Pause to reflect before the New Year

Every December, newspaper headlines shout, “Looking Back” – “Recapping Highlights” – “Best Stories of the Year!”  They remind me that it’s time to review my personal year too – rereading journal entries, organizing clippings and cards and thinking about some ups and downs during 2017.

It’s a good time to collect our thoughts and do a little purposeful writing before this year is gone forever.  Some memories surface quickly. Others may remain hidden.

First, read through this article to the end. Take your time. Relax and ruminate before putting pen to paper. Here are a few prompts to help your memories coalesce.

Copy the list below on a new page leaving a little space between each question. You don’t have to write a lot. Comment briefly on each question.  As memories arise, note them.  This can be completed in less than 30 minutes.

  1. What have I done right this year?
  2. What tricky situations did I navigate well?
  3. What were my accomplishments of any size this year?
  4. What worked well for me this year?
  5. Which three people made the greatest impact on my life during 2017 and have I acknowledged their contributions?
  6. What was the biggest risk I took in 2017?  What did I learn from taking that risk?
  7. What was the most loving service I performed in 2017?
  8. What ten things am I most grateful for that happened in 2017?
  9. What is my biggest piece of unfinished business from 2017? Do I have a plan to complete this unfinished business?
  10. What am I most happy about completing in 2017?

Reread your words noting questions, concerns, new ideas and things to work on. If one or more feel especially important, write further on those topics.

If you are at a crossroad entering 2018 and have to make choices, ask yourself:

  1. Where am I now?
  2. Is this place a result of good or bad choices made at earlier crossroads?
  3. Am I about to take a new route that is potentially scary or exhilarating?

If you have long-held wishes and hopes that have not been fulfilled, it may be time to address these non-events.  They show up in dreams, idealizations and fantasies.  They may occur gradually or all of a sudden, be within your control or not and are often overlooked.

Some examples of non-events are not getting married or finding the right partner, not getting a raise or promotions, not becoming a parent or grandparent.  Although they can be devastating, non-events are often suffered privately.

Dealing with a non-event may take time, but acknowledging it is crucial.  Dr. Nancy Schlossberg, a leader in the field of career development, explains that when deeply held wishes are never realized, we may feel deprived and angry. “It is important to tell a story about the non-event; the story will demystify the experience.”

Leia Francisco, an expert on personal transitions, offers several suggestions in which writing can help a person come to terms with their issue.

  1. Give your non-event a name – a short title or description.
  2. List your hopes, feelings and associated loses.
  3. Generate more ideas by clustering or mind-mapping your thoughts.
  4. Write a good-bye letter to say you are releasing this non-event from your life.
    1. Start with, “Dear (name of the non-event) I release you ………….”
    2. Thank it for how it helped you.
    3. Explain your feelings around letting it go.
    4. Describe how you can use the non-event to reshape your life.
    5. Be honest and open with your feelings.
  5. Write a brief story that takes place two years in the future.
    1. Explain how you have incorporated the non-event into your life
    2. and how your feelings and understanding have shifted.

As you bring this year to a close, personal and heartfelt writing may help clarify what is most important to you.  It may help you set a more fulfilling and healthy course into your future.

Susan’s new 6-week writing groups begin Thursday, January 18.
Her online class, Dream Work Express, runs Jan. 18 through March 14, 2018, sponsored by the Center for Journal Therapy/The Writing Institute.
Susan is an approved provider of CEU’s for mental health counselors.

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