Where do you stand at the end of 2012?
How do you carry the muscle and bone of you, wrapped as you are in the skin of knowing where you have been and what has taken place over the past year?
Are you where you thought you would be?
Are you happier or sadder than you expected?
Does answering these questions make a difference?
There’s something about a year’s ending, or an anniversary of any kind, that tends to send us into review mode. Our minds imagine the closing of a circle, tying beginning to end. We take the opportunity to compare and contrast, as if one year and another were always the same substance, differing only in externals, like a green apple and a red apple.
Is this the way time actually works, or is there something singular and irreducibly unique about each day or each span of days, such that years can no more meaningfully be compared than apples and baseballs?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I like to think there is more to a year’s ending than a list of categorical comparisons (happier or sadder? richer or poorer? closer or farther from my dreams?).
There is a great collective focus now, at year’s end, on feeling into the next span of time, limited though our ability is to know it. It is as though we are riding a train and we know we must enter the tunnel ahead, but it is dark outside and the tunnel might as well be forming and reforming even as we speak, for all that we cannot now get any sense of it except that it exists.
The beautiful thing is that our imaginations will take over where our certainty leaves off. Let us use our imaginations to the fullest:
From where you stand now, which of your many possible selves would you like to be joined by in 2013?
Is there a conversation you would like to have with the you who walks alone through snowy woods and is unafraid of silence? Is there something essential and inextricable of you, begging to be acknowledged, in the sleek clean rush of a subway train, even down to the whoosh of air that is its strange yet necessary consequence? Would you like to try on the skin of the you who takes the bus instead of the car to work every day? Is that one dark-suited and serious, or laughing beneath a hand-knitted scarf?
Your choices are limited only by your capacity to imagine and by your desire. See what you like, what feels right, and then literally walk with this self, dress as this self, breathe as this self. Play. Imagine, even in the midst of your ordinary routine. Tell the story of this self as you go. Tell it like a fairy tale, or like a Jane Austen novel, or like a newspaper brief. Immerse yourself in it.
No choice is final, but all are possible.
If you can walk with an imagined self for a day, an hour, you can do it again, and again, no matter how far from your perceived present reality this self may seem.
Your starting point is the present moment, but not a present moment bounded by categorical description. “I am a minimum-wage worker.” “I am perpetually unsettled.” “I manage data.” “I teach.” “My family has always been hard-working.” “I just never get it right.”
These descriptions are all ways of boxing up experience. As starting points, they are pretty poor. They will either lead you to more of the same or to an experience that is in some way reactionary. Saying, “I will get it right this year!” or, “I will settle down!” is just as limiting as resignedly accepting these statements’ opposites. What happens when your idea of right fails to materialize exactly the way you thought it would or should? What happens when you realize you had no idea what “settling down” actually means?
If your starting point is the present moment, where is your ending point? Where is your goal?
Trick question! Imagination may play with many goals, but it needs no goal other than itself. The point is the experience. But, you may find that in trying to get nowhere, you do in fact get everywhere. Those who delight in the motion of the train find themselves stepping off when it stops and realizing they have not once during the journey checked their watches.
So, is it time for you to get off of the two-dimensional spectrum of describing, comparing and contrasting your experiences and onto the multi-dimensional playground of imagination? What story would you like to step into in the next year?
Jayleigh Lewis is a writer who will one day write a book. She currently works as a spiritual advisor to college students as well as a freelance editor. She has a dream that one day humans will remember the integral role ceremony has in our lives and will learn to create sacred spaces within which intention may manifest. Learn more about her dream and read more of her words on her blog.