56: The day we acknowledge it.

- December 31, 2017 -

My best friend and I will often joke about the fact that we become so anxious around our birthdays, for it is by now well established that we’ll never fail to assign an unnecessarily pervasive sense of dread to their annual occurrence.

And so, ahead of every pre-birthday slump, we’ll make sure to remind each other of the fact that our birthday isn’t actually The Day We Get Older™, because, really, that happens every day. Our birthday is just the day when we acknowledge it, the day when it finally becomes official and is able to be recognized by others.

(It is, in other words, a day that is assigned a great deal more importance than every other day, but there really isn’t anything taking place on that particular day that isn’t also happening on all 364 remaining days of the year.)

A similar sort of alarm is sounded around the world each December. You’ll notice, for instance, that one of the many things birthdays have in common with the onset of the new year is that both occasions provoke a sort of mandatory check-in, an annual pit stop which forces us to get out from behind the wheel — indeed, to step out of the car entirely — and inspect our surroundings.

These days, though, I’m no longer one to make resolutions and then start applying them on January 1st. To be sure, I appreciate having the cultural impetus to do so, and I love the energy around this time of year as everyone collectively sets aside some time for reflecting upon ways in which they might improve. But I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to put so much pressure on this singular event as a make-or-break moment, or to suggest that growth can only occur at certain times, or to further the notion that progress can only come with a clean slate.

No, I think it’s much more useful when we see change as something that gets ushered into our lives in a gradual sort of way, much like the way in which the winter solstice only comes about as the result of small shifts accumulated over entire seasons. But more than just its being gradual, though, that particular type of change — the lengthening or shortening of the days — is always occurring, always edging its way towards a new equilibrium. Such constant fluctuation is commonplace in nature, but it’s not typically something we’re used to incorporating into our everyday lives, committed, as we are, to the maintenance of our various habits, routines, and beliefs.

I think we could all stand to benefit from looking more towards the natural world on this one, though. I think there is a great deal to be gained from, say, being less resistant to change, or being more willing to incorporate it into more of our days, or being more deliberate about checking in with ourselves throughout the year, not just on those few occasions every 12 months when circumstances beyond our control deem it necessary.


Waving from my desk,
– J


This piece comes from Jana Marie’s newsletter, The Sunday Letters. You can sign up to receive future editions below.