So much of any year is flammable,
I spend a lot of my time these days in small but earnest celebration. We cheer aloud when R takes steps, when she responds to a request, when she fits the difficult shapes together. We praise small kindnesses and recognize when she eats a whole meal without throwing her plate on the floor. Her whole little life is a series of new achievements.
For the adults in the house, though, it's different. G and I have both lived fairly high achieving lives, surrounded by high achieving peers, and have often relied on those external measures of success to determine when celebration is in order. But as adults, of course, the metrics are different. Most of the time, it's on us to recognize our own successes and celebrate them, and we're not, on the whole, all that great at it. While the whole "participation trophy generation" trope is nonsense, I think there's something to think about in the fact that many in our generation were raised with a goal-setting mentality, and with most of those goals looking an awful lot like report cards and graduations. We defined ourselves by hitting milestones, and I don't think G and I are alone in finding adulthood a little bit short on the waypoints.
I think this is particularly poignant in the early days of a new year, when we're surrounded by endless talk of setting goals, about changing our lives and our selves and our habits. Setting goals is easy, but setting goals that make sense, that help us understand ourselves and our place in the world, and that have achievable steps along the way is much harder. Using the SMART goal system can help a little bit, but even then, we're under-prepared for marking those successes for ourselves.
Throughout history, people knew that shared celebration can get us through harder times. Alongside our cultural celebrations of birth and death, we hold midwinter festivals to combat cabin fever, days of celebration for harvest and planting, barn raisings and housewarmings. We gathered often to thank gods and earth and each other. But these days, we do that an awful lot less often. The big holidays become as much about work and stress as they are about celebration, and the small stuff gets brushed aside. I think there's some mistake there: I think we desperately need those small, frequent celebrations to keep us going when things feel tedious. We need to celebrate not just ourselves, but each other. We need moments to take notice of what's being done around us, and what we're doing, and to join in one another's work and celebrations.
I have a few things I'd like to do this year, but instead of talking about those, I want to celebrate a bit of what I did in 2018. I kept a small person alive for a whole year, and she's turning out to be pretty fantastic. I pitched a piece to a magazine (I'll likely hear back on it in a few weeks). I joined friends in doing something that scared me, and I'm having more fun than I thought possible. I went to the beach and loved my body. I successfully traveled several times with a baby in tow. On a personal level, it was a good, good year.
I want to know what you've been doing. Are you loving someone through something hard? Are you loving yourself through something hard? Have you tried something that scared you? Have you recovered from a failure? Did you knock on a bunch of doors for a cause?
Tell me. We'll celebrate.
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