Difference and Repetition: Happy New Year!

Illustration: Colette Leenen

The ritual of the New Year wishes is for me the reminder of this dual movement: difference and repetition. Repetition first: rituals are repetitions. We repeat what is good. Rituals become rituals because they carry some wisdom we have acquired over the years, over the centuries, and so we repeat them, religiously. My little twist of Nietzsche’s amor fati is that we should live in such a way that we would be content with this life being repeated infinitely. And that is where difference comes in: there is always something I can do to live better, to increase my understanding of myself and of the universe and to increase the harmony between me and the world. This change I call difference. What should I do differently to be content with repeating things indefinitely.

Rituals are repetitions, and so are the seasons of the year and the cycles of life, the waves of the ocean, the alternation of war and peace. Yet, not two waves are the same, and our lives are infinite variations of life. This is what we are celebrating in these wishes: the repetition and the difference: I wish I may have the chance to repeat another year, yet I also wish it will be ever so slightly different. Let’s honor this ritual.

2019 was a year of endings for me. The ending of this life changing coaching masters with the graduation ceremony in the sunbathed gardens of this gorgeous Ashridge castle. Celebrating with my fellow graduates what has been an intense 2 years of training, going deep into our understanding of ourselves and how we could best serve our coaching clients, I had this bitter sweet feeling that something that had moved me so profoundly was coming to an end and that I must accept to separate from these travel companions and walk alone towards my new career. But it was good, I was feeling a happy expectancy.

Then, in December, my mother passed away. Another ending. Mama was old, 93 years, and had lost her memory gradually over the last 10 years. Over the last months, her greatest pleasure was to sit in the garden with us and mutter old nursery rhymes, the last thing she could remember. She had closed her circle of difference. And with her dying came repetition for me: the passing of my father, of my husband, and of a number of very dear friends. And this repetition was echoing the sadness I felt at the death of my mother, both increasing the pain and smoothening it too, cradling it in the familiarity of something we know in our bones and in our flesh, something that is now part of ourselves. Endings and beginnings: repetition and difference.

Now what do I wish to repeat in 2020 and what do I wish to change? I want to keep this feeling that I am blessed in my current life, blessed with the changes I have made in my work a few years ago and which allow me to live my life with more meaning and more satisfactions. I am in good health, I am blessed with good friends and our mother’s ending has brought me closer to my brother and sisters. I stand in my life more aware, more hungry for its riches, more thankful for its beauty than ever before. Yet I am still struggling at times to find peace with myself and with everything around me. I am sometimes lonely and there is sadness and some anger too. Therefore I also want difference to happen: I will try ever so tenaciously to find more love and compassion in me, for me and for all around me. That is what, deep inside, and now also outside, I wish for myself: accord this duality of pleasure and sadness with the world around me.

And you, what do you wish to repeat and to change? As a coach, I want to be there for my clients who want to know themselves better and better understand the world around them so they can see for themselves what should be repeated and what should be changed. I wish you get the chance to sit down with whomever can help you in this quest and have a conversation about just this: difference and repetition.