The Brood: Happy New Year (Really)!

by Holly Mohr

I’m always a little leery of wishing anyone a “Happy New Year” with too, too much excitement, as though we know this year will be better than the last one. The reigning “New Year’s narrative” encourages us to throw last year away, as quickly and thoroughly as possible, as though there is no continuity to our lives (and as though we really could throw away all that we have been and done). Every year I do stay up until midnight and watch the ball drop, albeit with some mix of irony, trepidation, and sure, a little excitement.

That being said, I am a sucker for imbuing time and seasons with meaning, and I do appreciate the invitation to look at new beginnings with intention. The time between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is sacred space to me.

I value the sense of Christmas as a season offered by the Christian liturgical calendar, spanning from Christmas Day all the way through to the Baptism of the Lord. In parallel fashion, I love the contemporary idea of “ ’Twixtmas, ” a quieter set of days meant for reflection, following the frenetic lead-up to Christmas Day. And while I don’t exactly set a “New Year’s Resolution,” I do enjoy setting a direction. Some years I have focused on my writing, others on certain physical goals. Normally by January 1st, I have some clarity of vision.

I wasn’t sure I had it this year, but I think I do. The stirring of my heart does not pertain to any particular goals or new life changes. (Sure, I have some goals for the year, and no, I’m not telling what they are—I don’t like to share goals with anybody until after I’ve achieved them). But my deep desire this year is more meta. It’s about how I do life, more than what I do. As the days of this Christmas season have gone by, I’ve noticed an ever-so-infinitesimally perceptible lightening of my heart.

This Christmas was calmer—no real family drama, no earth-shaking news in the personal realms. Some things became a little clearer, and others stayed the same. I played a lot of board games with my husband and kids and had some family outings. It was good. But there was still a pall over my heart for the first few days of it.

I realized I’ve been carrying around a low-grade depression since my dad died in September 2021. I’ve felt a little off-center, a little heavier, a little less able to access my vision. Interestingly, I’ve been more efficient, even more driven in some ways, but less filled with grace, less willing to trust and expand.

In these first few days of the New Year, I’ve felt my heart regain some of its vitality. In the New Year, I want to remember my interior freedom. I want to honor prioritizing creativity and joy. More than any specific goals, I want to give myself deep, full and rejoicing permission to pay attention so I perceive it when those goals arise. I want to trust my intuition that loving myself and others (as many others as I can possibly handle!!) is The Point, and I want to frame all my external activities around that. Maybe that will mean a shifting in the shape my schedule takes, and maybe it won’t. But it will mean a shifting in the shape my intention takes toward that schedule.

I am awakening to joy again. My eight-year-old has started reading kids’ philosophy books and writing down philosophical questions in a sketchbook. The bridge through Frick Park that collapsed last January has reopened, and it’s beautiful and strong. I met up with a friend last night for dinner, and we spent two hours just being together in deep listening and connection.

My friend told me about her own New Year’s intention to invite people over more often and to prioritize more conversations. We talked about the origins of both of our marriages, how we and our partners had entered into our marriages with the intention of rich and deep hospitality. We had wanted our homes (and our hearts, our very presences in the world!) to be spaces of openness and healing, places people could come and find joy and welcome. Then children came, and friends with addictions, and Trump and COVID and isolation and heartbreak and walls.

But here we are, still meeting for Thai noodles, still dreaming about the future (and the present!). Here we are, reconstructing what we want for our families, how to bring our children and our friendships and ourselves back into alignment with connection and openness. Yes, our hearts are a little (a lot?) cracked, yes, we have seen fear and disappointment. Those things are not in the past, even as we begin a New Year.

But in the midst of it all, we have begun. What greater proof of hope do I need than the fact that my heart keeps seeking it, even after all we have seen, and done, and been?

This year, I’m fixing my direction on listening closely, in trust, in hope, in creativity, both to you and to me.

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