Today I’ve been pondering how I might take leave of a year like 2020. I’m wondering why I would even want to when, on so many levels, I can’t wait for this year to end! I’m also globally aware enough to know that taking leave of 2020 is more symbolic than believing 2021 will magically be different any time soon.
What I do know about myself is that rituals, symbolism, definitional ceremonies, documentation, and time to reflect are important practices for me. This is how I have been making meaning of special occasions, endings, transitions, and new beginnings for as far back as I can remember. Historically, I have been the holder-of-rituals within my family. These days, as a narrative and religious practitioner, I bear witness to the influence of these life-giving practices on the life stories of others.
The voices that inform the work I do remind me that narrative is a “therapy of witnessing and acknowledgement” and that people require some sort of ritual “in order to progress to the next stage of life” (Jim Duvall and Laura Béres 2011).
I am reminded that a common experience, like this global pandemic, invites “shared ritualisation” (Kaethe Weingarten 2003). These rituals may include choosing metaphors, symbols, and actions to represent this communal experience.
Barbara Myerhoff reminds me that definitional ceremonies “deal with the problems of invisibility and marginality; they are strategies that provide opportunities for being seen and in one’s own terms, garnering witnesses to one’s worth, vitality and being” (1982)
Finally, I am reminded by colleague, friend, and mentor Trevor Hudson, that a reflective practice invites me to remember my thoughts and actions and, in so doing, to engage in a process of continuous learning and integration.
So, here are some thoughts I have which I share with you:
REFLECT ON QUESTIONS SUCH AS:
What has challenged me the most this year?
What has sustained me this year?
What have I grieved?
What am I grateful for this year?
What have I learnt about myself this year?
What is it I have done to take care of myself this year?
What have been some of the small moments of joy?
What has 2020 unlocked in me?
Who/what has been a part of my circle of care this year and how might I like to acknowledge them?
If I were to write a book about 2020, what would I call it?
What will I want to remember and take with me as I journey into 2021?
CREATE A TIME CAPSULE OF 2020
This New Year’s Eve, our family will be co-creating a time capsule of this year. We will be collecting photos, mask, news clippings, items which have been symbolic of 2020 and perhaps letters to ourselves to reflect on in the years to come.
CREATE A PRAYER/SACRED SPACE
Click on Creating Prayer Spaces at Home | i4cc for some ideas on how to do this and how to use symbolism that is meaningful to you
Consider documenting the year in a letter to yourself or through a poem! We really can all write a poem, everyone of us (whether on your own or together as family or groups of friends) about 2020
One way to do this for yourself is to start by writing about random thoughts and experiences of 2020 for about 10 – 15 minutes, without pause and planning. This is a practice known as continuous writing. Once your written page or paragraph is completed, read through it a couple of times, and highlight or underline the words, phrases or short sentences that stand out for you. Use these highlighted phrases to piece together a poem, ordering the sentences until your poem is complete. Remember to offer it a title.
One way to do this as a family or a group is to ask each person to write a short, simple sentence about 2020 on a piece of paper. Once this is done, the members of the group each read their sentence out aloud and then collaborate on which sentence to start the poem with and the order of the rest, moving them around until the group is satisfied.
FINALLY - HOLD ONTO HOPE
Even in our darkest of moments, Kaethe Weingarten suggests that hope is something we do with others. She believes that “Hope is too important—its effects on body and soul too significant—to be left to individuals alone. Hope must be the responsibility of the community”. Here is an invitation to remember that if we’re not able to hold onto hope for ourselves right now, ‘‘It is not your job right now to feel hope. Rather, it is the responsibility of those who love you to do hope with you.’’ (2000). What this reminds me is that I can offer my small voice of hope to the collective voice of Hope surrounding the world at this time.
When we gathered for the last time in 2020, Trevor Hudson offered the team a thought about who we are and the role we play in the world. I sense this speaks into the idea of holding onto hope – “You are not alone. We’re in this together. We’ll do everything we can to help” – The gravity Center
Wherever you find yourself today, however you choose to end 2020 and start 2021, remember we’re in this together xxx
Duvall, J. & Béres, L. 2011. Innovations in narrative therapy. Connecting practice, training and research. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Myerhoff, B. 1982. Life history among the elderly: Performance, visibility and remembering. In Ruby, J. (ed.), A crack in the mirror: Reflexive perspective in anthropology, 99-117. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
Weingarten, K. 2000. Witnessing, wonder and hope. In Family Process 39(4) 389-402
Weingarten, K. 2003. Common Shock: Witnessing violence every day. How we are harmed, how we can heal. New York: Dutton