Rebirth + Renewal


It's two days until the end of the year. While the world is getting ready to breathe a collective sigh of relief, I'm looking forward to my favorite day of the year—a personal tradition of reflection and gratitude for all that's past while wondering what's to come. I'll dress myself in the coziest pajamas I have, turn on all the Christmas lights that I won't take down for at least another month, and nestle on the couch with my dogs. I'll pick at the platter of sushi I ordered from my favorite restaurant, watch White Christmas with a smile, and read through my journal from the past year—a daily planner I've filled with reflections, poetry, quotes, and more. Then, when it nears midnight, I'll hop on social media and watch the countdown with friends and family, listening to my neighbors celebrate while quietly toasting one end and raising a glass to another beginning.

In spiritual terms, 2016 is the end of a cycle; from here we head into an age of renewal and rebirth. I see this truth when I look back on the past year, where everyone I know and love has had to deal with their own struggles and personal demons, and the chaos in the outside world has reached far into our own lives. I see the hope that’s there for this cycle to end and a new beginning to take its place, even as that hope feels too dim these days as what’s immediately new looms too dangerous, too threatening. You can't sprout new hope without letting go of old wounds. On a worldwide level, we can’t change the future without recognizing the sins of the past. On a personal level, we can’t change ourselves without acknowledging all that has made us who we are. We have a habit of burying past hurts, resentments, struggles. Sometimes it's because we think we've moved on, and sometimes it's because it's the only way we know to keep going. Maybe it's human nature--something inherent in each of us, our survival mechanism... You can only cover the wounds for so long, only pretending they're healing underneath, before you have to open them up and face the pain, before you’re able to move forward. I've seen this happening all around me this year, especially in my own life. Those wounds are returning to the surface in manifestations of familiar situations, ready to be faced and dealt with in a way that makes us feel like we're breaking: - Past failures that make you feel like you're unworthy of present and future success. (You are worthy of all you create.) - Past rejections that make you feel dejected and afraid to face new challenges. (You are braver than you know.) - Past resentments that have prevented you from seeing people as they are and forming the connections you want. (That anger only holds you back; love pulls you forward.) - Past grief that was never fully expressed; loss that was never fully mourned. (Grief tells you how much you loved; loss shows you how much you still have.) - Past lessons that need to be cemented so you can move into the next cycle, carrying remnants of who you were but transformed into a better you. (Stronger, bolder, wiser.) If we look close enough, the trail is there—familiar faces popping up again, new circumstances that are eerily similar to past events, forgotten memories that are triggered by a word, a thought, a feeling. It's like the past is coming to greet us again, and we're faced with everything we'd like to forget.

But you don't learn that way. You don't grow that way. Before rebirth comes decay. You can't embrace the new by holding onto the old. There is so much pain and anger and sadness in the world right now, so much struggle in our personal lives. In a way, it feels like we're bombarded with it, and it's our instinct to bury it down again so it doesn't have to hurt so much. But the only way out, they say, is through. And the best thing about life is you don't have to go through it alone.

As we close on another year, I see these patterns, see this cycle coming full-circle. I see the pain, and I see the hope that there's something new, something better, on the other side of this. I just pray that we can lend each other our strength and our courage—that we stand together—until we find it.

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Susan Pogorzelski.