A new year: looking back, looking forward


self-portrait (I just cannot use the word selfie) at sunset last week.

I believe the past, present, and future are all woven together in ways I can’t fully understand.  I also believe that a central task of adulthood is accepting, making peace with, and celebrating our individual pasts and histories.  This is the only way we can embrace what is, let alone what lies ahead.

Today, 2014 dawns: clear, cold, brand-new.

As part of my desire to understand the past in order to fully move forward into the future, I have been reflecting on the year that has passed.

What did I learn in 2013?

Life is a lesson in letting go.  It never ends, this learning, and it seems like every single day there’s a new thing on which I need to release my grip.  Over and over again, I feel like I am endlessly saying goodbye, acknowledging losses.  Of course I am also welcoming new things, people, and learning, though sometimes the former swamps the latter for me.

I am an immensely attached person.  That makes the aforementioned letting go really hard.

Green juice – specifically grapefruit, ginger, and kale – is a terrific way to start the day.  Also, I will never be hungry for breakfast.

I am going to get a cold, a bad one, every single winter.  No matter what I do to try to stay healthy.

Poetry is my lingua franca.  It is in poetry that I feel the most at home, poetry that I remember most vividly and most often, poets to whom I relate most intensely.

That “it’s rarely about you” lesson that I aspired to teach Grace as she turned 10?  I need to learn it too.  Again and again.

Maya Angelou said there are years that ask questions and years that answer.  2013 was a year of questions, but then again so were 2012 and 2011.  It feels as though I’ve been in a period of more questions than answers, more uncertainty than clarity, more shadow than bright light.  What I don’t know is whether that is fact or about my growing and sometimes-overwhelming awareness of everything around (and within) me.

Music is about lyrics for me (see above point about poetry – aren’t lyrics just poems set to music?)   It’s hard to name favorites, but immediately Fix You, Home, Let Her Go, Breathe, Circle Game, and The Story come to mind as some I hold dear.

I asked Grace and Whit what they learned in 2013, and they had these observations to offer:  Whit learned that Leonardo da Vinci’s parents were not married and how they made candles in the 1800s.  Grace learned a lot about Samuel de Champlain, and how to write and edit a novel (she participated in NaNoWriMo).  Just over two years ago, they cited noticing things, manners, and using the potty, so I’d say they’re moving in the granular (though perhaps less practical) direction.

What did you learn in 2013?  How do these learnings inform what you aspire to in 2014?

46 thoughts on “A new year: looking back, looking forward”

  1. Happy New Year! I too love this as a time of reflection. Yet, I forgot about the second part of that, which you suggest at the end: how will it all inform the year to come? I didn’t really consider that when I wrote a similar piece, but it’s equally important. I guess my being comfortable with myself and the ability to tread water in uncertain waters now means I can give myself permission to go forward with some of the dreams I have only been tinkering with rather than going full steam ahead. After all, I’m turning 40 next week and if I am not going to start now, then when?? I hope you have a wonderful year–I look forward to another year of your insightful writing.

  2. Loved this post, Lindsey.

    During meditation this morning, I breathed in “inviting” and breathed out “releasing.” Letting go is hard for me, also.

    Thank you, as always, for your beautiful honesty.

  3. I learned that crippling hurt and bone deep anger do not, in fact, last forever. When they do lift, despite the space you’d held for the now-lost friendship, the space left behind does not feel hollow.

  4. I learned that maybe, just maybe, I have more strength and perseverance than I thought I did. I also learned oh how so fleeting time and this life is, and that I’d better pay attention to it. A lot of thinking has been inspired by your writing, actually. I probably stumbled over your blog just when I needed it.
    A happy and healthy 2014 to you and the yours!

  5. Happy New Year! FINALLY I am sitting down to read all the blog posts of yours I have saved until I actually had time. Fitting that I have time now that 2013 is done. I love your insights and the way you live so closely to the earth. In fact, this has inspired me greatly. What I learned most about last year is that I cannot continue at the pace I currently live life. It’s as if I am trying to survive life rather than live it. So, I am looking forward to slowing down, saying no, and reading more poetry:) xoxo

  6. Love all of these, Linds. I learned this year that it’s okay to say no. I learned that if I don’t have a plan, I can’t expect to get things to get done. I also learned that time moves faster and faster and to not waste even a minute. (That one I’m still learning.)

    I really hope to make 2014 a productive and creative year for me. I felt 2013 was a bit of a stalemate and I’m disappointed in myself for not having more to show for it.

    I look forward to your posts this year as they always make me reflect on my own life and if I’m keeping in the moment. Thank you for your friendship this year and I wish you all the blessings in 2014.


