Year-End Reflection

The end of each December brings a certain pressure to “conclude” one chapter before turning the page on another. Since childhood I’ve been suspicious about the supposedly magical moment between 11:59pm on December 31 and 12:00am on January 1 that signals something new. Isn’t this moment just like any other? The transition from December exhale to January inhale nothing more than the exhales and inhales I take at my desk here and now?

Still, if nothing else, the New Year seems to cultivate a communal sense of transition. It offers space to reflect on our recent past and look ahead, with new insight, to the future. This sort of reflective thinking isn’t en vogue throughout the year, so I’ll take any opportunity to engage with it — even a contrived one — as a good thing.

In the coming days I plan to spend some time reflecting on simple questions that I hope will stimulate personal growth. Hell, maybe it’ll even be sort of fun. Here are some of the questions I look forward to answering.

  1. Describe three to five “good” things that happened this year. Describe three to five not-so-good things that happened this year. Do you notice any patterns?
  2. Of what joyful activities in your life have you been deprived? In what less-than-joyful activities have you indulged? Why?
  3. Describe a situation in which your words or actions reflected the values of the person you aspire to be. Describe a situation in which your words or actions did not reflect the values of the person you aspire to be.
  4. Describe an experience in which you played it safe when you could or should have taken a risk. Describe an experience in which you took a risk when you could or should have played it safe.
  5. What is the future you feel won’t happen if you don’t chase it? Personally? Professionally?
  6. What are three to five traits you’ve discovered or rediscovered about yourself that you like? That you don’t like?
  7. BONUS: Write a thank you letter to someone who has made a different in your life this year.

Are you taking time to reflect this year? What questions do you plan to ask yourself? Share them in the comments below!

Peace and love,

Snowy Night

Mary Oliver

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.