This weekend Thom and I return from our vacation. But rather than a guest post, I am offering one I wrote four years ago. After re-reading it, I realized that this idea was exactly what I wanted to share with you at the start of another new year. Please join me in 2017 as we all write a story of peace, well-being and meaning for ourselves and others in 2017.
As a writer, it’s easy for me to imagine each New Year as a blank sheet of paper awaiting my creativity. But that metaphor actually works for everyone. Every year we each have the potential to start over with a story—our personal story for sure—and any other story we want to create. Some of you may have already started by creating a year filled with all sort of drama and possibility. Others are planning to make this one just another carbon-copy of last year. Or, for those awake and aware, some of us are willing to accept the idea that this year’s story can be filled with all the peace, love, adventure and purpose that we desire. As usual, the choice is up to us.
Of course, the only people who have a pure blank slate to begin with are babies born on January 1, or someone with a brain condition like amnesia. I, along with the rest of you, usually have my mental bags packed and ready to move into the New Year long before the ball drops in Times Square. On one hand, it is very beneficial that we don’t have to relearn how to walk, talk or tie our shoes every time the planet rotates around the sun. The problem comes when we insist on living out each year like the movie Ground Hog Day—re-living each day from sunrise to sunset exactly like the day before. Face it; if something isn’t working in your life, leave it in the past. Or as the saying goes, “If you find you’re riding a dead horse, it’s time to dismount.”
On the flip side, if something adds to the value of your life then feel free to bring it into the New Year. Just remember that even if something is good, there may be things you can do that can make it even better. For example, I have an absolutely great relationship with my husband Thom. For obvious reasons I want that to continue indefinitely into my future. But as everyone in a committed relationship knows, even the best can become stale if we don’t introduce new and interesting elements on a regular basis. In fact, it’s likely that our relationship is so great because we constantly add new inspiration. During this month alone, we’ve signed up to take a photography class, a mindfulness workshop and maybe start yoga again.
Over twenty years ago I first read a book entitled An Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. At the time, I wanted to be a better writer and more creative. I had done a bit of writing up to that point but didn’t consider myself a real writer. Julia had a recommendation. She suggested we each begin a practice she calls “morning pages.” Simply put, morning pages are three pages of longhand writing that are “strictly steam-of-consciousness,” every single day. What these pages end up being over the course of the long haul is a meditation practice that offers the writer a path to a strong and clear sense of self. While the idea of them may not make much sense, the practice manages to create something over the course of doing them that is indescribably important. Now, after two decades of making morning pages part of my daily routine, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind. I am both a writer and I am ultimately creative. I believe they can do the same for anyone.
Every January 1st I gather up my morning pages from the previous year and put them away in an old notebook. Then I place fresh, clean, white-ruled paper into a new three-ring binder along with a new pen—and I start again. This act of symbolism reminds me that the pages and the stories that will be created this year will be as new and fresh as I make them—even though the vessel I’m using looks pretty much the same. It is SMART to remember that every one of us is doing something very similar. No matter how big or little our dreams, and regardless of whether we go to the same job or love the same people as before, it is always up to us whether we will create something new–whether we will be someone new. 2016. What’s it going to be for you this year?
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” –Edith Lovejoy Pierce
“Life is just a blank slate, what matters most is what you write on it”. –Christine Frankland