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January 4, 2019

New Year, New Patterns

By Vega Subramaniam

It doesn’t matter what year it is or how old I am. On December 31st, I am ageless. That instant before 12:00:01 a.m. holds every promise of every possibility I’ve ever felt over my whole life. This year might be the year. It is…exquisite.

I do realize that not everyone experiences New Year’s Eve the way I do, and I certainly have no desire to persuade you to change your relationship to it.

But I am guessing that at least some of us have hopes to establish new practices in 2019, break unwanted habits, spend more time each day doing what we actually want to be doing.

Is it drinking more water? Less screen time? Finally finishing that play?

For me, it’s exercise, for sure. I am pleased to announce that I have been going to the gym on a regular basis for the past two months WHUT. If you happen to notice my eye-popping muscles, please know that I would not be offended if you mentioned it (especially because as yet, I myself have not noticed them).

That said, my relationship with exercise has always been…complicated. Complicated the way one’s relationship to scratching one’s eyeballs with sandpaper is complicated. “Loathsome,” is what I’m saying. Poor Mala has had to endure years of me maintaining that going to a gym is for suckas. I prefer to get my exercise the old-fashioned way: walking to work, helping friends move and construct furniture, and so on.

…Except that I work from home, am allergic to manual labor, and can’t understand IKEA instructions to save my life. On second thought, my relationship to exercise has been not so much complicated as nonexistent.

So what I’m setting myself up for is to go from “nonexistent” to “regular.” I am guessing that I’m not alone.

Peering into my crystal ball, I see at least a few of us, occasionally, lured back into our old practices, unwanted habits, and trivialities. Le sigh.

There are so many habit-changing tools everyone already knows about that I’m not going to bother repeating them here. No doubt you are already drawing upon some or many of them, perhaps with a feverish hope that’s just this side of despair. (Oh wait, that’s me. Never mind.)

That said, I’m always on the quest for new sources of inspiration. Something that captures the seeming dichotomy between simultaneously being both the product of everything we’ve ever experienced and the bundle of awe, potential, and unconditional lovability we were the day we were born. How do we harness that perfect potential while honoring the corrosive fallout of everything that we’ve endured between then and now?

A while ago, I came across this quote from Skylar Liberty Rose’s 15 Things I Have Learned (or Remembered) in the Last 48 Hours:

“Some wounds reopen after long decades have passed. Listen to their story but do not be defined by their words. Gently remind them that their time has passed.”

I find this so simple, compassionate…freeing.

When I shared this quote with Mala, she suggested that we extend this notion beyond just wounds—and apply it to our past selves more broadly, and who we are today relative to those past selves.

Some memories re-emerge after long decades have passed…
Some identities re-assert themselves after long decades have passed…
Some outmoded psychological survival tools intrude on us after long decades have passed…

Why am I bringing all this up right now? It occurs to me that this mindset could be a useful way for us to approach our entry into 2019.

Circling back to the notion of noticing and gently releasing past selves that re-emerge after long decades have passed: who says we need to wait for long decades to have passed? I’m wondering if we might also be able to draw on this wisdom in our current endeavors.

I’m wondering if we can remind ourselves that those old practices, unwanted habits, and trivialities—that actually, we can listen to their stories and yet not be defined by them. Let them know that they belong to 2018. So last year. It’s time to ease into what’s going to work for us this year.

And this mindset quite naturally puts us into an experimental mindset, which is where we’re best placed to create real, lasting change. I am reminded of Michael Jordan talking about how much of a failure he is. (Not really.)

So, here’s my goal for 2019: to live on the edge of my potential as often as I can. To honor all of my experiences for bringing me to this point, while not allowing them to define my limits. To create for myself, over and over again, that exquisite “ageless” moment I experience at 11:59:59 every December 31st.

What do you see when you peer into your crystal ball?

P.S. And as for other new patterns, bad girls are taking over, and not one moment too soon.

2019 Congress Women of Color

H/T @MartinSchoeller @VanityFair

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