Here it is, December 31st, the sky dusky as we move towards evening, and I haven’t written a New Year’s blog. That startles me—after all, I love end-of-year reviews and the reflection inherent in this final calendar day. But I’ve also been caught up in the energy I felt on my big birthday just nine days ago. You might say I’ve been marinating in the sensations from the psychic shift of turning 60 and finding myself (gasp!) open to an unexpected change.
I thought about this last night while at a wonderful concert by the Seattle Baroque Orchestra. Called “A Toast to Brandenburg,” the program consisted of two of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, two pieces by his contemporary Georg Philipp Telemann, and Bach’s famous—and always lovely—Air on a G String.
Your mind can go a lot of places at a concert, and mine traveled wildly in time last night. My life story has many musical moments, and I was visiting them in random order—from childhood recitals to piano lessons in Paris, from the comfort of a junior high orchestra (where intonation is a relatively flexible concept) to the agony of a high school conductor who terrified me and brought me to tears. I found I was remembering more failures than successes, more regrets than pleasures; my memories laden with discomfort and shame rather than with the sweetness of life and the beauty of music itself.
Then sometime during the concert I said to myself, “Why do I still blame myself for my youth? Why am I so harsh in remembrance? Why do I not understand that in my childhood, in my teens, in my 20s, even in my 30s, I was just a young person learning about life? How could I not have had many limitations? Would I ever be so unforgiving to someone else?” Then, “Why am I even dealing with this at age 60?”
That is when I knew that it was time to tell a new story. I wasn’t just trying to convince myself–I suddenly knew it. I am not talking about rewriting the old story. I’m talking about simply giving myself permission to tell a new one. Perhaps that means staying fully present in a concert, to appreciate the music without the parallel buzz of the old recriminations. Perhaps it means experiencing my creativity more fully, without the old fears and failures whispering in my ear. Perhaps it means saying to myself, “I forgive you for not achieving everything you dared hope for since the beginning of time.”
It now seems fitting that I did not write a traditional New Year’s blog this year with all the “re-” words (resolution, recalibration, review, renewal). I am not revising or rewriting (although nothing ever stops me from reflecting!). I am starting a brand new story, and I don’t even know the first sentence. I just know that I’m really ready.
Questions for Reflection: What old stories do you tell yourself? Have you been harsh towards yourself about other stages of life or is it easy to forgive yourself? Are there any new stories you are ready to tell?
Writing Prompts: “When I think of my younger self I ______” (then keep writing); “I have my own recurring story about ______” (then keep writing); “My attitude towards my earlier limitations tends to be ______” (then keep writing); “As I face a new year, I am ready to ______” (then keep writing).