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2023 is waiting to be written
A few thoughts for the year ahead.
A couple weeks ago, I announced I’d be taking a break from this newsletter until January 10. While I’m glad I gave myself permission to take that time off, I also forgot how much there is to write and think about at the close of one year and the beginning of another.
In 2015, Melody Beattie penned an oft-quoted line: “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written.” That line was part of a larger blog post about the importance of goals. “We can help write that story by setting goals,” Beattie continued.
In years past, I’ve been reluctant to set goals. Years of heavy grief and change left me feeling gun-shy. I’ve been less confident in myself than before—which is saying a lot, since confidence has long been a struggle of mine.
But Beattie has a point. Goals, she reminded us, are not about controlling circumstances, but about living life. They’re a blueprint. And they are something you can always adjust, as the year unfolds in myriad unexpected ways.
Like many of you, I’ve been bombarded by friends and acquaintances sharing their 2022 in review on social media the past few days. The posts are inspiring, enviable, impressive—and overwhelming in volume. Reading retrospective after retrospective, it’s been hard to not feel a little less-than. To wonder if I achieved even half as much as everyone else.
My 2022, like the past few years, was a relatively quiet one. It was a year of reading and writing, of learning, of nurturing, of creating a sense of safety. Truthfully, it was a pretty good year, even if that goodness doesn’t exactly translate to something I can crow about on social media. I don’t have an impressive new job title or exotic vacation photos to share. But I do have a sense of peace that I’ve never felt before.
Of all the retrospectives I read, there was one phrase that I keep thinking about. A friend described her 2022 as feeling “more alive than past years.” As soon as I read those words, I knew that’s what I wanted for 2023. Being quiet and going about things gently is good—and those modes are very much in my wheelhouse—but pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is good, too.
For me, so much of the past few years has been tainted by grief and fear. I’ve spent years navigating the wake of my husband’s death. I feared for my life and my baby’s life during a traumatic birth. I temporarily lost my tether to reality as I experienced postpartum psychosis. I’ve felt fearful and numb, fearful and numb, fearful and numb as horrifying news cycles go on and on. And, of course, I have experienced and adapted to a pandemic, the effects of which we’re all still trying to sort out.
Choosing to spend 2023 embracing vivaciousness doesn’t mean that bad things will automatically go away. Life will continue to hold plenty of difficult moments. But it does mean choosing to face scary, hard things in a new way. It means that I’m taking some bold, if tentative steps away from my protective cocoon and toward a braver existence. And I can do that, in part, because the cocoon is there.
The past few years weren’t wasted. They prepared me for this moment.
I wanted to write to you today, on this first day of a brand new year, with a reminder that you can write a new chapter, too. This might be a year that feels a little more alive for you. It may be a year that helps you feel more safe and calm. Or it could be a year that’s all over the place—one that doesn’t have a clear through line, until you take some time to reflect on all those brave and bold goals you set for yourself and what you learned from them.
This is also a good time to remind you that the Sweet Dumb Brain guide for 2023 weekly intentions is available for paying newsletter subscribers. Setting weekly intentions helped me tremendously in 2022, and I look forward to doing it again this year.
No matter how you do it, today is a good day to set a goal for yourself. It doesn’t have to be big or grand. It’s simply a step—and an important one. As Beattie wrote, “it is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come.”
Here’s to a new year, friends. See you next week.