Every year, as we near the end of the calendar or come close to our winter’s solstice, I make a list. I write two lists actually, on one slip of paper with a bold line drawn right down the middle: the dividing line.
On the left side I begin to list all the negative crap I have dealt with over the past year, the frustrations and things that got me down, or couldn’t be resolved. To the right (because it’s all right), I freely list all the good things that have taken place, the positive news, and stuff I simply feel good about.
It’s my way off summing up the year. Hopefully the good side is longer than the bad. Usually, it is.
I then take the paper and tear it down the middle, right along the line, separating the positive from the negative.
The left side I’ll tear it into tiny pieces and toss it in the recycling bin, or flush it down the toilet. Gone. Good riddance to bad rubbish. The right side I neatly fold, slip it into an envelope, and mail myself a letter.
Cathartic, yes, it’s my way of leaving things behind and stepping forward with a new positive attitude. The year-end review is invaluable, providing me a better idea of what I have done. It also rids the mind of what is no longer important.
I don’t open the envelope when it arrives in my mailbox, but only slip it into my most recent journal. I keep it there for future reference; perhaps there is a day I’m feeling down and need pep talk, and I’ll open it then. Or, maybe the next year will be kinder to me and I won’t need reminding.
Presumably, it may forever sit, unopened, in my journal, and that’s not a bad thing (I left all those behind). Writing the lists keeps me looking ahead, and that’s much easier once you’ve got the negative stuff out of the way.
Others have told me they appreciate this exercise, and have adopted my practice. It might just be a symbolic gesture, but deep thought and action often provides us with those little moments of resolution.
This year, heading into a brand new decade, I am shifting things up and taking a longer look back. Don’t we often find it helpful to see the big picture? I’m reviewing the past 10 years and coming up with six things.
On the left of the paper I’ll write three major frustrations of the past 10 years. Perhaps a haunting disappointment, or two, maybe something else I simply could not accomplish, or I have given up on. I’m pretty sure I wont have to think that hard; stuff like that often pops into mind, or I’m reminded at the most inconvenient moments.
On the right side I’m going to list three things I’m proud of. It might be a few accomplishments, or something I’ve managed to do, or maintain, or a change I have welcomed into my life. These are three of the events or undertakings that make me a better person, or have helped me better deal with all those other frustrations.
These are the good things I want to remember today, next year, and in the decade to come. This is the list I’m going to mail to myself. I may never open it, but I know what is there. You want to be remember things like that.
I’m then going to take the other side of the paper, the list of all that shitty stuff, and I’m going to set a match to it. I’ll let it burn to ash, disappear right before my eyes, as if it is a ceremony or exorcism.
It’s not that I won’t think about it again — this kind of stuff always haunts you — but I will know, in my mind, I have dealt with it, that I’ve made the effort to remove some of the negativity from my life.
I’m planning my intimate ceremony for Saturday night. I’m going to welcome the darkness of the shortest day by shedding my own light.
It might only be symbolic, but don’t we all need more symbols, or gestures and actions to mark even the smallest steps we take forward?
© 2019 j.g. lewis
Do you keep a journal?
soultalk is offering a FREE online journaling program to usher in the new decade. 20 prompts over 20 days (it is 2020 after all). Come write with us in a closed Facebook group. We start January 1, 2020. For more information, or to sign up, send an email to email@example.com.