When I lived in Brooklyn, a friend and her husband would have a New Year’s Day brunch. It would start somewhere around noon and end when they could finally get everyone out of their house.
Their apartment had a fireplace and in between eating too much food and drinking to either get over the hangover from the night before or create an entirely new hangover, each person would write down what they wanted to leave in the current year and what they wanted to have in the new year. We were evaluating our year.
The first list would be burned in the fireplace and the second list, my friend and her husband would mail out in June to each of us in an envelope we addressed. It was a way to keep us accountable: you said you wanted these things to happen, so how’s it going?
We chose what we burned, what no longer served us (relationships, habits, jobs), but in that accounting, we were also deciding what we ought to keep.
I miss that brunch and that ritual, especially the burning.
I’ve worked on duplicating it on my own, a piece of paper burned by candlelight or a piece of paper burned by the lit pilot of an old gas stove. How it happens isn’t important, but evaluating your year has value.
But, in burning those things it may also be time to reflect on what those disappointments brought you. What will you change next year to resolve those issues?
Disappointment can remind us to stay resilient. Mourning what didn’t happen for you this year has value, but hope–no matter how saccharine a word that may seem especially in a world like this–has its place too.
And that’s the beauty of thinking about what you’ll keep from this year.
Even in our worst years, there is something we can salvage, some new revelation, some new friendship, some great time with our family that we can hold on to and see how we might be able to grow it for the next year.
Whatever you end up doing for new year’s, I wish you happy burning and happy keeping.