Despite its obvious downsides, 2016 had some good moments, too. I made a list of them on New Year’s Day and was surprised to note so many highlights. The exercise filled me with gratitude and appreciation for great friendships, abundant love, a healthy family, robust community, interesting work, modest successes, and many material comforts. It was a good frame of mind to receive the words that will guide me in 2017.
This year, a friend helped me to consult Tarot cards. I am new to this method; it offers a view that is simultaneously retrospective, introspective and speculative. It’s like hiking up a long hill with a sweeping vista on the other side. Each card is a picture story, and together they form a linked story that twists and turns, confirming what is known and revealing what is hidden. It’s like hiking up a long hill with a sweeping vista on the other side.
I enjoy the mix of intuition and rationality involved in reading the cards and interpreting them. As part of a skeptical culture that dismisses the language of symbols, a suspension of disbelief is necessary. And the payoff for such trust is insight, surprise, and a fair bit of having one’s complacency shaken up.
One of the most profound insights is that I am far more comfortable with ideas and the life of the mind than I am with emotions and people. At least this has been the case historically. I have an old habit of protecting myself from the unpredictability of the world around me—and people are the least predictable of all. This has led to various means of coping including withdrawal, wearing armor, being overly cautious, and procrastination. Most of which cause isolation and depression.
Happily, though, I’ve embarked over the last few years on an adventure to live differently. Though most of this journey has been across uncharted territory, I have felt joy more often than fear, and wonder more than boredom. The cards confirmed this, as well as challenging me to more fully inhabit this new phase of life, and to leave behind that which still holds me back.
In that spirit, then, these are the words for 2017: Nourish, Show up, and Connect.
I have a tendency to approach these year-planning sessions from a critical perspective. As in, what am I missing, or what do I need to cultivate more of? Or, what am I doing wrong? Or, what am I not doing enough, or too much? While critical self-reflection is valuable, I tend to lose sight of the turn to grace. I can be a bit skeptical and jealous of people who say that when they open their eyes in the morning, they are immediately filled with gratitude for the gift of the new day. I’ve been known to feel a mild dread about what’s coming up or anxiety about the many ways that I will fall short.
Why not envision asking a few simple questions first thing upon waking? Like, how can I nourish my creativity today? How can I nourish my body and my mind and soul? How can I likewise nourish my son? My husband? My friends? Less to-do listing and more nourishing.
I was playing with other ways of saying this, including having the courage to be more visible with less self-consciousness. Just to get out there and experience everything—joy, frustration, hilarity, sadness, anger. But “visibility” can be about showmanship or putting myself on exhibit to indulge my ego. I prefer “show up” for its outward direction. I will show up for my purpose, to serve the muse. And I will show up for my family, friends, and even random people I encounter during the day. I will honor my commitments as a responsible adult, not out of a martyred sense of duty laced with resentment. I will show up to honor myself, my precious life, the people whom I love and cherish, and the earth who is mother to us all.
I enjoy my independence. In order connect, though, I must come out of hiding and admit that I cannot do what I came here to do alone. When I isolate and shut others out, I damage my relationships and dishonor my core values. When connecting feels too demanding or scary, it’s perfectly fine to go back to nourishing myself. Even when that involves turning inward. There is nothing wrong with an alternating pattern of retreat and shining, of recharging and then sharing the wealth.
One last note. In the Tarot card array that my friend did for me, the card that depicts how I should present myself to the world is The Fool. I’m intrigued to explore this one, because The Fool follows her heart, no matter how crazy or foolish her impulses may seem. The fool goes through life with innocence and complete trust and openness. Connections and synchronicities abound. The Fool is privileged not to know the answers and always to be learning new things.
As I step into this New Year, may I be so guided to nourish myself and others, to show up and honor my commitments, and to connect with the world around me.