A New Year Reflection

It’s January and I’m wondering how you are?

I began writing this blog post during those long and slow days between Christmas and New Year. Still tired from 2020, I was grateful for a little rest, knowing that the fridge was still full of treats and leftover food and really not minding that I was never quite sure what day it was.2021 picture

Being an optimist, I was feeling hopeful that, surely, 2021 was going to be better. I was still unsure quite how to celebrate the new year (would I even bother to stay up until midnight?!) but oh my goodness I was so ready to say goodbye to 2020.

Although it’s been a difficult start and we know we’ve got many hard and wintery weeks ahead of us, I’m still feeling hopeful.

Now don’t misunderstand me; I had a really tough year. But a time spent journalling surprised me with the realisation that last year wasn’t all bad. Let me explain!

I’d been practicing The Daily Examen last year, an ancient practice of prayer and reflection at the end of the day. Before I could even begin focusing on my hopes for 2021, I thought I’d do an end of year Examen on one of those lazy days.

I used the steps of the Examen to help me.

First I started to process all the difficult things in my year. I love journaling and so, pen and paper in hand, I began to write about what had happened to me. Recent research has shown, so I’ve read, that the practice of writing and processing what has happened in our day is cathartic and beneficial. It’s as though writing on the page also empties our head of the things we are still dwelling on and helps us make sense of some things too. It seems the physical writing in pen and paper is often more helpful than anything digital. As I wrote, I prayed and talked to God. I asked questions, lamented and prayed.

Next, I started to think about what had gone well. What was I grateful for, what had I learned? Were there good and happy days? I was quite sure that this section would not take long. But as I wrote, I found myself remembering good things. Recognising that, even through my own darkest days, there was much to be thankful for. As I contemplated all that was good, I dug deeper, like squeezing every last drop out of an orange. I was determined to wring every drop of goodness out of the year, to notice it, to record it, to remember it.

Our brains are programmed to look for the negative, even for an optimist like me, for what has gone wrong, what is out of sorts, a way to protect us and keep us safe. Although the difficult memories loomed long and large, there were blessings, sparkling diamonds of goodness, answers to prayer, simple pleasures, new skills learned, new found appreciation of what I may have taken for granted, brief glimpses and long sunny days that I wanted to imprint on my memory before I washed my hands of the old year.

As I dug deeper into all that was lovely, beautiful and good, I found myself feeling full of joy and hope. OptimismYes I know there will be tough days ahead but maybe this new year will be a happy one too.

I’ve practiced gratitude before, but this was a welcome end to my year of practicing “Discipline” and an encouragement for me to always look for something to be thankful for.

If you haven’t processed your own experience of last year yet, I’d recommend a short time of letting go of the hard things, always being kind to yourself too (there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus) and noticing and being thankful for whatever has been good for you.

With kind regards,

Victoria Warnes

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