Dear 2024

by | Jan 9, 2024 | Complexity, Fear, Liminal Space, Tenderness

Listen to Krista read the post…

I’m not going to lie. I am nervous about you. No. More than that. I am anxious and border-line dreading you. It’s not your fault, really. You just happen to be the year of another U.S. election cycle, my kid starting with a new volleyball club, a reduction in my income for the next six months, me finishing up my position with my church at the end of June (and a likely further reduction in my income), and another year of trying to make our business work at the Centre in the midst of global economic uncertainty, climate change, and wars breaking out everywhere.

It’s going to be a year. And for once, I have very few delusions about what’s coming. Normally I lean towards optimism and a ‘we got this’ attitude but I am feeling deeply pessimistic and nihilistic about you right now. 

Last week, I wrote about how I wanted to find ways to ‘re-enchant’ my life but I am already nervous that I am going to choose to dissociate instead. Already I’ve picked up my phone in the middle of this to scroll through Instagram because I don’t want to think about all of the hard stuff I know you have in store for me over the next 12 months.

I generally try not to dislike a person or a thing before I’ve had a chance to get to know it, but I have to admit that I am on the struggle bus with you right at the outset. I want to be hopeful that “everything will work out for the best” but the patterns of the last four years (more if I’m honest), have not left me feeling overly optimistic that any hopes will come to fruition.

Listen, I know I need to “release the outcome” and all of that, but I’m realizing now that when I am expecting unpleasant outcomes, I don’t find it easy to let those go. Part of it is my tendency to believe that if you expect the worst, you’ll be less devastated when it happens and pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t. I’m not entirely sure why I still cling to that narrative, because I’m never less devastated when things do go south, or sideways, or screwy, or ex-/implode altogether. Imagining how one might feel in a terrible situation never seems to lessen how terrible it feels to be in that situation.

I don’t know how else to organize my brain, though. I’ve tried the whole “you bring about what you think about” thing, the “think and grow rich” mentality, the “give it all to God” stuff and that doesn’t seem to change anything either.

On the other hand, when I did regularly keep a gratitude list, and then expanded it to include a “things to give to God” list, it did seem to help a little. I don’t put much stock in manifesting, but I do know that our brains are pattern-seeking organs that can be fooled into noticing some things more than others. Once upon a time, I called it “harnessing your cognitive biases”. It’s the idea that if you think about a blue car, for instance, you will tend to notice blue cars more often. So I figured that if I thought about good or hopeful things, or things that I was grateful for, I would notice them more.

It is, essentially, what the algorithms do, isn’t it? Take advantage of our cognitive biases? Obviously, it’s all done on-line in order to influence our spending habits or to further whatever propaganda will rationalize the actions of those who feel their actions need to be rationalized.

And, if that’s true, then it’s important for me to have some say in what’s going into my brain, yes? Obviously. The trick is how to do that and also stay present for the important issues – not to just turn away and ignore the hardships going on in the world. Can I train my brain to look for those things that would bring me hope and enchantment and remain empathetic, compassionate, and aware of the real struggles happening in the world?

I have no interest in false positivity. I know too much to be able to embrace that naive and immature attempt at “ignorance is bliss”. What I’m looking for is joy. Which might sound as naive as false positivity, but joy doesn’t exist without grief. They are conjoined twins – inseparably bound together. Real joy is impossible to comprehend without a real understanding and experience of grief.

So yes, what I’m looking for is possible. It isn’t as easy as simply looking away from the hard stuff and only focusing on the good, nor is it as easy as obsessing about the bad without ever seeing anything positive (which, let’s be frank, is a heck of a lot easier to do than the former). I think it requires retraining my brain (harnessing my cognitive bias) to see the good stuff everyday, no matter how small – to mark it down and pay attention to those things that cause me wonder, awe, enchantment, and gratitude so that when I do see the bad or hard or distressing stuff, I don’t get lost in it. I can see (or maybe even just believe in) the sparks of hope and maybe even the shadow of joy lurking nearby.

This is going to require some serious effort and I know it’s not always going to go smoothly. Even with the medication I started last May, my brain is still wired to ruminate on all the things it can’t control or fix or make better. But, 2024, I am determined not to be crushed by you. I am going to pay attention. I am going to remember that when I feel helpless, I can always go smaller and impact those things that are within reach – my relationships, my neighbourhood, my communities. I am going to remember that fear strips my/our ability to think rationally, so where I can, I will not contribute to or participate in fear mongering. I am going to allow joy and grief to be entwined and not ignore either experience.

Thankfully, I get to help co-host this year’s Know Yourself, Free Yourself Program again and, in addition to that being an amazing primer for how to live in this both/and I’m seeking, we also get the privilege of co-learning with Heather’s new book, “Where Tenderness Lives” too.

I know that I have to let you play out as you will, 2024. I have no say in that, obviously. But I can care for my own self and those that I know and love as much as possible and to the best of my ability.

And maybe, just maybe, that care will manage to have some kind of positive impact on all the hard things you have coming up, 2024. I can’t do much to stop wars or viruses or economic hardships, but I can do what I can to make my corner of your year a little more grateful, a little more loving, and a little more enchanted.


"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.