  7. Love how this is a reflection post. I totally hear you about poetry. I miss it–working on my memoir. I’m actually eager to finish my memoir so I can focus on poetry again. We should talk more about poetry. It’s my true love. XO 2014 and beyond

  8. I learned that being a working mom is not impossible for me and I actually enjoy it! I learned that having something or myself makes the fact that my children are growing up a bit easier to bear. I learned I am stronger than I thought and capable of more than I imagined. You helped me through a rough patch earlier I the year and I am so very grateful for your support.

  9. Oh, Amanda, once again I’m almost speechless at all the similarities that seem to exist between our lives. That holding space for a friendship you didn’t think could live without … well, yes. I’m deeply reassured to hear you say that it doesn’t have to feel hollow when you let go.

  10. Thank you so much for saying that. It’s an honor to read that. Agree entirely about how fleeting this life is … xoxo

  11. Amen to that. I love what you say … and look forward to learning more about how things change as you move to a slower cadence. xoxo

  12. Thank you so much – I really appreciate hearing that. It’s an honor. I feel the same way about being a working mom. Sometimes – often – I feel overwhelmed by the myriad demands on me, and like I will splinter from being pulled in so many directions. But then a lot of the time I realize I’m fulfilled by all the various roles, and that matters more. xox

  13. I learned a lot about letting go this year too. I learned about healing myself and my child from grief, about leaving unhealthy situations and seeking healthy communities instead, and that when I let go of feeling overwhelmed by things not going as planned I can not only feel content but thrive. Wishing you a happy & healthy 2014! Thank you for your beautiful reflections and words!

  14. LOVE this reflection, Lindsey! Happy New Year!

    I learned this year that I have become more picky as to the type of music I listen to. I fell in love, and I mean IN LOVE, with Ed Sheeran’s album +. He is such an incredible singer/songwriter. I find myself often listening to the album as I’m writing and cannot wait until his next one comes out.

    I also learned that I am not an organized person, as much as I like to think I’m not. This is apparent from the times this year I’ve accidentally forgotten something that I fully intended to do on a certain date.

    And lastly, I learned that starting over isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be the biggest blessing in disguise you never expected. I am grateful for bad choices and mistakes because I learned and grew.

    This year, I hope to make a dent in the memoir I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. I’ve got a lot on my plate, but with discipline I know it’s possible. We get out what we put in, right? 😉

  15. That running in the winter–snow and single digit temps–is awesome. That having a dog makes all of us happier…and testier. That I actually like to comment on someone’s blog…:)

    Happy New Year!

  16. This was a great reflection, Lindsey. Will you come teach me that lesson too. I definitely need to remember that it’s rarely about me. That’s just so true for all of us.

  17. Happy 2014.

    2013 was definitely a journey for me. I know I learned and grew so much. And yet trying to put those lessons into words is so difficult for me.

    I learned that I need to manage my expectations better.
    I also learned the importance of letting go.
    I learned that I don’t know everything.
    I learned that I can’t give up.
    I learned that I need to give up sometimes.
    I learned that life is all about embracing paradoxes.
    I learned that I need to read more.
    I learned that I need to ask for help.
    I learned that I need to reach out to people.
    I learned that I attach myself to things I don’t need.
    I learned that I have so much more to learn.

    … And so much more. But I think the most important thing is that I’m still asking questions. I’m still challenging all that I learned. I’m still working out how to put these lessons into some sort of practice.

  18. Starting over better be an okay thing since it’s a big part of my life! 🙂
    I hope you do start writing that memoir. I cannot wait to read it.

  19. I love running in snow and frigid temps too. It makes me so happy. Glad to hear I’m not alone. Wishing that we did have a dog, too, some of the time – though not all (tiny house/highly allergic son). Thank you for commenting! xoxo

  20. Well, I can’t teach it since I haven’t yet really learned it, but it’s not for want of trying … xoxo

  21. Yes, I think that’s a very wise thing to say: as long as we’re asking questions, as long as we’re seeking, we must be heading in the right direction. I think this is a tremendously powerful list of lessons, by the way. Thank you for sharing it. xox

  22. I agree with you that making peace with the past is essential to embracing what is before us. I’m so glad we “met” this past year. Your writing has spoken to and inspired me on many levels. Thank you for it, thank you for you. xoxo

  23. Thanks for the prompt for self-reflection. Many changes happened this past year for me, and one of the big lessons I learned was with regards to how I parent. I learned not to discipline or react out of frustration or anger because it rarely (if ever) does anything productive. Such a world of a difference when we remain calm with our kids!

    As far as the new year, I’m being cliche and wanting to improve my health, namely my body and being fit and strong and eating well. I’ve been in pregnancy mode and baby mode, using both as excuses to pig out (and that I fit into my clothes pretty okay), but that doesn’t mean I’m at my best.

