Level Letters: Three Questions for the New Year

Y’all – it’s the last day of 2020. What a time warp this year has been. There are times it feels like we’ve lived three years since March and others when it feels like just yesterday we were dancing at a February wedding.

I always want to say I’m not a New Year’s resolutions person, but in reality, I am. I totally am. What I don’t like is the idea that resolutions are usually short-term big changes—i don’t like when they’re rooted in the idea that something is wrong with you, or needs fixing. I don’t like the connotation that resolutions are grand sweeping declarations that rarely stick past February, but I love a freshly minted intention for the days ahead.

I know there’s a lot of conversation around the fresh start of the new year, leaving the craziness of 2020 behind, and on the flip side, how “nothing will change overnight” on January 1st. It’s true that there’s no switch to be flipped. A great deal will be similar—or exactly the same—on January 1st as on December 31st, but as with most things, a new year is what you make it.

Today, consider asking yourself these three questions as we move into 2021:

What do I want to leave behind?

What do I want to carry forward?

What do I hope to find along the way?

Maybe you have a clear vision for the year ahead. Maybe you haven’t had a clear vision for the future in quite some time—or ever. That’s okay; these questions are an opportunity to explore—even if just within yourself—what makes you feel full, but not heavy; what’s heavy, but not fulfilling; what you’re dreaming of, or if you’re just hoping to learn to dream again.

In the past, I often struggled with not wanting to commit feelings I dubbed “negative” to writing. It felt like writing those feelings down, or speaking them aloud made them more real and gave them power. In the past four years, I’ve changed my tune—I’ve taken instead to writing down almost everything, and while that means that I’m fairly certain no one will be receiving full access to my notebooks for any reason, ever, it has also made my brain and my being a happier place to live. I’ve discovered that writing out the details of the darkest corners of thought and the hardest, most complicated, twisty feelings doesn’t give them more power; it returns that power to me. Very few of the dark twisty things continue to thrive when they’re placed in the light.

On the other side of the spectrum, it can also feel daunting to write down the dreams you can barely dare yourself to imagine. Dreaming can feel foreign—especially if it’s something you haven’t done in a while and aren’t quite sure how to find your way back to. Give it a try anyway. Write down the hopes you can identify, be patient and kind to yourself, and over time, more dreams will make their way to the surface. Committing big dreams, baby dreams, and not-yet-dreams, but intentions to a page changes the way you move in the world. Greater vision comes along.

And then, somewhere in between the big-light-up-the-sky-dreams and the deep-twisty-dark-corner-fears, I’ve realized that putting pen to paper about not-yet-fully-formed ideas and messages that seem to be mid-download makes progress evident. If for a moment I think I haven’t come very far in this strange, strange year, I need only return to the words I wrote on January 1, 2020 (or December 18, 2019, or January 8, 2020), and see all that I’ve been taught in these “unprecedented times.” I can look back at my thoughts just as they were—even if I never spoke them aloud to another person—and see real evidence of transformation, healing, and growth.

So this round, when it comes to resolutions, let’s ditch the pressure, but embrace the opportunity. And if, at any point, you feel like you’ve gone off course, remember—just like a new year is what you make it, so is each new day.

I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about and what these questions bring up for you. You know where to find me — just reply here.

Happy New Year, friends.

– LL

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