t be anybody’s tool.
- Civility. This is key. In case you were hoping the screaming match of the election cycle was over, think again. We have collectively staggered into a realm wherein the loudest and most vituperative voice commands the attention. You have to be better than that. You have to develop the skill to say what you need to say, forthrightly and without apology, but also without calling names or stooping to hostile derision. Don’t be a hater, in any sense of the word.
- Faith. By this I mean faith in humanity, as disappointing as individual humans can be. Take the long view, however that makes the most sense to you. We are part of something much bigger than any one of us. Don’t give up.
- Resolve. The antidote to insecurity, to fear itself, is action. Do whatever it is you can do; especially do what you haven’t done before. Speak up at the meeting. Join the group. Send whatever money you can to credible organizations that support the most vulnerable among us, that support transparency in government, that support democracy. You don’t have to turn your life inside out, but do something. Don’t sit back.
- Joy. I warned you I was going full cornball here. But if ever there were a time when the need to nurture and cultivate joy was front and center, this is it. No regime, administration, or policy-gone-awry should have the power to extinguish the life-affirming core of who you are. And you can’t make a happier world by being unhappy all the time. Take excellent care of yourself and those you love. Eat good stuff; get plenty of sleep; delight in life at every opportunity. Make cool things: gatherings, songs, stories, art, home brew, whatever it is you like to make. Remember, if one individual’s life (and joy) isn’t important, then why is a mass of people’s? Like Marianne Williamson says, don’t play small.
So there they are, my New Year’s wishes for you. May 2017 treat you and yours kindly — but if and when it doesn’t, remember we’re all in this together.
And you? What are your intentions for the new year? Please comment and share!