One awesome thing about celebrating Lunar New Year is that it’s usually a second chance at my failed Solar New Year goals. Usually — with exception of 2016, in which I ushered in Solar New Year with peace and meditation. And in which I ushered in Lunar New Year with a pounding hangover.
At the eve of the Lunar New Year, I’d had too much to drink when talking to a white guy at a bar. “Happy New Year,” I said to him.
“Happy New Year?” he asked. “Didn’t it pass awhile ago?” I politely explained that it was Lunar New Year, which is “more important to me than the solar New Year.”
“Why?” he said, attempting a joke. “Is it because you feel so connected with the moon?”
Losing my sobriety and patience, I gave him a barely-restrained version of my death glare.
“No. I’m Korean.”
To his credit, he backpedaled respectfully, saying, “Oh, so it’s culturally significant to you.”
Yes. It’s culturally significant. If you didn’t know about the tradition that at least 25% of the world celebrates, now you know.
Westerners celebrate Solar New Year with the dropping of a ball, a shot of liquor, a quick peck on the lips. Koreans celebrate Lunar New Year in a day(s)-long ritual. My first day of the Lunar New Year, last Monday, started quietly: I made rice cake soup, and built a makeshift altar (from foods I would eat as breakfast a few minutes later). But by the end of the night, I had passed out from chemical intake on my dear friend’s living room sofa like I was in college again.
If that day was any indication of this New Year to come, it’s that I’m learning all the ways my inner chaos is shredding the lining of my body. It’s so easy for me to think I’m peaceful when protected by mindless work rituals. It’s so easy to think I’m perfect when distracted by pretty people or superficial words. It’s so easy to think I’m enlightened when I direct my attention towards caring for others, outwards, away from my core.
That is, it’s easy to believe these amazing things about myself until life gets hard, or that creature inside me grows restless, at which point — all illusions vanish.
My friend Ash the Philosopher describes art, and even our selves, as “a cocoon, in which you have to continually dig through layers of who you are.”
I’ve grown really attached to this silk coat around myself, so much that I’ve fooled myself into believing that the softness and wholeness alone is who I am. Because in those tough times that have forced me to start burrowing for shelter, it has been too easy to screw my eyes shut.
When I look again at last Monday, the first day of the new year, I feel the pain of my outside, peeling away. In the past, this movement has led me to drink until I pass out, pull all-nighters while working, or call all the phone numbers thrust into my hands. Maybe this year I will still do these things. Maybe I will not.
But if they happen, I need to stop retracing silk patterns imagined in my memory, and actually see, really see, what lies inside.
This year is my Golden Year. It is the year in which I generate strong karma that will cycle through the next 12 years of my life. Who I am at the core has been growing all along; I cannot control the growth; I cannot control the timing of my hatching.
But I can open my eyes as it happens.
This year, as change storms inside me, I resolve to be awake as I dig through these layers. I may be a flea; I may be a beetle; I may be a butterfly. Whatever I am, I will not turn away from it. I will examine the darkness along with the light. I will listen to the whisper of threads as they bind me. Rather than allow my wings to beat helplessly against their confines, I will gnaw my own path through these layers as I journey closer to myself.
In this Lunar New Year, already I will look again at this second chance — the chance not to feign perfection, but to be awake through the growing pains. I will ask myself these questions:
What am I doing?
What is it that I want?
Who do I want to become?
Will this decision help me to fly?
written with a special shout-out to ash, who inspired this new way of seeing myself