    What questions did you have for 2013, when you mentioned that this was a year of questioning?

  24. Lindsey,

    I read your blog and learn a lot from it. I share your thoughts about a number of things, and reading your stories is comforting. Thank you for writing and for always being courageous to share your thoughts with us all.

    – K

  25. Happy New Year, Lindsey! This post really resonated with me and your comment, “it seems like every single day there’s a new thing on which I need to release my grip” really hits home. 2013 was the year I had to send my oldest child off to college and it truly felt like someone came and ripped my heart right out of my body! I HAD to let go and wow, that was a tough one (and it still is sometimes). And yet, like you said, I continually work on letting go of things on a much smaller scale… like a false sense of control that I think I have over things or people in my life…let go, right?! Yoga teaches us this and yet we return to our mats time and time again to remind us of these messages. Just breathe and let go. Okay, sure…:) Thank you for your wonderful reminders. And for the green juice breakfast tip! Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy 2014!

  26. As so often happens when I read your words, I feel as if I could have written them (though not so beautifully). The thing I learned, the one that trumps all the others and that I continue to learn, again and again, is that loving without expectation takes courage. Somehow, that truth embodies the “don’t take it personally” and the “it’s not about you” and the “letting go” lessons that I also need to keep working on. The answer to every question, for me anyway, seems to be another question: “What is the loving thing to do here?”

  27. Such a good observation about not reacting and disciplining out of frustration or anger – yet it’s hard for me to (not) do that.

    I have been thinking about your question regarding what kinds of questions 2013 held. It’s hard to really say; I think it’s more that the last several years have felt like an ongoing walk into darkness and uncertainty, a continuing realization of how much I DON’T know, of how many of my assumptions about life were faulty, and a persistent reminder that I am definitely still figuring it out. I always remember that Don Henley line, “the more I know, the less I understand” which sort of feels right to me. Not a very clear answer, is that? 🙂 Like I said: these are years of questions! xoxo

  28. Thank YOU … wow. I can’t imagine sending a child to college and yet I know it’s literally around the corner. Bravo, mama. But also: OMG! Looking forward to continuing to be in touch in 2014. xox

  29. My current career path has resulted in living outside of my comfort zone. I’m leaping without a net. 2013 was all about risk-taking and subsequently,trusting. Still don’t know the outcome, or how I’ll feel about these decisions in the future.

  30. Ah, yes. Letting go. This came back to me again, like it does every year, and I can’t tell if I’m getting better at it or if I’ve just figured out new ways to fool myself into believing that I don’t have a stranglehold on certain people, places, memories. And also questioning whether or not attachment is as bad as they tell me it is. 🙂

    Happy New Year!

  31. I had to force myself to look back at the year and reflect because a couple of years ago I made myself stop doing that. I used to take the new year so seriously…the pondering, the resolutions, the looking back and ahead, that I made myself a little crazier than usual. I almost tried to force the poignancy.
    But…after reading your post, I asked myself what I learned this year, and realized I learned and changed so much, that I think I have to write a full post on it.
    Short version: I really truly learned that life is too short, that I want to live every moment, that i want to suck it all up, take every opportunity to feel joy and adventure, because you just never know.
    Thanks, Lindsey, for giving me something to really think about!
    And P.S. Once again, something you say makes me chuckle because it was something I could relate to so much: I am all about the lyrics of a song. It frustrates me even, when I say to someone how much I love that line or those words, and they are like “Oh? I’ve never paid attention to the words!”

  32. I hope the outcome is good – I trust it will be! You’re an inspiration to me with the risk-taking and trusting. I have been working on both for a while now. xoxo

  33. I hear you on attachment. I ask myself that too. I have decided that at least I’ll consider WHAT it is I am attached to (or whom). Outcomes: bad. Certain behaviors by others: bad. People: how can that be bad? xoxo

  34. Well, that sounds like an important and hugely vital lesson!! I look forward to reading your thoughts on 2013’s learnings when you write them. I KNOW re: the lyrics. It is absolutely inconceivable to me to not notice lyrics! xox

  35. I’ve learned that I am so much stronger than I thought I was. I’m a survivor. I relearned that heartbreak and loss physically hurt. I learned that choosing to be hopeful and wanting to be happy really do help in the healing process.

    I’d really love to get your recipe for green juice. I haven’t had much success making my own.

  36. What you learned sounds positively life-altering. I’m sorry for the heartbreak and loss, though. May 2014 be more peaceful and less full of lessons! I do two grapefruits (peel skin), a chunk of ginger (peeled – maybe an inch long section), and a bunch of kale. Yum!

  37. I love this post, Lindsey, and can relate to so much of what you write here. I think 2013 was the year I learned that I am stronger than I think I am. Which was necessary, but not fun.

Comments are closed.