This Year is Already A Lot, So Let’s Start Over (Again)
What I’m proposing here is almost like Atomic Habits, but even smaller. Subatomic, if you will.
Is it just me, or has 2022 been the longest year ever? And sure, maybe it technically “just started,” but has it? Or has it actually been just another phenomena in the space-time continuum that never, ever, ever ends? Betty White left on the last day of 2021, got to the afterlife, and left the gate open. In quick succession, some of our most beloved public figures, heroes, and other notables died in the past month alone. And even though we know that people die every day, some of us remember a time before social media, 24-hour news stations, and around-the-clock streaming––a time when news got to us more slowly and in doses we could handle. We remember a time when we got bad news in drips instead of tidal waves and when good news came just as often. We remember a time when we could count the number of active TV stations on one hand and when they all turned off for the night, letting us get some sleep.
Life has changed so much over the decades, but additional changes spearheaded by advancements in technology have been hyper-accelerated in the past few years. We’re inundated with so much information and misinformation, all of it being siphoned through algorithms that keep us stuck in information biases, making it harder for us to learn new things. So, as we click on news of one death, we are alerted of all the other deaths, each one a drop in the tidal wave of bad news, a tsunami of loss, sadness, and perpetual grief. Soon, it feels as if everyone is dying––everyone from beloved TV icons to some of the best grandmas in the world. Between natural causes and Covid, there are a myriad of reasons why people are dying, why the sky is falling, and it feels as if it’s falling on those of us left behind. As it is online, so it is in life.
We were all so excited for a new year, as we are every year — hopeful and looking forward to the future, praying it’s better than the past. But for many of us, January packed a wallop, and if you’re anything like me, you may already feel overwhelmed and overwrought. It’s frightening how easy it is to get swept up in the algorithms of life, to get stuck in a loop of searching for and receiving the same information over and over again. What we call a regimen can quickly become regressive, and even our healthiest habits can become ruts when nothing about them ever changes. There is a fine line between comfort and complacency and somewhere along the way, wearing the same sweats every day stopped being funny and started being a sign of depression.
But, this week marks a new New Year, and maybe we can use it as a do-over. Maybe we can forget the Gregorian and Julian calendars for a moment, bask in the renewal of the Lunisolar calendar, and celebrate the Lunar New Year, which began February 1st. Also known as the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year is celebrated all over the world, but most notably in China and much of Asia. (Some cultures celebrate for 14 days, so you’ve got time.) If you don’t already participate in the traditional rituals of Chinese New Year, like wearing red, eating dumplings, or setting off fireworks, maybe you can celebrate this Spring Festival by starting anew…again.
If you’re feeling stuck already, especially those who find themselves snowed-in during seasonal storms, now’s the time to un-stick yourself. However, I’m not about to suggest a list of things that have to get done right now or else. Nah. We’re past that, and you’ve had enough of folks telling you how to make 2022 your healthiest, most successful, most brilliant year yet.
Like many of us, you’re probably already sick of exhaustive to-do lists, online courses, and instructional videos. 2022 is already a lot, and sometimes, all we can do is wake up, try not to die, and go to sleep. In between those three non-negotiables is a lot of adulting. Life doesn’t get any easier. But, with any luck, we get better…eventually. Hopefully.
What I’m proposing here is almost like Atomic Habits, but even smaller. Subatomic, if you will, because sometimes being one percent better every day is too much fucking pressure. Sometimes, all you can do is be half of a percent better or half of that. Sometimes, all you can do is sleep on the opposite side of the bed for a change and leave your office to finish your spreadsheets in the park with a thermos full of wine and a hotdog. Sometimes, all you can do is the bare minimum. Tiny changes, those even smaller than the ones James Clear writes about in Atomic Habits, can lead to more significant changes, and maybe that’s what some of us need right now––tiny glitches in our personal algorithms to ease us out of mundanity.
So, do it. Sleep on the opposite side of the bed tonight, and work from a different space tomorrow. If you always start and end your day on social media, skip it for a few days and do a crossword puzzle instead. If just the thought of working out exhausts you, commit to only five minutes a day. That’s it. It’s not about body changes right now; it’s about subatomic wins. It’s about changing the algorithm of your life and un-sticking yourself. If you wear the same scent every day because it’s your favorite, buy a new one. You’re allowed to have more than one favorite. If you never go out by yourself, do that shit. Enjoy the atmosphere, stay off of your phone, and meet new people for crying out loud.
The point is you don’t have to buy a course or planner to slink out of your algorithm. And you don’t necessarily have to stuff yourself with take-out dumplings while spending all day in your red bathrobe just to pay homage to the Lunar New Year, although you totally could. Furthermore, you may not be ready for a cleaning challenge or an abs challenge, and you sure as shit don’t need to learn any of those stupid TikTok dances to feel all young and brand new. But, you may be ready to change your hairstyle or add a new color to your wardrobe. And if that’s all you can or want to do, that’s enough.
The world is still on fire, people we love are dying all around us, and everyone has something to say about everything. Nothing ever turns off––not the movies or the shows, the news or the music, not social media or the voices in our heads telling us we’re doing too much and not enough. Sometimes, the only comfort we can find is in our algorithms online and in real life. Sometimes, that comfort impedes our growth and learning, and sometimes, it breaks us.
So, you know what? Enjoy the left side of the bed and your new bob, girl. Order the brisket at brunch and take the leftovers home. Work from bed or the recliner. Hit that Jane Fonda workout for five whole minutes and congratulate yourself when you’re done. Figure out what’s a four-letter word for ‘fertile soil’ in this week’s New York Times Daily Crossword, and when you do, let me know. Yes, Queen! Yellow looks good on you! Wear more of that and throw those nasty old sweats out, please and thank you. Make the tiniest little changes, the ones that seem as if they couldn’t possibly matter…because they do, and so do you.
Happy Lunar New Year!