As the first week of classes in 2016 comes to a close, we are all still wondering what this new year will hold, wondering what changes and challenges lie ahead. Here, Bethany Foelber, a first-year student in the MA in Counseling Psychology program, writes about the disconnect she feels between the unresolved experiences of the past year and the cultural expectation to move on and start fresh.
We have all heard the mantras of the New Year: detox your wardrobe, meditate five days a week, and drink more water in your fancy new REI water bottle. Carefully crafted and habitually carried out, these critical ingredients will create a recipe for a more positive, intentional life. Bloggers and authors alike hold lofty expectations for my month of January and, if I survive this month’s juice cleanse, February as well.
In just one night, graced with champagne toasts in the company of friends, lovers, and families, I must bid goodbye to fifty-two weeks of loving, weeping, growing, and falling, while simultaneously lunging toward a renewed beginning.
The year 2016 has officially begun, full of potential greatness and mightiness waiting to be embraced and lived abundantly. I am given a symbolic fresh start to clean my body, my home, and my life, ridding them of any pain-filled mechanisms and harmful toxins I unwantedly gained from the previous year.
What I discovered, though, is that I cannot deny a year that holds vital pieces of who I am today. As I continue to gain footing in this new month, new season, and new year, I am filled to the brim not with excitement or eagerness, but rather intimidation and disappointment. I am caught in the tension of honoring my previous year and granting faith for the future, while hoping to unearth an intersection between the two. Our rituals surrounding a new year do not foster the marriage of the two worlds, but rather propel us to shame our true selves through offering steps of change and rhythms of newness. Living in a month where moving forward and fixing ourselves shouts through media outlets, it is not easy to be in grief and unable to move ahead with the flow of the society.
It is not easy to be in grief and unable to move ahead with the flow of the society.
Yet, I cannot rid 2015 from my life, nor do I want to.
I cannot cleanse my body of the hurts or the wounds that have left their remnants. There are losses and traumas generously sprinkled throughout the twelve months that are not to be forgotten, swept over, or detoxed from my body, mind, or soul.
This past year, I lost my granny, as the rhythms of life moved more readily than I was able to embrace. I lost love as I was asked to let go of caring for another before I was ready. I lost friendships as I surrendered intimacy with once kindred spirits that I held as vital sources for being known. I lost innocence as unwanted disappointments disoriented my vulnerability and courage. I lost joy as sadness and grief snatched a beauty I relied on for sustenance.
These quiet deaths are what brought me to January 1, 2016.
They have both enlarged and diminished my capacity to love others and hold compassion for myself. They birthed a newfound bravery and awakened a deeper sensitivity. They created a space to touch inner wounds with tenderness and kindness. Farewells were said and hellos healed my soul. Chances were taken and tumbles left bruises.
As I continue to discover the courage to sit when needed and foster the creativity to take steps ahead, I smirk at the unfortunate reality that my pace never aligns with the calendar’s expectations.
Nancy Levine encourages us to “honor the space between no longer and not yet,” and it is here that I enter the new year. As I bring fresh hurts and unsettling confusions into a culture that denies the authenticity of self through emphasizing transformation and renovation, I hope to find a home for both the disappointments and hopes to play and wrestle with one another. Living is full of both life and death, and tending to the two is a risk of the heart that I am softly approaching.