I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t expect much of Day 100 besides some New Year’s Eve prep and a silent countdown to the magic midnight moment. (I am still enamored with the kismet of my “random” start date leading to completion on New Year’s Eve.) I figured this challenge, which came in like a lion, would go out like a lamb.
I was so wrong.
Today as I was sipping my morning (ok, afternoon) coffee, I had a moment of reflection on the passing of years, the turning of a new page. This moment that we call New Year’s, what is it really?
As far as I can see, it’s a symbolic chance to start over. To begin anew. To let go of everything that happened as of late and put your best foot forward.
So I began to think, what do I want to let go of?
At first, the list was short. Nonexistent really. I did a good job of living my best life this year in many ways. I am getting joyfully proficient at my job. I am a good partner in a healthy relationship. I am learning how to be a better daughter, a better friend. I am coming to a sense of peace and equanimity with my body. I am letting go of negative habits and replacing them with positive ones.
I felt pretty good about myself this year. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and survived – in fact, I would wager to say that I thrived.
So what to get rid of?
This morning I saw an article about ISIS issuing a fatwa about the correct way to rape women and girls. Horrific. Repelling. There are no words for the pure hate involved in that story and the feelings of grief and disgust it stirred within me.
But, for perhaps the first time, I did not read it. I did not share it.
Because me reading the details of that story, pushing them on others, does absolutely nothing to stop those horrors. It does nothing to help those women, to rescue those children. All it does is to fill my heart, my mind, my life with a little more darkness. And I do not need that. No one does.
I have frequently asked myself this year: What can I do in the face of all of the evil in this world? It sometimes feels so large and pervasive that it seems there is no respite, no solution. I have not felt there was an adequate answer.
Then, several weeks ago, a family in my school community experienced an unexpected tragedy. It was a sudden and heartbreaking reminder that so much of life is entirely out of our control. And it reminded me of the larger feeling of a dark cloud that hangs over us all.
That day of the wake, I had a conversation with a coworker who I very much respect and admire. She reminded me that all you can do in the face of darkness is to share joy.
All you can do in the face of darkness is to share joy.
Those words stuck with me. They have been simmering in the back of my mind for days now.
And so in that moment this morning, I decided that in the new year I will let go of the darkness. I will make it my mission to share only joy. I will not give in to the evil. I will not give it a single moment more of recognition than it needs. And that does not mean pretending that it does not exist; it means refusing to feed it.
Now, bear with me – this was not the surprising part.
That part happened hours later, as I sat sipping my afternoon coffee, thinking about moving from this year to the next and carrying forward this better version of myself that I have discovered as of late. In these past 100 days, I have found parts of myself that I lost years ago, that I love dearly, that I wouldn’t trade away for anything now. I have let go of parts of myself that were only hurting me, that were holding me down, that I wouldn’t take back for anything now.
And I realized that in order to do that – in order to move forward with only the best parts of myself, with the intention of only sharing joy and love – that I would have to let go of all of the other dark parts for good.
It was time to forgive myself.
With a flood of hot tears and searing memories, I silently let go of each moment of pain I had experienced and held on to so tightly for so many years. I forgave myself for each moment of pain I had caused the people I loved, moments I had been punishing myself for for years.
I let go of all of the imperfect parts of myself. I forgave myself for them. I honored them as parts of my developing self, and I set them free.
I don’t need them anymore.
The true me is here now, and it is greater than all of my flaws, all of my mistakes. I cannot fix my past, just as I cannot eradicate the darkness in the world, but I can move forward with the best of intentions, with the purest of souls. I can share joy. I can share love. I can share light.
I can rise above my own darkness, and, in doing so, I can fight for the world’s light as well.
In this new year, I wish you all this light. I wish you this moment of forgiveness. I wish you self-love. It is the biggest lesson I have learned in these 100 days, and it is one I will carry with me for the rest of my life. And you you cannot teach it; you can only learn it.