It has become a tradition for me to write a post every new year (or end of the year) that shares a little of what the last year has been like and what I hope the new year will hold. Every year, the new year means a little less to me. It seems to me that the days that are important make themselves known, and carve out a place in our history stronger than the ones we are told are meaningful. But there is so much to be thankful for in 2015, it’s not a surprise that I’m reluctant to welcome a new year. I’m grateful for millions of little things, as well as the big things; the health and happiness of my loved ones, the marriage and appointment of my brother as the concertmaster in NY, another year doing what I love, my friendships which truly sustain me in difficult times and inspire me/ make me laugh in others, and the relationship that has brought me a joy, balance, and simplicity that I had not previously imagined was possible.
I’m not one much for resolutions, (not since so many in my teens and early 20’s started only to fail spectacularly) but I’m dedicated to changing in ways that will benefit myself and others. Most of these changes aren’t things I come up with; they’re inspired by great conversations with the insightful people I’m lucky to have in my life, as well as things I come across, see on television, and read. For the last few years, I just had a list of words I wanted to focus on or think about throughout the year…I think one of the years, there was just one…”look”…but I’ve read such great things lately, I thought I would share some of the quotes that have motivated change in me recently.
“She saw that the people of this world moved about in an armor of egotism, drunk with self-gazing, athirst for compliments, hearing little of what was said to them, unmoved by the accidents that befell their closest friends, in dread of all appeals that might interrupt their long communion with their own desires.” – The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
Obviously, I don’t want to have the armor of egotism, be thirsting for compliments all the time (especially in our like-dependent social media-driven world) etc ..but the one that really stands out for me is the last. I think that too often, I prioritize what I’m doing or thinking over the needs or desires of those around me and this is something I really hope to change.
“but in love our very mistakes don’t seem to be able to last long?” -another from The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
In context this question, to me, is about forgiving yourself. I don’t like how I treat some of the people who love me…maybe I’m hangry or sleepy…maybe I don’t understand their actions (even though I understand they are doing it out of love)…and I end up being really disappointed in myself. This quote and the passage it’s from was liberating for me to read. My irritability can have no lasting effect on the much greater power of love, so instead of feeling guilt or self-loathing, I can focus on trying to be better.
“No doubt all of this is not true remembrance but the ruinous work of nostalgia, which obliterates the past, and no doubt, as usual, I have exaggerated everything. – The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
The new year is a time for me, and I’m sure others, fraught with reflection. Rereading this quote again reminds me of the ‘ruinous work of nostalgia’…I have a tendency to think back on times with something akin to a mood or emotional Instagram filter…I know that in those moments I remember, I didn’t feel the way I feel now, having saturated them with historical importance or meaning in my life. I hope to stop thinking about the past as much…at least in a way that is untrue, or too nostalgic. That has been especially dangerous for me since I have a feeling my memories are treacherously self-absorbed. There’s a great Radiolab episode about memory where I learned that, neurologically, remembering is creating…the ways that we remember the past alter the past.
And I couldn’t pick just one quote from this next book- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I found it to be so impressive and moving, seamlessly incorporating the personal and the political. The titular “God” of small things is constantly changing meaning and identity in the book, but the interpretation I keep coming back to after reading is the idea that the “God” of small things are the things we value, the things we give authority to in our lives…not necessarily a god, but a belief in one…a belief in anything. These beliefs shape the small things we do, personally and societally, and shape the world in millions of little ways, ways we can’t foresee, help, or control…often with devastating consequences.
I was talking to someone I love and respect very much recently. And he told me that sometimes, he gets the sense that I put what I think of as moral or decent above things like understanding, family, and friends. That I would, in essence, always choose to see things in black and white instead of with empathy.
He’s right. I was a little surprised at first, but it took all of 2 minutes of thinking about it to realize how right he is. I have an intolerance for cruelty and untruth that borders on…well, cruelty. I’m dogmatic, maybe even tyrannical about the things I believe. No matter how “right”, socially acceptable, or even noble my beliefs are…to become despotic and oppressive with them makes me as intolerable as the things I have an intolerance for. So I’m going to try to let these morals, ideas, beliefs…these gods of small things in my life go. I’m going to try to stay human in situations where I too easily become cerebral and lose empathy, just because I’m afraid of feeling.
I guess that’s the main resolution I have, not just for this year…but all my life, I hope to stay human- messy, complex, and full of feeling–
many thanks for reading-
happiness, love, and great health to you all!