3 Ways to Stay with Yourself in the New Year
Happy New Year!
I hope you experienced some joy and peace and rest and some laughter during your holiday season, as a sense of humor keeps us sane. We stayed here in San Diego for Christmas, welcoming a new puppy—Rosie—into our family. She is a spunky black Labradoodle who has wooed us entirely. In fact, I’m not even sure she can walk. She is carried constantly.
Right after Christmas, the kids, Rosie, and I flew to Ft. Lauderdale area to spend time at my brother’s house with my family. My mom flew in from Texas. My sister and kids drove down from VA, and we all gathered by the Inter Coastal and celebrated the New Year with lots of hilarity, including 13 people and 2 dogs under one roof. Glorious chaos. This is how my family does it.
We got back on the 3rd, and my kids went back to school Tuesday, so I feel like I’m just now getting my bearings in this New Year and new rhythm of January.
On Monday I put the final finishing touches on the manuscript for the new book, Begin Again. I dragged it out, took my time, as completing this book is bittersweet. I finished it at the kitchen table, where I started it, where I labored through it. Morning after early morning. Shame, fear, anxiety, loneliness . . . they all tell us we’re stuck, done for, this is the end. Grace and love whisper . . . you can begin again. You haven’t depleted God’s love for you. You haven’t exhausted his grace. And, secret’s out, you never will.
This concept, as you likely know by now, has been a constant companion to me throughout the last decade, and I find myself needing these new moments of mercy more than ever. The book releases April 3, but I want you to have some of my thoughts and encouragement on the subject before that, so I’m finishing up “15 Reflections on Beginning Again” for you to have as a resource and guide as we step into the New Year. (I’ll let you know when they’re ready for download.) I always say that the best New Year’s resolution you can make is to begin again. It will permeate every area of your life, and will remind you that the small steps often keep us going when we run out of steam with the grand gestures.
One of things I am committed to right now is the idea of “staying with myself.” As I’ve shared here, I am navigating a Messy Middle in life right now — a situation that is unresolved, protracted, and tiring. I find it’s easy to want to abandon parts of myself in this process, especially those parts of me that feel deeply unwieldy, needy, out-of-control, and wearisome.
Given the feedback I’ve received from you over the last few months, I know many of you are in your own Messy Middle or New Normal or Hard and you are having to deal with some of these very same parts of yourself:
The anxious part of you
The afraid part of you
The don’t feel and just push through part of you
The feeling vulnerable and exposed part of you
The obsessive, fixated, stuck in a loop part of you
The if I just make a plan then I will feel better part of you
The addict part of you
The abandoned part of you
The wounded, hiding, powerless part of you
The pissed off part of you
I have all of these residing somewhere inside me. And they all feel like a liability at times. Out of control, ugly, unproductive, unspiritual, imbalanced, embarrassing.
But I’ve found that rejecting them — acting like they’re not there or ignoring them — only causes problems. And putting them in charge — giving them the control — only causes problems.
So how do we stay with ourselves, especially when our selves aren’t particularly likable or tolerable. How do we stay right where we are and allow God to minister to those parts of us that are in need?
Here are 3 practices that have helped me:
PULL UP A CHAIR: Sit down at the table and pull up an empty chair right next to you. Invite that crazy, obsessive, embarrassing part of yourself to sit down next to you. Sit her down and listen to what she has to say. Ignoring her only makes her yell louder. She needs attention. She needs to be tended to. That’s what she’s trying to tell you. So let her talk. What words does she have for you? What experiences, fears, feelings does she need you to hear? Write them down for her if needed.
Be as gentle as possible with her, like you would a hurting friend, or a crying child, or a wounded puppy. Listen, tell her that you love her and that you understand why she’s feeling what she’s feeling. Of course, you might say. Of course you feel that way. And then gently and firmly remind her that she is loved, cherished, and welcomed, but she will not get to be in charge. What I’ve found is that the more you tend to her, the calmer and quieter she becomes. And, conversely, the more you reject her, ignore her, shame her, the louder she becomes.
So anytime you feel that unwieldy part of you taking over, it’s just a signal that she needs to talk to you, she needs some comfort. Pull up a chair, sit her down, listen to her, and then let her know that God will never leave her. She is known, seen, and loved . . . always.
THE WELCOMING PRAYER: In prayer, welcome those parts of you that are bothering you, annoying you, exhausting you, frustrating you. God, I welcome the obsessive, fixated part of me, that part of me that wants control and wants to fix and wants a plan. She is scared and feeling powerless and she’s grasping. I welcome her and her fear and her attempts to solve, and I ask you to comfort her and bring her your peace that passes all understanding. I ask you to sit with her now and give her the love and acceptance that only you can give. Amen.
The idea here is to welcome her, literally open the door to her and nourish her, instead of sending her away. Listen to what God has to say to her and to you.
6, 20, 86: Think about yourself as a 6 year old. When I was 6, I would paint by myself alone in my room for hours after everyone else had gone to bed. I was lost in my own creative world, and I loved it. Think of that free, generative, explorative, hopeful, unselfconscious version of yourself. What does that part of you have to tell you today?
Then think about yourself at a time in your life when you were strong, brave, not afraid of taking a risk, self-assured. For me that was when I was 20, playing college volleyball, and a leader. I trusted my competence and I was competitive. Sometimes I like to talk to that 20 year old version of myself and channel a bit of her guts and grit.
Then, spend some time with the 86 year old version of yourself. She will tell you what’s worth worrying over and what you can let go of. She will help you come home to yourself a bit more. She will offer wisdom you don’t yet have. Talk to these soulful, brazen parts of yourself and allow God to speak to you through their experiences and essence.
OK, and just to normalize all this entirely, you will do one of these practices and you will experience something transcendent and healing. And then two days later you may wake up feeling absolutely crazed. And this is all very normal. This is why we always need to begin again. So we begin again. We realize that life is practices, and so we practice again. We tend again. We welcome again. We communicate again. We pray again. We love and listen again.
Which practice resonates most with you? Or, do you have another practice that has helped you stay with yourself? I’d love to hear in the comments.
When things are chaotic and painful, it is so tempting to turn on ourselves. I love the idea of staying with those needy parts of ourselves as a way to integrate instead of disintegrate. And I lean entirely into the truth that God cares for all of me more than I know or can understand, and his invitation is always hope and healing.
Brazen has a 6-week discussion guide if you are looking for a book to go through in the New Year. Check it out here.
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