We crumpled up our papers and stuffed them into the stump of a felled tree. The hole in the stump was hollowed out presumably by the hands of mother nature and not by those like us. Sand filled much of the hole so we felt confident in setting fire to the papers without causing a blazing bonfire on the curb of the city street.
My brother’s family (Kevin, Kelly, and their three kids), Shain (Kelly’s brother) and Chante (his wife), and I had spent the past 20 minutes reflecting and writing that which we wanted to let go of as we geared up for a new year. Some of us took more than 20 minutes.
We huddled around the nest of papers trying to block the balmy Florida sea breeze while Chante clicked the long-handled lighter for the first part of our winter solstice ceremony. When the flame wouldn’t take, Chante rearranged the paper wads into a tee-pee structure and flicked again. The papers glowed and smoldered.
“I hereby declare….,” I began in a faux formal fashion. I felt a need for pomp-and-circumstance as we watched our shit lists go up in smoke.
Over the years, I’d written “things-I-want-to-release” lists, scrawled endless journal entries, penned letters to lovers I never sent, cried into my pillow, pleaded with the universe/divine/guardian angels/dead ancestors, tied a string to my wrist, and danced my wild heart out. As I stood watching another year’s worth of garbage go up in flames, I wondered how much of it helped, how much of it really caused change in me.
I felt jaded performing yet another ceremony, another ritual that would somehow be the Thing to set me on the best course. I stood there and felt like I’d given up on myself and all the things that I believed in, the practices I preached. Would lighting fire to a piece of paper with the words, “I desire to let go of FEAR, self-criticism, jealousy, negative thoughts, envy, poor choices, etc…” be the magic salve on my bruised heart and my broken spirit?
2015 marked another year of love and loss.
During the year, I rode waves of hope in creating something new with a former love, whom I had walked out in the prior year before giving the best of myself. This time around with the soul who once was “the one,” I pulled my courage out of the corner and had a Wonder Woman-type moment as I stood with hands on hips declaring my love. I cupped my palms together and offered my heart up honestly, simply, and bravely. A crashing disappointment washed over when the offering was refused.
Then, a cleansing feeling took its place. I did my best this time.
I spiraled through a short-term relationship, sought solace during a dating-hiatus, and then gave romance another chance during my version of speed-dating, which consisted of a string of a dozen or so first dates in a month.
There was Sambhav, the horticulturist from India who moved from London. Daniel, a native of Peru who believed in the law of attraction. Kenny, the film-maker who is the leader of the Awesomeness clan at Burning Man. “Ginger,” the fair-skinned, red-head who only travels as far as a friend’s house and doesn’t like being outside because he burns even with a bottle of sun block. Josh, the man who, minutes before our dinner date he arranged, cancelled because he decided to pursue someone else. (“I’m sorry because you seem like an awesome person,” he explained over the phone. “I am!” I exclaimed and chuckled, catching him by surprise with my confidence.) There was Chris. Marc. Steve.
I liked Chad despite the fact he shared the name with my ex-husband. I didn’t hold it against him because he was cute, adventurous, and intelligent, but after three dates he texted me that he decided to pursue someone else.
I laughed through tears as I hit a swell of rejections in one week. The dating-site suitors and my former love all said, “Thanks anyway…”
“Okay, I get it. I knew my time was coming,” I addressed the Universe with head bowed. I’ve always been the one to leave a relationship. Though the rejection wasn’t the most enjoyable, it humbled me and made me sit my ass down to reflect.
And then to get back up.
The end of 2015 marks my one-year anniversary of working at the women’s designer consignment shop, a job that I’m grateful for, especially my co-workers who have served in the role of sounding board, acting agent, match-maker, cheerleader, personal stylist, and ass-kicker.
It’s also the mark of another year not being in my dream career, of working in a job that isn’t fully aligned with my values. I love shopping resale, lessening my consumer foot-print, but I couldn’t give a damn about selling a designer purse that costs the same as two round-the-world plane tickets.
I am mildly depressed at the shop seeing woman who are aimlessly shopping to fill a void in life. One more shirt, or pair of shoes, or necklace will not change their world, though in the moment it gives them a hit of adrenaline, followed by emptiness, which leads to another shopping trip. I know this feeling.
Having a mirror in front of me all day can be painful.
The shit list I burned also bared my plea to let go of judgment. (Who am I to judge these shoppers?) That lasted for about a day. But, hey, self-awareness is the first step to change. Not all is lost.
My nine-year-old nephew began coughing.
“I want to go,” he whispered to Kelly.
Her shoulders dropped a little as she looked to Kevin and then to Chante.
“Sorry, guys, this kiddo is sick and needs to go.”
As we shuffled back into Shain and Chante’s waterfront condo, we agreed to finish our ceremony on Christmas day by releasing our new year intentions lanterns over the bay.
I turned from the dwindling fire and felt that seed of heat beginning to spread in my chest. Yes, all these actions are the minor course adjustments that have gotten me to where I am. Most days I’m grateful for and relentlessly optimistic about my journey.
For reasons greater than I know, I was supposed to experience love and loss, a somewhat unfulfilling job and financial worries during 2015, along with the peaks of traversing Peru with friends and family, being welcomed into the community theater world, growing new friendships, and finding a home of my own for the first time in years!
On Christmas day, I will send up my lighted lantern with the intention for self-compassion. I’ll never, ever get it “right” and “perfect”. I will never, ever do everything, everyday that I preach. But I can continue to make minor course adjustments to breathe easier, love myself unconditionally, and cut myself a little slack when I look at my shit list next year.