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A New Year’s Ritual Without Resolutions

If you had a tough 2018, I hear you. Let’s close the book and celebrate that we’re here now, with a brand new year ahead. This New Year’s, I am borrowing a ritual from Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love & Big Magic. She creates a small ceremony every New Year’s Day to reflect on the past year and start fresh in the new one. Find some quiet. Light a candle. Write down these two questions:

  1. What do you need to put behind you?
  2. What do you want to entice in the year ahead?

Let the pen run without thinking as you answer. These are not resolutions, just reflections. When you’re done, burn them. Then drop the ashes in water. Let go.

One New Year’s, in an effort to involve my family in a reflective practice, I passed out paper and pencils at dinner with the grandparents. I asked everyone to reflect on the past year. My dad looked confused, “Do you mean the calendar year or fiscal year?”

“Calendar year, Dad.”

“At the end, do we add up our list for points and see who wins?”

“No, Dad. It’s just to reflect.”

“Why would we do that?”  

As Gilbert says, “Whether you feel like taking a victory lap, or lying down in a darkened room with a cool washcloth over your eyes, you did it…Give yourself some silence in which to figure out what you need to put behind you and what you are ready to welcome in the new year.”

Last year, I did a New Year’s ceremony alone. I walked to a partially-frozen river. I threw rocks in the water, each one representing a fear I was ready to release: that we’ll go broke, that I started writing too late, that we’ll go to war with North Korea, that I should have worn more sunscreen as a kid.

This year, I don’t want to do the tiny ritual alone. I love the idea of you and I burning or drowning everything that no longer serves us, in different time zones and on different continents, all around the world. Are you in? All we do is write down a few things we want to leave in 2018 and a few we want to attract in 2019.

I want to set myself free from:

  • poor sleep
  • an unhelpful fear of death
  • kids my kids love being diagnosed with cancer
  • trying to “improve” my husband and kids

I am ready to welcome:

  • more sleep
  • a book to launch
  • a clean bill of health
  • one big, family adventure
  • abundance (in love and money)

But no one needs to see your list, ever. And don’t worry, we won’t add them up for points. We’ll just carry our scribbles to the nearest sink, fireplace, or body of water, and strike a match. 

Ultimately, we’re lucky. We get a fresh start. We’ll honor those who don’t get that chance, plus those who are grieving, and those who are in the middle of something really challenging. Let’s burn off some of their suffering and pain, too.

Please, do this tiny ritual with me. Get quiet and reflect. Burn some sh**. Let me know how it goes. Take a picture. Post it. Let’s set ourselves free from the past, and step bravely into the new year, together.



image credit: wildplayground 

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