I love that word, it describes a period of time that defies definition! Here’s what Merriam-Webster says:
1 : during the time before something happens or before a specified period ends The new computers won’t arrive until next week, but we can keep using the old ones in the meantime. 2 : while something else is being done or was being done. She spent four years studying for her law degree. In the meantime, she continued to work at the bank.
This is a perfect description of what’s sometimes called “Old Year’s Week.”
Old Year’s Week— that 7 day period between December 25th and January 1st— is celebrated in different ways in different countries. I encourage you to tap into your own inner wisdom and create your own O.Y.W. rhythms and rituals. Here are some of mine:
1- Time is money. In recent years I’ve used O.Y.W. to take a gentle waltz back through my current date book. I pull out a new sheet of paper (or pull up a new Word document) and starting in January, I look for activity in the areas I care about the most. In recent years the five common threads I follow are: Art, Writing, Health, Friends/Spirit, and Finance.
I take notes in each designated column, and I’m often astounded. I say to myself things like, “I can’t believe that was this year!” and, “Wow, I was so frightened by that health scare, but here I am on the other side of it,” and finally, “I forgot I paid for that online class, I can’t wait to finish that.”
2- Money is money. After going through my datebook, I pull out my checkbook and credit card summaries (okay, I outed myself. I’m a retired bookkeeper. so I happily play with numbers too.) I go through these important documents and see where the big out-of-the-ordinary expenses have been. I make a list of all the learning resources (online classes, books, videos) I’ve purchased, and use this list as a Freebie Shopping List for my fun learning experiences in the New Year.
The purpose of this sacred ritual is simply to make loving peace with my own self. It shouldn’t be necessary for someone as old as I am, but I’m afraid I still suffer from Very Distorted Thinking when I look back at where the heck the time has gone. As a result of doing this for several years now, I’ve seen patterns I could never have seen any other way.
- “Free things can cost a lot.” (Brilliant quote from my great friend Michelle Geffken.) The words “free master class” used online, especially on Facebook, can easily mean you’re about to give over your contact info to watch a free 1-hour advertisement for a real class (paid) that’s they assure us is worth every penny, actually a bargain! I’ve signed up for some of these slippery-slope freebies, and it occasionally has led to purchasing a great class (like this one, MemoirWriting Ink). I do have one very serious rule though. I never, ever sign up for one of these freebies when I’m in a low mood or if I feel I need “fixing.” That is dangerous fiction.
2- “Stop accumulating things and start releasing!” (Another gem, this time from the amazing Melissa Wiley.) This needn’t be a monumental exercise in Marie-Kondo-esque downsizing. No, it can start with finding a simple way to slow spending, combined with a new definition of recycling.
My “slow spending” is a throw back to the time before credit cards (yes, I was alive then!) when many households would go to the bank weekly to cash a check (pre-ATMs as well of course), and use that cash for all the purchases for the next seven days. It works! Run out of cash? Oh well!
I do still carry a credit card: it’s tucked deep in my wallet with a paper wrapped around it saying, “Medical Only” to remind me I’ve made a promise to myself. Each Monday I walk to the ATM and “cash a check” for the same amount. I use that money throughout the week then Sunday night I take whatever is left in my wallet, pour it into a secret box, and start with a fresh bundle of my weekly cash the next day. That way, when I do need more than my weekly amount, I have a secret stash to dip into.
The best part is there’s no complicated Excel budget or math to worry about. It’s a highly tactile and visual method really: now you see it, now you don’t. And you feel so proud of yourself when you stick to this for long enough to see that it really works. You learn to trust yourself.
The second part is “start releasing.” I did an experiment a while back with my embarassing amount of art supplies. I opened up the cabinet where I keep them, and started shopping. I pulled out my favorites of everything (favorite watercolor cups, favorite brushes, favorite watercolor palettes, favorite pens, pencils, and inks) and put all the rest in a box. The box was then placed under my bed, marked “Open ____”, with a date 6 months hence. Suddenly my favorite toys had room to breath on those cupboard shelves, and I had the opportunity to see if I actually missed any of that stuff I’d tucked away.
It was a great experiment. After a while, I did retrieve just a couple items, but only when I was certain I really missed them. Then when the time came to give away the entire under-the-bed stash to a local school, I was confident there would be no “donor’s remorse.” Painless, and enlightening.
3- “Fall back in love with your own life.” (That quote is actually mine!) As a result of taking stock of how I spend my time and money, and releasing some of the things that no longer serve me, I discovered a contentment that has alluded me in the past. I do recognize this post is all about “first world problems” which many people would envy. All the more reason to tighten my belt, share the wealth, and sally forth with a lighter head and heart. How exciting to begin the new year streamlined, with clear intentions, the spirit of sharing, and pre-paid art classes awaiting me!
May Old Year’s Week liberate you from all your barnacles, and prepare you for bright new discoveries!
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