End of the Year Reflections

We had some friends over for New Year’s, which was a lot of fun and just the right way to close out the year. Having a variety of people from across various social groups gather and enjoy one another’s company was a very real way for us to see how far we’ve come in Greensboro over the past 3.5 years. We really are starting to root ourselves, build community, and make this place home.

Finding New Ways to “Not Always Be Working”

In keeping with some of the things I’ve been reflecting on since reading marlee grace’s book, How To Not Always Be Working, over break, I decided to take the opportunity of having a little get together at the house to do something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while: smoke meat on my charcoal grill. I think this is part of my learning more about Southern culture, and partly because I really love smoke meats that I thought it would be fun to try something new. So, I smoked a turkey. I found the process of learning about how to do it, reading a variety of recipes, and talking to people on the phone who I know are great at smoking meat (including my dad and a good friend who lives in town), really added a whole extra layer of interest to the adventure. It all turned out great, our friends loved it, and I found the whole experience to be a restful one, reminding me that rest can be something that comes in many forms. Here are some photos from the experience.

How about for you? If you have had a little time off over the holidays how did you spend your time? What did you do to rest and “not work?” Make a list of 3-5 things you did to rejeuvenate and stick that list in your notebook. Next time things get a little wild or stressful pull it out and do one of those things on the list. Or better yet, make it a habit to do some things each week that help you pull away from work so you can have increase your self-awareness and care.

Activities for Reflecting on the Year

New Year’s Eve Activities for Reflection

As we were planning the party, my wife, Emily, suggested that we set some things out for crafts. I jumped on the idea. I know that time really is just a construct, and our fast-paced, overworked lifestyles are products of consumer-capitalism, AND I like the turn of the year because it creates a helpful boundary-marker to stop, review, and reflect on all that I have learned and experienced over the year. Whether you do something like this around the turn of the New Year, or some other time of your own choosing, I believe that the practice of an annual review is really the important part here. For me, I treat it as an important part of my spiritual practice and helping me keep a healthy frame of mind.

But let’s face it, conducting an annual review with house guests for a New Year’s Eve party would even be overly nerdy for me. So, I came up with something else, seven different choices for reflection on the past year and intentions for the coming one. I wrote these seven activities down and then we laid out a bunch of magazines, scissors, tape, card box, paper, stationery, etc. for people to use in their crafting. The cool part is that folks actually did it and had fun with it! One of the things, I learned from this experience is that for some, having an activity or something to do with your hands actually makes parties far more fun/bearable and conversation easier. By the end of the night, connections were made and people actually shared what they’d made.

The seven New Year’s activities:

  • Pick a word for the year
  • Create a personal vision board for 2019
  • Get rid of something – write something down from 2018 that you want to get rid of, tear it up, and throw it away. This was an idea from E.M., our 9-year-old, and I thought it was pretty fantastic.
  • Questions to respond to:
    • 5 Big/Important memories from 2018
    • 3 Goals for 2019
    • How will you take care of yourself and others in 2019?
  • Create a Deck of Cards – with words, quotes, images of guiding and affirming thoughts (I borrowed this idea from marlee grace’s book).
  • Write a letter
    • To someone who meant a lot to you last year
    • A letter of encouragement to yourself at the close of this year
    • To your future self to be opened on New Year’s Eve 2019
  • Draw Three Images that represent 2018 or will represent 2019 for you

Of these seven choices, I saw most everyone doing one of three: The Vision Board was the biggest hit (photo above), then drawing images, and then writing a letter. If we do this again next year, I’ll probably only have three choices.

I did a vision board as well. Here it is and here is the poem I put on the back that you cannot see in the picture. I think it is a beautiful reminder of different times, phases, and the need for retreat:

It’s time to bring Saint Francis in,
the statue in the yard that stands
through summer heat and autumn rain
to welcome birds and butterflies
to water cupped between his hands.
For Brother Ice and winter thaw
might crack his terra-cotta flesh
and break the saint to shards and bits,
so friar must become a monk
in the cellar or barn until
the spring releases him to preach
to insect, mockingbird, and field.

Robert Morgan ‘Retreat’

Closing

How about for you? Do you have any rituals or practices you like to use to help you close out the year or one time period and move into another? Did you do anything this year to help you transition, reflect, or rest?

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. Wess has a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and is the father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with friends, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.