The nostalgic feeling of ending a well-written book is only equalled by the excitement of beginning a new one. As a child, the ending of a novel meant crouching under the covers until early morning, turning page after page, and reciting to myself the continuous self-deception of, “just one more chapter… Just one more…”
The same sentiment can be used to chronicle the transition from December to January. Like the last remaining chapters of a much-loved story, December greets us as the beginning of an end. Whether or not all of the chapters were to our liking, or the characters made the choices we were so willing them to make, the end of the year offers a resolution. Like a final chapter, it’s a time to reflect, to remember our favourite moments, and to curl up in the cosiness of the promise that they all lived ‘happily ever after.’
January, however, brings a different attitude. Instead of settlement or remembrance, what arrives as we begin the introductory chapter of the year is excitement, trepidation, and expectancy. Who do we want to be? What can we accomplish? What do we wish to change about our lives? These are the questions the new year poses, offering a celebratory but solemn moment to resolve to make the changes we’d like to see in ourselves or our world.
Many of us have a habit, come January, of resolving to add to our year — to write more and more into the story of the next turn around the sun. We add new work outs, add time to write our memoir, add guitar lessons, add more suppers with friends, add tutorials, add classes. Some of us even resolve to somehow add more free time to our weeks.
Unfortunately, adding rarely works in our lives unless we first resolve to subtract. Like a book without margins, when too much is crammed into one space, nothing makes sense.
Instead of resolving to add a new skill or lesson, perhaps we should try resolving to the practice of removing things from our lives. Can we remove an hour of Netflix? How about the once-a-month work-dinner we feel obligated to attend? Could we subtract some social media? What about subtracting our bucket-lists and instead freely seeing where the year takes us?
Our lives can often become so full of the addition of new things — mostly good, mind you — that we forget that in order to inhale properly, our lungs must first be empty. In order to add more beautiful moments to our already crowded lives, there must be an emptiness there to fill.
This January, I challenge you to subtract some things from your life and simply see what happens. Instead of posting your to-do’s for the year on the fridge, try seeing what might fill your time organically once the lesser items are removed. Perhaps once your list is lighter, you’ll discover a friend across the street you would have failed to meet if you were dashing to that lesson. Maybe without the stressful work parties, you’ll find the space to pick up that dust- covered book from the nightstand. If we remove all that we can instead of forcing in more more, more, we may find the next chapter fills up with a number of lovely and unexpected things that we could never have drafted for ourselves initially.
I challenge you also to write down what your new-found empty spaces become filled with. Last year, when my family decided to try and remove the excess from our schedules and increase our margins, we decided to keep track of everything that would come from the empty space. We wrote down the unplanned occurrences and the joy they brought, and put them in a milk jar that lives on the edge of the counter. At the end of the year, we emptied the jar and saw how the empty spaces had filled our year with beautiful things we had never expected. On those small rolled strips were written topics of conversations we had when nothing was distracting us, notes about drives we took just to see the dog stick her head out the window, new meals prepped in the kitchen swapped out for one of our go-to’s (including some that didn’t turn out so well!), the days when we found extra time to nap, and the names and stories of neighbours we had never had the time to meet.
As you begin the new chapter that is January, I wish you all the margin in the world, along with plenty of lovely things to eventually fill it. I’m interested to hear how you enjoy your extra space. Connect with me on my instagram, lydiacockrell_.