New Year, New Beginnings

By Amy Rakowczyk

Happy 2019!! The beginning of a new year always brings about an air of reflection, renewal, and transformation. Is this the year you’ll finally [fill in the blank]? Eat better, get in shape, chase that dream, or get serious about a goal? It’s easy to identify where we’d like to see improvement in our lives, but the challenge lies in how to make that transformation happen.

In the last several years, I have moved away from doing “New Year’s resolutions” and instead I opt for practices that are actually beneficial and useful throughout the year. Resolutions can be short-lived because you say you want to make a change, but then just hope you will change somehow. Healthy, uplifting habits are hard to form and self-sabotaging habits are hard to break. If you’re interested to read more about making and breaking habits, and working with your habit-forming tendencies, check out Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Better Than Before.”

For medical spouses, we are constantly experiencing change and uncertainty whether it’s moving to new cities, handling the ever-changing schedules of our spouses, or redefining and renewing our expectations while living in the unknown. We are desperately in need of resolution and release, so we can let bygones be bygones and feel refreshed and ready for what is to come.

So let’s resolve to not set ourselves up for disappointment this year, and instead do something that will provide us with lasting motivation and results. In order to be ready to accept the challenge of transforming ourselves and redesigning our lives, we must first start with acknowledging the highs and lows of the past year and creating a clear finish to it. Goodbye 2018, hello 2019!

The two practices I use and have shared with many friends and family are to choose a “word for the year” and to have a “Closing Ceremony.”

Word for the Year

A word for the year is just as it sounds. Choose a word (I prefer to think of it as “letting the word coming to you”), then write the word down in a place where you will see it often. The constant reminder will help you start to take action and make your word a part of your daily life.

My word last year was, “listen,” the year before that was “trust,” and the year before that was “slow (down).” I wrote the words on my whiteboard in my kitchen where I would see it multiple times a day. It was a little check-in, like someone saying, “Hey you! Slow down.” Every year I’ve been selecting a word, I’ve found it so incredibly helpful.

You might be skeptical of this practice, but be curious and try it! See if it does anything for you. You also might be thinking, “How do I find a word? What if I don’t have one that comes to mind?” You’ll be surprised with how quickly a word will arrive, if you allow yourself the space for it.

Ready to find your word for 2019? Here’s the step-by-step guide:

  1. Breathe

    By yourself or with a group of friends, close your eyes and breathe silently for a few moments. Don’t worry about time, just breathe until you feel a little more settled.

  2. Ask

    When you’re ready, pose the question to yourself, “What’s my word for this year? What do I need?”

  3. Wait

    Then sit, breathe, and wait for words to arrive.

  4. Choose

    There may be one obvious word, several words, or none at all. There’s no right or wrong here. If your word is big and obvious, great! Take it! If you have several, sit with each word for a moment and see which one you feel most drawn to at this moment in time. If no word arrives, continue breathing and waiting, or if you’d like you can select a word that feels most fitting for what you feel you need right now.

  5. Write it Down

    Write down your word and display it in a place where you will see it several times a day. For the first several days or weeks of 2019, start your day by viewing your word and stating to yourself, “Today I will _____.” You are training your mind, and your thoughts will help define your actions.

The Closing Ceremony

Our culture has some wonderful ceremonies to celebrate achievements and positive events such as weddings, graduations, and religious rites of passage. Funerals are one of the only ceremonies we have for grieving and letting go. I feel that there are many kinds of life experiences that are deserving of a ceremony, a simple way to intentionally process regular life celebrations and challenges in a healthy and meaningful way.

One such ceremony that does this is what I call a “Closing Ceremony.” This ceremony is useful when anything is ending and something is beginning; whenever you need to feel resolved about what has passed and also need to open yourself up to the possibilities of the future. It can be as basic or elaborate as you want. You can do it by yourself or have a whole closing ceremony party!

Perhaps at this point you are thinking, “That sounds pretty weird. Why on Earth would I choose to do that?” Well, there’s something about ceremonies that put us in a different emotional space. It’s a great tool to help convince our subconscious minds that things really are different now. This is not a religious ceremony, it’s more of a psychological release, so it’s available to all who are interested!

Ready to give it a try? Here’s how you do it!

  • Determine who will be there with you.
  • Decide if you want to have the ceremony alone or if you want to have a gathering of friends. I’ve done both and I personally feel like having the ceremony with a group is exceptionally powerful.
  • Set aside the time, space, and the tools you will need.
  • Where will you have it? It could be at a home, in a backyard, or in my case, at the beach!
  • How do you want to start the ceremony? Consider sounding a bell or lighting a candle to signal the start of the time. Think about how most ceremonies you’ve attended have either candles or chimes during the event. You could also just sit down and begin!
  • You’ll need some paper or a journal. The main part of the ceremony is answering some questions, and I highly recommend writing down your answers. There is something very powerful about putting things on paper in your own handwriting.

Answer the following questions to close out 2018:

  1. When you look back on past year, what immediately comes to mind? Positive and negative experiences, events, and overall big feelings from the year? This is the time to get it all out!
  2. What wonderful lessons did you learn in 2018?
  3. What dreams came true in 2018?
  4. What are you proud of and grateful for from your life in 2018?

Close out the year. Provide a sense of completion by saying to yourself: “I give thanks for all that I learned in 2018 and I let go of all things that are weighing me down and no longer serve me going forward to this new year.”

Answer the following questions to get your intentions right for 2019:

  1. What do I most want to experience 2019 as?
  2. This year I’d like to let go of…
  3. This year I want to give myself the gift of….
  4. This year I promise myself I will…
  5. This year I would like to try…

Change is hard, but a necessary part of growth. If you are truly wanting to make some improvements in your life in this next year, start with these practices. As medical spouses, we often have so many demands and responsibilities that we forget to take care of ourselves. These new year practices are a great way to check in with yourself and set yourself up for a great new year! Happy 2019

Amy Rakowczyk

Amy Rakowczyk is a medical spouse, mother, writer, singer, and former voice instructor. She currently resides in Galveston, TX with her husband and two young daughters. She enjoys helping other spouses navigate the world of medicine and actively participates in support groups and activities. Her husband is a Family Medicine resident at UTMB Galveston and did his medical training at The Ohio State University.

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