“Resolve to be thyself; and know that she,
Who finds herself, loses her misery!”
—Matthew Arnold, from Self-Dependence❋
New Year’s is my favorite holiday.
It’s simple and perfect.
New Year’s Eve: all about partying. Dance it up! Have fun! Be with people you love! Celebrate life and all it contains.
New Year’s Day: all about reflection. Think it out. Slow down. Be with yourself in a quiet place. Celebrate who you are and all the multitudes you contain, and decide what to release and what to keep as the new year unfolds.
At least, that’s my version of the holiday. Maybe different for others.
My birthday—which, have I mentioned, is TODAY—falls almost exactly 6 months after New Year’s. It marks the halfway point of the year. And I like to celebrate my birthday in reverse order:
Morning: all about reflection.
Evening: all about partying.
This morning, I’m sitting in bed alone. After I send this newsletter off, I’ll meditate, read, write, and think through some of that deep shit that’s always there, waiting for me to give it attention. Those incursions❋ can be confusing, painful, overwhelming, but if I persist, they become beautiful, worthwhile: there is clarity, a lightening of the load, ability to release what is not mine, a new appreciation and wonder at what is mine.
That’s the morning.
Next up is the partying: beach time, family time, friend time, and I’ll get some dancing in there somehow.
This evening, I’m going to eat my bodyweight in sushi or at least give it a good try.
Meaningful goals, friends.
Surprisingly accurate description of my self as a cat. Except replace “adorable when running” with “awkward when running.”
I wrote a lot of things this week.
For real. a lot. And they’re mostly long, way too long. Maybe pick one to read. You don’t have all day. YOU HAVE TO PARTY AND REFLECT. Oh, wait, sorry, that’s me. You do what you want.
I want your honest answer to this question. Here’s a short list of honest ways I could have answered your “How are you?” question on any given day in the last few years.
How to start making progress on that one big goal. 5 steps I take to avoid all the glaring terrible moves I usually make when trying to reach a goal.
What’s your chronic care taking style? Like a Disney Princess quiz, but more depressing.
The 5 pitfalls of planning (and how to avoid them): With a story about how I spent a lot of money on the perfect planner and then (surprise!) it didn’t make me perfect. So disappointing.
Maybe it is all a dream: This one’s kind of personal. But wait, who am I kidding, these are all personal. I never meant to become a confessional writer, Ma, I swear!
This is what it takes to change your life: I’m not offering any sort of money-back results guarantee, but my life today—compared to my life not so long ago—well, it’s like a different lifetime.
❋ Self-Dependence by Matthew Arnold
The original is all he/him/himself but I am a she/her/herself so I changed it for my own devices. I’m taking poetic liberties with poetry, and I think that makes me meta-literary and no I don’t know exactly what I mean by that.
Here’s the whole poem. It’s great.
P.S. If poetry is not your thing, and you struggle to extract the meaning from the formal language, try reading it aloud. Don’t worry about the rhymes or meter, just read it aloud casually, like it’s an email or the back of a shampoo bottle. Follow the sentences/punctuation instead of the line breaks.
I feel so clever for using this word, which means
an entering in or into (something, such as an activity or undertaking).
I’m using it as the opposite of excursion (a going out): introspection, reflection, diving deep into ourselves, that’s all about going in. Incursions.
Incursion also means
a hostile entrance into a territory [Merriam Webster] or
a sudden attack on or act of going into a place, especially across a border
a sudden and unwanted entrance to a place or area controlled by others, esp. in a military attack [Cambridge]
Diving into our own inner world can definitely feel like a threat, an attack, a hostile entrance. There is nothing more terrifying than to be quiet and still, alone with yourself, and face the things you fear about who you are.
There is also nothing more liberating and powerful.
Take a look at the origin of the word incursion:
c. 1400, "bring (an undesirable consequence) upon oneself;" mid-15c. as "become liable for (payment or expenses)," from Anglo-French encurir, Old French encorir "to run, flee; commit, contract, incur" (Modern French encourir), from Latin incurrere "run into or against, rush at, make an attack;" figuratively, "to befall, happen, occur to," from in- "upon" (from PIE root *en "in") + currere "to run" (from PIE root *kers- "to run"). Related: Incurred; incurring. [Online Etymology]
And now we know why going inward is frightening, or can be. In a sense, it is an attack: against the feelings, beliefs, and patterns that we no longer need. And in a sense, it brings an “undesirable” consequence:
for the ego, a lessening.
for the identity, a broader variability. Fuzzier lines. Looser definitions. It’s expansive, but it can feel like losing stability.
for the defenses and coping mechanisms, an honesty and deeper empathy that shows how ridiculous anger is, how your reactions are always about yourself, and how your life is always exactly what you make it. We get what we allow ourselves to receive, no exceptions.
It’s sobering to shift from blaming other people and external forces to taking on radical responsibility for every experience.
Sobering but powerful. Responsibility is power: power over oneself, which is the only real power, and the only way to be free.
Happy birthday to me! Go celebrate on my behalf.
(Maybe also have a little reflective incursion.)