Blazing New Trails.

The tradition on this day is to reflect on the past year. What a year I have had, such a roller coaster. I was at my lowest early on, but now that low seems like it will lead me to my highest. That is how it usually happens, yet, in the midst of the darkness, it becomes so hard to see a new path in front of you.

You think that you have your life planned out, then you are blindsided by some circumstance and it is all over. All the plans and dreams are gone. You have to step back and reset your plans and goals. That is easier said than done and until that happens, your life is in a suspended state, purgatory, the bardo, whatever you call it, life cannot go back to what it was. But you are still there, unable to move forward. You can’t move at all. All you can do is sit there in shock.

Slowly a new path appears. Overtime, this new path, this new trail, becomes clearer and more vivid. When you look back on that old path, it has become overgrown and dense with cob webs. Almost undetectable. Those dreams and goals lay like broken limbs and dead trees on the old path. You start to look at things in your past differently, you see details that you missed. You realize that it was not the best trail for you, you just thought it was.

Slowly, this old trail starts to fade, the fog of time becomes dense and dark, then a new path appears. You start taking a few timid steps towards it. You have to remind yourself that the darkness of the past trails cannot be so powerful that it consumes the sunshine of the new path, the new future that is ahead of you.

This is where so many people go wrong, they spend so much time thinking and looking at the old dark, overgrown trails, they don’t see the new one in front of them. They don’t get a full chance to enjoy the new path in all it’s glory.

I choose to look ahead! The new path deserve my full attention. Looking back will only rob ourselves of the beauty of the new trail. The old path is behind me, now is the time to look forward, not backwards.

Striving for Happiness

As the trees lose the last of their fall vestiges, the holidays approach, we often begin to reminisce on the previous year. Thoughts of family gatherings are often intermingled with the reflections of losses and turmoil the previous year spawned. It is only appropriate that this happens in the winter season. Winter is the season that brings a dormancy, out of this dormancy will eventually grow new life in the springtime.

I have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions or the whole concept of changing your entire life simply because we have changed the calendar, I have always felt that sometimes it was just a way of putting off much needed changes. Yet, here I am, looking forward to a better year.

Over the last few months, I have been experiencing a gradual shift in my thoughts and energies. I have realized that somewhere in the years, I have lost sight of myself, of who I am. This has prompted me to come to the realization that there is something to a resolution, but that we have it wrong. The New Year should be a time to stop and take a deep breath and relax into the changes we want to create in our lives, meditate on where we need improvements and take stock of what is going right.

Like the new hope that is spring, our changes generally happen gradually. Trees do not suddenly fill out with leaves, they slowly grow into the new season. Over the course of days and weeks they begin to fill out with leaves, flowers, fruits and nuts. Like trees on the spring equinox, the stroke of midnight on December 31st does not in itself bring a change to a person, it is a temporal landmark, an arbitrary milestone. Personal changes are not sudden like the flipping of a page, they are gradual and take planning. 

For me, I have so much that has gone wrong in the last year that I haven’t really looked at what has gone right for me. It has become a habit to look for the bad, but we all do it. Negativity is wired into us. 2022 brought more negative for me than I care to go into here, but suffice to say, I got into a tremendous rut of looking at the gloom and doom. In the process, I was blinded to the good around me. I created a negativity bias in my life. It would be easy to say that this last year was one of loss, but that is taking the pessimistic view. I choose to look at the gains I have made, the indisputable good that has come out of the mess I call my life.

I have plans for 2023 and beyond, but to get there, I have so many things I need to do. These will not happen just because I bought a new calendar, they will happen gradually, like the slow bloom of spring. The most important thing I plan on doing is breaking the habit of looking at all the negative, starting a habit of looking for the positive. 

As Max Ehrmann said “And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

In 2023 that is all I can do, strive to be happy. The reality is, that is all any of us can do, strive to be happy.