“Year’s End”

Recently, a relative of mine wrote:

To my mind, Christmas runs from the end of Thanksgiving dinner through the end of Christmas Day. The beginning of December 26 up to the end of December 31 basically comprise what I think of as “Year’s End,” six days of retrospection and introspection concerning what has happened over the past 359 days (360 if it’s a leap year.) These days inhabit a position in space-time that sets them apart from the rest of the year, as if these days exist as a separate entity of sorts. So take this time to determine whether you put your 2013 in the win or loss column. I know where mine goes.

His concept of “Year’s End” gave terminology to a previously undefined phenomenon nearly universal to those living by the Gregorian calendar.  The greater majority of us spend that six day period pensively inspecting the events of the year, the course our lives are currently on, and finally, ourselves. We go into a state of deep reflection, reviewing the previous year in hindsight.

But contrary to popular belief, hindsight is not 20/20. It’s entirely subjective and relative to our mindsets, creating certain attitudes toward ourselves and those around us. This allows us to render potentially inaccurate judgments that may snowball into generalizations. This can be noted by the two final sentences in that quote. While it is a positive suggestion to encourage others to examine the previous year, it could be dangerous to make black-and-white determinations and wrap it up into an overall summation.

I immediately jumped to reply, knowing his critical nature. As I wrote to him, I realized that he isn’t likely to be standing alone in his line of thinking. Even in past years, I could see my own Year’s End Reflections as a means of rendering an evaluation of every aspect of myself and my life. And in most cases, despite all of the wonderful events that happened, I still had the tendency to zero in on all of the negative. Instead of fondly reminiscing, I would obsess about all of my “failures” and “shortcomings”. It occurred to me that this could be an incredibly common practice!

I agree that reflection and introspection are both positive practices when executed with great care. A wise person once asked me, “How can we truly live in the present moment when our minds are focused on the past?” It occurred to me that we do not have the capacity to live our lives that happening right now when we fixate on the past. The same goes for when we are hyper focused on our internal selves. If we are preoccupied with our internal world, then we prevent ourselves from interacting with our external world. In truth, that is where life takes place. To truly live our own lives, we must be completely present in the current moment in all ways – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Yet, there are moments, such as those considered in Years End, where we have license to permit ourselves some moments dedicated to thought. Introspection and reflection aren’t necessarily distractions from living. Those focuses can be about dedicating our mental energies toward our current wellness and making considerations for overall progress. For example, many of us perceive particular traits as character flaws. In other posts, we’ve explored concepts of adjusting perceptions to support more positive insights. The same principles apply; character flaws can be alternatively viewed as advantageous traits when applied appropriately.

Often, we recall painful events in the previous year. It’s perfectly natural to be immediately drawn to those memories, as they are fresh and ripe with emotion. While we can’t choose how we feel, we can make the choice to be receptive when it comes to considering alternative perceptions. Not many situations exist that merit an entirely negative regard. In my case, I lost my grandmother this year. While I experience the grief, I am also experiencing the positive side. She had suffered so much in her final years, so I am relieved that she is resting at peace.

Many “bad” events can be reconsidered upon further review. They may have provided opportunities and experiences that weren’t previously available due to the circumstances. Or perhaps these experiences are yet to occur, laying in wait for us to reach out and grab them. The memories of the past work best when they have become one of the pieces of our solid foundations. They are solid and sound, eager for us to continue building on them.

When we attempt to tally up the events of 2013 in terms of “good” of “bad”, we are attempting to qualify them in order to determine the overall outcome. But, the conclusions can be considered to be incomplete, as the logic itself is inherently flawed. “Good” and “bad” are two definitive concepts that don’t allow for anything else. Life isn’t so neat that we can categorize our experiences in such a black-and-white mindset. So, it becomes quite a challenge to determine progress, or lack thereof.

However, there is no yard stick in which to measure our progress! Therefore, a scoreboard with which we make our tally is nonexistent!

How liberating!

We are freed from the anxieties that arise from the notion that we have somehow “failed” or “lost”. Those are two terms the are often thought of as the final word in most matters. But, as long as we continue to live purposefully, those two words are not applicable. We are always progressing in one way or another. What we often forget is to place our own value on our accomplishments, rather than allowing others to appraise us in our words, actions, and most importantly, character.

So, just take a glance back, smile nostalgically, and look straight into the present moment. We can’t predict what will happen in 2014. All we can do is live the life we are currently living.

Happy New Year!

One thought on ““Year’s End”

  1. Pingback: “Year’s End” | National Network for Mental Health

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