Today we awakened to a New Year. The past year went by as a vapor and now we look ahead, wondering what 2023 will hold; how will our future be?; what challenges will we encounter?; what great surprises await?
Recently, when I was driving around Christmas shopping, I heard a familiar carol, “Winter Wonderland” written by Richard B. Smith in 1934. While it’s familiar since my childhood, some of the words I truly heard for the first time:
“Later on, we’ll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid
Plans that we’ve made
Walking in a winter wonderland
The song is about a couple who want a parson–a minister or priest, to perform their marriage ceremony; that’s the plan they’ve made. I didn’t hear it as about a wedding but as being afraid of any plan made for the future.
Throughout my life, I’ve always been a planner–especially of good things in the future, like solo journeys, time with friends, special dates, reunions with family. I can easily get caught up in daydreams about my idealized plan for what it’ll be like. In the past, I’ve used daydreaming about those future events to get through ordinary times–which make up the majority of our waking hours. Those who are now into Mindfulness would say I was not staying in the present; guilty as accused.
For me, my plans were all idealized with no obstacles, no unforeseen complications. I wasn’t afraid and had an optimistic outlook of the outcome. But when the “plans that we’ve made” involve a big life goal, an achievement that’s been eluding us, a risk that must be taken–then I can see where fear could be a factor. Even small plans, like New Year’s Resolutions, have an underlying threat that we may fail, we may not succeed and that is a fear.
I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward; A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. In talking about the need to look at what we have from the first half of life that serves in the second, he says this about fear:
“We all want and need various certitudes, constants, and insurance policies at every stage of life. But we have to be careful, or they totally take over and become all-controlling needs, keeping us from further growth. Thus the most common one-liner in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”; in fact, someone counted and found that it occurs 365 times.” (p.6)
Well, now, that’s a “Be not afraid” for every day of the year!
I consider what I could be afraid of as we enter a new year. Am I afraid of making last year’s mistakes? For me, when I’m afraid of not being able to accomplish a goal–say publishing a certain work, I see it in my procrastination. It shows up in putting off getting started “until the right time.” If I’m afraid to expand my social circle, like joining a Meet Up group, I come up with reasons the status quo is fine.
Now, I look at the goals I have for 2023 and try to anticipate the challenges that will likely occur. I can approach them confidently if I break each goal into small, measurable steps. Invariably, there will be times when my progress will slow down or I’ll take a step backwards; other times, I may advance a few forward at one time. Along the way, I know I’ll need planted rewards, times to look at what I’ve achieved and feel good about my progress.
But more than any goal, I look at the way I want to Be in 2023. How can I be more content to just live in the present moment–without having so many plans, without having expectations of how things should go? Maybe facing 2023 unafraid is more about how you and I encounter all the moments. It could be a year that we scrap the list of resolutions and focus more on our way of Being instead of Doing.
Whatever we come up with as a way to proceed into 2023, I hope we’ll all live our best lives, intentional in making wise choices about how we spend our time and energy. Life passes so quickly and we all want to look back and see that our days were well-lived. May you face these days unafraid, knowing that you have what you need; and if you don’t, there are others along the way who will help you on this journey.
Happy New Year!