There are so many good posts out there right now about setting intentions for the new year, looking forward, planning, and reviewing your year. This post is different, because it’s about letting go and starting again.

At any time, we can choose what we carry. We can’t choose our past or what has happened to us, but we can do the work and decide when we are ready to lighten our loads. Our identities are constantly evolving. When we find ourselves at this point in the year, which is such a clear time for review and owning up to whether we met our own expectations, it’s easy to forget there is an element of letting go in fresh starts. We are actively (or passively in the case of loss or the end of relationships if we aren’t ready) choosing something else. We are setting our sights on something different and letting go of the way we used to do things.

When I think of letting go and starting again, I think of these times of life:
—changes in seasons and the end of specific times of life (the new year, spring cleaning, the urge to purge things we don’t need as winter approaches)
—ending/starting relationships, jobs, commitments
—experiencing the loss of someone we love
—shifting our attitude about our circumstances
—reckoning with our past experiences and how we relate to the world
—choosing love over fear

Fresh starts are bittersweet for me. The opportunity for growth and change is so significant, and it’s really hard to acknowledge the fact that things will not be the way they were before. It’s sad. But we experience this every day on a smaller scale. As I discussed in my post about birth and loss, our life experience is fleeting and we can acknowledge this as much or as little as we choose—but I think how we sit with this can change the way we interact with others and determine how present we are in our worlds. Of course we can’t carry the sorrow of the world in our hearts every moment of every day—we would feel so emotionally heavy we could not function. So I start to wonder about where the balance is, and here is what I’ve found to be true for me:

We have to hold tight and breathe it in and press our hearts together and tell each other how much we love each other, then let go and not know if and when we will see that person again. We take care of each other and make each other sandwiches and change diapers and cat litter and gently comb our kiddo’s hair and then let go. We send birthday cards and make phone calls and tell each other how deeply, truly sorry we are and bring tea and soup and then let go. It’s all about letting go. It’s the hardest lesson of all to learn, at least for me. To let go and cry and miss it and realize there is no other way but to love with your whole heart for that brief moment, and then learn to live without it.

And then we start again.

“So I thought
maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us—
as soft as feathers—
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes
not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow—
that is nothing but light—scalding, aortal light—
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.”
—Mary Oliver

I hope you have a wonderful New Year, filled with all the love, joy, and beautiful, bittersweetness you can find.

Elizabeth is a therapist at Porch Light Counseling. She supports people in getting un-stuck, adjusting to life as new parents, and working through tough spots in relationships. Contact her here to schedule an appointment.