In Permaculture Design, one of the most challenging principles to enact is “The problem is the solution.” It seems simple on paper: you have a serious problem before you, perhaps seemingly insurmountable or overwhelming. Instead of reacting negatively to the problem, you look for how the problem presents unique opportunities. You resee your practices, hone them, make changes, and adapt to the problem so that that adaptation becomes a strength. In other words, you make lemonade from lemons–but more than that, you may actually improve your approach by having to consider new options to overcome obstacles. A simple example: I have a wet, muddy spot in my yard due to the downspout on my house. Rather than see this as a problem, I turn it into a lush rain garden, which is not only beautiful but also supports wildlife and pollinators. The problem becomes an amazing solution. I think that this principle may offer a great opportunity for us with the passing of 2020, and I wanted to reflect on that and share some thoughts today.
While the end of each year offers opportunities for change and growth, 2020 has been a year unlike any other for most of us. Regardless of where you are in the world, 2020 has created numerous challenges and problems. It has disrupted the normal patterns of life. Being an essential worker, losing your job or having job insecurity, fighting racism and oppression, feeling that your rights are being threatened by the government, being isolated from family and friends, having to deal with new family arrangements, losing loved ones, getting sick, being afraid of getting sick, political unrest–2020 has been incredibly difficult. While all of us continue to experience different challenges and aspects, as 2021 comes, it is an opportunity for deep changes in our lives.
Here’s the important takeaway: because life has been so incredibly disrupted this is the perfect time to make radical changes in your life. Coming out of this, every one of us has a clean slate, a ticket to change. For perhaps the first time in any of our lives, you can be anything you want to be, make whatever changes you want to make, and emerge from this a new person. Why not take the opportunity for growth?
For me, 2020 has been utterly brutal, particularly in what was once one of the most stable aspects of my life: my work life. I feel like I’ve been in the muddy, dark, and cold trenches all year when it comes to employment or lack thereof. But those trenches certainly have given me a good opportunity to reflect, to grow, and to change. This brutal situation has allowed me to look deeply into myself, to see what I value, who I am, and how I respond to the world. It has allowed me also to question some things that I don’t have a resolution on yet, and perhaps, it’s ok to be in a place of “I don’t really know.” There’s power in that. And it has allowed me to do some things for myself that I haven’t had a chance to do before.
My suggestion is to spend some time in meditation at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. Make some lists, and reflect on your journey. Here are some questions that might be useful to you–they were certainly useful to me:
- Think about what you miss from your life before 2020.
- Think about the things you are grateful not to have to deal with in 2020.
- Reflect on your own personal response to the many situations in 2020: How did you feel? How did that challenge or deepen what you believe? What do you most value, perhaps unexpectedly, through all of this? What are you unsure of?
- What “shadow” aspects of yourself did you have to confront or what aspects gave you trouble?
- What shadow aspects did you see in others, and how did you respond?
- Who do you want to be? Envision your best life and your best self coming out of this.
Take the opportunity presented by the challenge of 2020 to rewrite your own story for 2021 and beyond. Perhaps set some clear principles for yourself for the coming year, things you want to focus on, maintain or achieve. Put these principles somewhere you can easily see them and be reminded of what you have accomplished through this experience.
I see this kind of spiritual work as the antithesis to the typical New Year’s Resolution. Here in the US, the New Year’s Resolution is this cliche thing where everyone makes the resolution but nobody actually keeps them. Within a week or two of the New Year, most resolutions fade away and life as usual continues. The end of 2020 is not a time for empty resolutions but deep and lasting change. We’ve all had some serious disruption. Let’s make lemons from lemonade.
So who are you going to be, moving forward? What spiritual work might you need to do in order to get there? I’d love to hear you share.