It’s a funny old month…January!
Not funny in the traditional, ‘ha-ha’ sense…but rather funny in a curious, why-is-everyone-so-hard-on-themselves way!
The more I think about it, the more it becomes apparent that the pressure to do and achieve ‘all the things’ whilst navigating the freezing fallows of winter is ambitious at best…ludicrous at worst.
Having researched recently the importance of ‘Wintering’, it’s clear that ‘resolutions’ and overhauling perhaps aren’t so important to the bigger picture of health, as making our lifestyles more seasonally-appropriate.
According to some studies, winter actually shrinks our attention spans, and the human body experiences predictable patterns of molecular change during the natural world’s hibernation period.
Mindful of this, the pressure to be perpetually productive and morph into magnificense seems vastly misjudged, and by contrast, stowing oneself away until Spring (or ‘talvitelat’, as it’s officially known) seems like an infinitely good idea.
This perspective-shifting discovery has made me even more sceptical than I already was about all those ‘new year, new me’ tropes, and specifically about the ones that position the likes of Dry January and Veganuary as a panacea.
For this reason, I’ve this year decided to continue with tradition, and give all resolution-shaped bandwagons a wide birth, whilst also embodying the illusion of 'business as usual.'
The one thing I WILL concede, however, is that the absence of vim and vigour that I once pathologised as a personality defect, is probably actually pretty normal (and common) for the season.
To this end, there’s no more lamenting my lost capacity for concentration (this article indeed took twice the time it would have in the summer), and instead I'm trying to reconcile this lull as all par for the creative course!
In the absence of goal-setting and go-getting, January definitely has much more room for the soothing salve of devotional activities (or enrichment activities, as they are also called.)
One such activity, is centred around honing one’s so-called ‘Poet’s Eye.'
The 'poet's eye' is the key to making the mundane… magical. It idealises and romanticises winter in a way that makes the harshness of it all not just more bearable, but on some level enjoyable.
It’s the frosting on the garden fence!
The milk as it meanders its way into hot tea.
As W.B Yeats famously put it:
‘The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for senses to grow sharper,’
It might seem, upon first impressions, that this approach is all about battening down the hatches and hibernating, but let's be clear: ‘Wintering’ done well isn’t so much about avoiding the elements, as using them to our advantage. After all, the line between coziness and claustrophobia is a precariously blurry one, with any benefits bound to the limitations of ‘too much of a good thing.’
Juxtapoing regular bouts of resilience-building discomfort (ie. fresh air) with equal parts hunkering-down - it feeds that moral feedback loop which, over time, cultivates stoicism against this often brutal season.
This is an important facet of wintering. The need to accept not just that conflicting feelings and experiences can co-exist, but that sometimes the rough and the smooth can actually complement each other.
The poet Jalaluddin Rumi likened this conveyor of emotions to a Guest House, where each and every visitor (be it happiness or sadness) should be welcomed equally and graciously, and recognised for the part they play in the whole.
The sentiment is a powerful endorsement, not just for what it really means to be human, but for what January SHOULD be like, and what it probably was like, before toxic positivity got a hold and the artificial start line was imposed.
January, in reality, is a relatively simple beast, and one easily tamed with hot tea and early nights. This leads me to believe, quite unsurprisingly, that the focus right now should probably be less on 'pulling out all the stops', and more on putting more of them back in!
‘Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than how you think it should be’ - Wayne Dyer