Last year on the Winter Solstice, I was wandering around outside taking nature pictures to post on social media, and I captured a picture of the sun rising over the frozen kale in the garden. I don’t know what inspired me to write these words, but here is what I posted to social media on December 21, 2021: Today is the Winter Solstice. The days will begin to grow longer, and the mud and gray of December will soon give way to the warmth and blooms of June. Take your regrets and hurts from the past year and put them on the metaphorical compost pile so you will have flowers in the year ahead.
Something amazing happened that day. I took my own advice. I thought about everything that happened in 2021 that didn’t go well, and there was a lot to think about. 2021 was one of the hardest years of my life. The reasons why 2021 was a difficult year for me aren’t important, and they certainly aren’t special. Nevertheless, I had a lot of mental garbage that was ready for the metaphorical compost pile.
I had a real-life compost pile long before I started my metaphorical compost pile. As a gardener, I love compost. It’s magical. Throughout the year, Dad and I collect leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, egg shells, banana peels, cardboard, newspapers, and rotten wood and toss them into a pile by the garden. Microbes that we cannot see feast off of all of this trash and transform it into nutrient dense compost that gets spread on the garden. Over the span of four years, we transformed a clay packed piece of dirt into a fertile garden space that produces the sweetest carrots, lettuce, and beans you have ever eaten. We didn’t get rid of the garbage. We just transformed it and used it to grow something beautiful.
The metaphorical compost pile works the same way. Here are some great items to throw into your metaphorical compost pile:
- Disappointments – Didn’t get that job you thought would be perfect for you? Were you hoping for something that didn’t materialize? Does it feel like you can’t catch a break on anything? Did another person let you down? Now is a good time to accept what has happened over the year, compost those disappointments, and move on.
- Mistakes – Did you accidentally forget something important? Did you act on a decision that you thought was right only to achieve bad results? Did you say or do the wrong thing? Now is a great time to accept the mistakes that you can’t fix, forgive yourself, and throw them in the compost pile.
- Expectations – I once read that our happiness in life is a function of how closely reality matches our expectations. False expectations, unrealistic expectations, and expectations that you place onto other people will only lead to disappointment and unhappiness. Dump all those expectations in the compost pile.
- Relationships that have run their course – Sometimes people are only meant to be in our life for a season. Last December, I realized that I was spending way too much time pursuing some relationships that had run their course. For whatever reason, the other person didn’t view the relationship the way that I did. I took my disappointment over those relationships and threw them in the compost pile. I silently wished those people well, thanked them for the part they played in my life and then vowed to no longer spend mental energy on those relationships. Within just a few weeks, new people started coming into my life. Throughout 2022, a wonderful network of friends formed around me. These are friends that want to spend time with me, energize me, and make me a better version of myself. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t composted those dying relationships that had run their course.
- Beliefs that no longer serve you – What beliefs do you hold about yourself that don’t serve you well? I realized that I had a lot of rules that I had placed on myself that may have been true once but were no longer true. For example, a year ago I would have told you that I absolutely don’t like Thai food. This year I started meeting a dear friend for lunch at a local Thai restaurant, and I discovered that I love Thai food. I crave it now. I always believed that I couldn’t dance and didn’t like it. That belief went into the compost pile after a friend of my convinced me to try Jazzercise with her. Now I dance 3 to 4 times a week and love it. I always hated the way the skin on my face looked because of the chicken pox scars that I have carried since elementary school. (No, I didn’t scratch my chicken pox! I had the most horrible case you can imagine. It lasted for weeks, and my skin looked like a package of raw hamburger.) At the age of 49, I managed to verbalize this painful insecurity to a few people. Both people gave me the same response: “You have chicken pox scars on your face? I never noticed.” The thing that was one of my deepest insecurities was something that other people weren’t even noticing. That belief went onto the compost pile too.
Recently I was laying in bed in the early morning hours and thinking about what a great year 2022 has been. The year wasn’t great because of any big life event. In fact, there were a number of challenging and difficult things that had to be dealt with this year. In spite of those challenges, this felt like one of the happiest years of my life. I read great books thanks to the friends in my book club. I discovered the joy of going to the movies again thanks to a bunch of friends that kept asking me to go with them. I went to cool new restaurants, took a selfie with a cow, and went to an amazing Super Bowl party. Doug and I discovered that in spite of all the high tech entertainment options available to us, we prefer spending winter evenings playing cards together at the dining room table. I’m convinced that all the great things that bloomed for me in 2022 were because they were fertilized by that metaphorical compost pile.
Therefore, I have resolved that every year on the Winter Solstice, I am going to celebrate by feeding my compost pile. I know that some of my readers may be thrown off by my desire to celebrate the Winter Solstice since many associate the Winter Solstice with paganism. I would counter that concern by saying that you can’t fully celebrate Christmas and embrace the salvation offered by Jesus if you are still carrying around loads of guilt, shame, and mental clutter. Give yourself a great gift this holiday season. Start your own mental compost pile and wait to see what blossoms in the year ahead.