New Year’s Eve
I’ve always loved New Year’s Eve. Fond memories of my parents’ large parties as a child, often with surprise visits from theatre performers, and happy gatherings as an adult with good friends. I like building and following traditions, as well as the sense of clearing the decks and starting afresh with a new year.
This NYE was clearly going to be slightly different. We weren’t going to be with the friends we always spent NYE with. I started looking back on past NYEs to see what I might bring to this one.
Despite my enjoyment of traditions, some of my favourite NYEs were when I was in an unusual place and not expecting anything, with no particular wishes at all. I smile to recall a spontaneous trip to Paris and spectacular dinner with my brother, best friend and 60 strangers; I was rather heart-broken at the time so was braced for feeling miserable – in fact it was a very happy and funny trip. Or when in India, staying just outside the Taj Mahal, having fun with a friend despite also having a fever and being in the midst of a curfew (hearing gunshots through that night was a little alarming admittedly). There was also the large party I was expecting to be great that in fact turned out to be rather a strain.
It seemed the best way to have fun this year was to let go of expectations, hopes and traditions. Although I always have a phone chat with various members of my wider family on NYE, we’re rarely all together – so our Zoom gathering this year was rather special. And it was also a rare opportunity to spend NYE with just our sons, even if one abandoned us later to go for an online party with his friends. What other NYEs will be spent playing poker with husband and older son until the early hour, with a break for bubbly, party poppers and singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight?!
'Comparisons are the thief of joy' is a phrase I heard recently. And it can certainly be applied to our current situation with Covid, in terms of comparing our present experiences to others. I find bringing awareness to routine activities or mindful eating can help bring me into this moment, and let go of expectations and resentments.
With all the loss and fear that is around at the moment, I feel the best way to find joy is to get right into the present – allowing all gloomy thoughts and emotions to drift around in the background. Can I let myself appreciate the softness and texture of the white tablecloth right here, rather than be taken over by anxieties about the world, going back to teach in my school, my sons going or not going back to uni? Using the senses to help me rest in the present.
I must be on a lot more mailing lists this year than last, as I’m inundated with New Year posts, suggestions, free offers, so many ways to change or fix myself, that continue to flood into my devices. (I’m guilty of contributing to this deluge, with my offers of free mindfulness tasters coming up!). I felt refreshed to hear from Ten Percent Happier, one of my favourite mindfulness apps, as their approach is about letting ourselves be, with compassion – getting to know ourselves rather than trying to change ourselves, building a better relationships with ourselves rather than forcing new habits. When I’m feeling compassion and respect for my body, it’s easy and natural to make healthy food choices; whereas if I tell myself I mustn’t eat certain things, the rebel in me surfaces with a vengeance!
With mindfulness meditation, it’s possible to increase our capacity for joy, gratitude and love, and and “stay balanced when chaos reigns.” (TPH).
And letting go of expectations is one of the keys.
So may your year be one of joy, gratitude and love, and a willingness to be with the ups and downs as they arise, with curiosity and kindness. By letting 2021 be exactly as it is, by letting ourselves be as we are, we’re more likely to make calm, wise choices, be happier and be more satisfied with life.