We turn a page in a book. We set new tracks in freshly fallen snow. The sun rises on a new day. A new year is here, but it can be hard to see that when we are deep in winter. I always struggle with the start of a new year. Maybe it is because my birthday is only 17 days after the new year or maybe it is because I really never feel ready to emerge fully till I can once again smell the Earth. Instead, I want to linger in this space we call winter and not make a list of things to accomplish. I want to ease in gently just as I do on a winter morning.
I always feel that January is the depths of the night and it feels like someone (society, societal norms, patriarchy?) is trying to wake us to tell us to lose weight, accomplish more, make more money, avoid rest. I think that is why I struggle with the new year. Our bodies are craving hunkering in and letting the cold hide us away and the darkness to keep us sleepy. Our bodies aren’t craving the fresh food of “diet culture”. It wants the low and slow food that warms the house as it cooks. It desires the things we saved from our gardens that need to be warmed and cooked. It is craving warm drinks and hot baths. We want to move with the motion of the weather and the day. So allow yourself. Let that be your commitment to the newness of this new year. I know it is mine.
Every year I set an intention long about my birthday. I spend these early days of January in the depths of my work and self. I do the most intense amount of thinking and pondering this month because the days allow it. Social things aren’t as easy or friendly feeling as they are in the summer. My garden is sleeping. I am longing to go inward and I embrace that because there isn’t any other time than the depths of winter that call me more to do so. I go for quiet walks in the woods when the ferns are tampered below the snow and the moss shines vibrant on the Beech and Maple trees that keep me company. I think about how the trees shift their energy and so do the animals. I take this as my cue to trust my instincts. It may not be fashionable to be slow or give up the hustle or disappear a little, but I have found that January is a month I love to give space for, till I naturally long for something else.
For me, January is our month of the year that is like the dream state of sleep. This is when we can embrace the energy of rising to the light. Each day is a little longer if we pay attention. It is that place in the middle of the night where we have slipped past midnight and now enter the point where we are closer to sunrise than sunset, but we dive deep into slumber. That is January. Here in that deep state of sleep, we can dream, hope, face the things we sometimes don’t want to, and we can rev our engines for a year ahead. I have learned over the years to see January like this. It isn’t the time to begin anything, but a time to linger in this space. It is the time to process, to most importantly identify what it is that will set your undercurrent for the year ahead. That when times get tough or even if they are good, what is it that you will identify most with? This takes time to identify and it takes space sometimes to hear. Offer it to yourself. Even if normal schedules resume, say no to the unnecessary to make room for this. It will feed you long into the year.
Last year I set the intention to live more wildly. But not in the way you think. You see last year I was coming out of that first year with a new baby and was starting to see my body as my own once again. I wanted to learn again who I was. I wanted to think less about what I was and see this year as a time to explore who I was more. Sometimes this left me embracing things I didn’t want to or trying new things that either were great or not right. I practiced this in the garden too. I stopped perfecting everything and I let my garden play with me. I embraced the random milkweed and tomatoes and tomatillos everywhere. I let it go sometimes and stopped overthinking things. I let myself just be wild. I worked hard to handle past trauma and things that made me feel I had a box to fit and instead built a whole new shape as to who I am and who I want to be. It took deep work, that I feel has been a gift amongst the pandemic. Life has been slower because of it, and though I miss so much, I also still feel at peace with this pace for now because I know well enough life works in cycles. I know this time is hard, but just like winter, it is also an opportunity.
Now, here in the new year, I am not sure yet what that intention will be for 2022. In some ways, I want to step in a little further and feel it out. I have ideas, but I know once again this year will bring a lot of unexpected things with it. I know I will need an undercurrent to feel grounded, but I also feel this optimism for this turning in the calendar. I knew 2021 in some way would be like a ripple effect of 2020. How could it not be? But 2022? Maybe the ripples will be less wavy. Maybe there will be a little more grounding. I don’t know, but I can hope. All I know is just as winter never lasts forever or anything does in nature, this time won’t either.
Beginning this new year we can choose how we enter it. Just as we can choose to enter winter, we can choose how we make tracks in the fresh snow. A winter should never leave us the same, just as a well-intentioned year should never leave us the same either. We are constantly moving and breathing being who is constantly adapting and adjusting our sails. If we aren’t then we become hard and unmovable, solid, and stiff. I have learned even at this age that life is best lived with joy for the evolution of self.
Every winter I feel I walk through a door to become a more whole human and I hope that if anything you begin this new year and settle into the depths of the winter with at least that goal. To love yourself more. To stop trying to fit in a box, but learn to embrace your own shape. To live with the intention to trust your body, heart, and soul. To simply be a more whole human who doesn’t fear the dark parts but knows that is where the light is found.
January is where I am reminded of the importance of being slow, embracing our own pace for life, and how good discomfort is for us. It is cold. It is dark. It is snowy (hopefully!) It is bare branches. It is the gratitude for the textures and colors only winter can reveal. It is the chance to be slow. It is dreaming. It is the creating. It is the embracing of winter’s power and gift to us that nature has known for centuries and maybe we can slowly learn from. It is all this and more and I hope that you find comfort in some of it this month.