The end of the year is both the darkest and a time when our little blue dot is about to turn around again and move toward the sun. We’re reminded of the past year, the cycles, the big events in the world, but also the events in our own lives. It is difficult not to feel stressed by the pressures of a changing world. The cracks and strains of change, the sure knowledge that we must change how we live. So many systems are breaking down and while there is much that is changing for the better, it is hard to see it, this better future. We worry that we’ll be left behind, that we won’t have enough, that we have become or will become part of the ‘have nots’. We are becoming a more obsessive culture. Our reaction to the anxiety we feel over these changes, to the worry we feel for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our friends, and for those in the world who we don’t know, is to reach for food, to buy stuff, to go to social media, apps, streaming movies and programs, anything to distract us from our discomfort and fear.

I can recommend cleaning out closets. It is a real time, physical and mental distraction. Good for your soul and mind with a real life bonus. You rediscover all the stuff you stashed away that you liked once. It can re-spark that joy. Bring back good feelings. You might decide to finally wear that coat, or frame that picture. Or, you might find stuff that no longer feels essential. It can be taken to the charity shop where it may give someone else joy. And you will find the stuff that needs to be put in the recycling or rubbish bin. It gives your mind a good clean out and offers you more room in that closet. It gets you thinking about what you need vs what you think you want. And you see how time changes those things. A good closet clean is what the whole world is doing. What ideas about how we live, what we consume, are outmoded? What do we value now? Capitalism and consumerism can’t continue on an endless march of continual growth. That’s cancer. Not health. We can’t just keep buying stuff and getting bigger houses to keep it all in. We have to come to terms with limited space, limited resources, and choose a sustainable path. What really matters? It starts with us. With our closet.

This isn’t a blog about closets. But there is a metaphor here. Closets are dark, murky places, where we stuff things and close the door, thinking we’ll deal with it later. We all accumulate junk in our closet along with the fear that accompanies darkness. The unknown. Time, the year of 2022, is like a closet. It has accumulated a lot of stuff. Some of it is junk. A lot of the news we tuned into daily was repeating scary headlines to get our attention. Junk. Made you look. We need to put that stuff in the bin. It was made to give us dopamine, get us to click further and wind us up. We don’t need that, and we don’t need to give it space in our heads or our closet. There are serious things that need our attention. Things that are real and that came up in the year. We need to put them in the closet in a place where we can see them and attend to them, in limited amounts of time. Not obsessively. Not repeatedly. But in the amount of time that we budget for it. Then there are the things we may have forgotten about that we cared about before and care about still. The things that spark joy in us. The things that we want to spend time with, to linger on. The good things in our lives have been there all along last year, but they aren’t top news stories, they don’t arrive in our mailbox, they aren’t on tv. We’ve stuffed them in the closet to look at later. Look at them now. Some call them blessings. Some call them luck. Some call them miracles. Did you meet a new friend? Did you see something in nature that stunned you with its beauty? Did you spend time with your family? Did you try something new? Was there a new insight in your work life? Did you do something new for your health? Did you get a good health check? All these things happened to me and more, but I wouldn’t have thought of them if I hadn’t made a gratitude board this year.

I took some old business cards and used the back to write down something that happened in my life that was great, that I felt gratitude for. A nice email I received from a fan of my writing. A new friend made. An event that I loved. I saw a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, an amazing insect that looks like a hummingbird, in my garden. I had a book launch. A radio interview. Did a collaborative writing project. Did a workshop. Met so many interesting people! Wrote and published two books. As each thing happened in my life this year, I stamped the card with my Chinese chop and put it on the sides of the cupboard in my study. They served as reminders that there have been many good things happening in my life because I took the risk of trying something new, of being in the world, sticking my neck out, and exploring connection in my community. It is a bit scary. For someone who is an introvert and has a hearing disability, it is terrifying, really. Meeting people. Doing events. But my wall is filled with the rewards of trying, with the new things that opened up in me because I reached out. This act brought me better health, more inspiration and more friends. The cards on the cupboard are evidence. A lot of good things happened to me in 2022.

2022 was filled with fear, with change, with problems both in the big world and my local one. I have uncertainties like everyone else. Fears can take over and give me anxiety and stress, with physical manifestations like stress eczema, aches and pains. Gaining weight tells me I’m stress eating too. But when I stop to meditate on the good things that have happened to me in 2022, I see they are real too. They deserve my attention as much as the problems and worries. Solutions to our problems won’t come if we cripple ourselves with worry and obsession. Life is living through cycles of darkness and light, of cold and hot, of problems and solutions, of joy and sorrow. Life is all of it and each year is a closet full of life events. We can keep the door closed and keep stuffing things in, but that will only make fears grow. Or we can set aside some time to see what’s really in there. Take stock. Take inventory. It is bad stuff, yes, but there is good stuff. Usually, more good stuff than bad. Some stuff we can let go of. Some stuff can be recycled. Some stuff needs attending to. But there are also treasures in that closet. Always. Take some time and find the treasures of your 2022. Meditate on them because in the remembering we strengthen our minds and hearts during the darkest days. Bad news get the most air time. Everything competes for our attention. It’s up to us to find the good news channel of our own lives and tune in. That’s our best hope of finding creative solutions to problems, seeing them with our best selves and of living fully, learning how to handle BOTH the good and bad and find a balance.