January bears the burden of high expectations: A New Year! Resolutions! Winter projects! If last month I was tired, this month, the winter holidays behind me now, I felt ready to be productive—I will get so much done this month! And yet this month has flown by—is it really the 24th already?—and I have not gotten so much done. The too-long part of January isn’t an abundance of time for projects, but the endless dark and cold days. In Bellingham, we experienced negative temperatures for the first time in the twenty-six years we have lived here. I’m not a fan. Though comparatively it was interesting to experience twenty-three degrees as a comfortable temperature.
Work: In 2022, I set a goal to have my Armenian family manuscript completed and of publishable quality by my sixtieth birthday in February 2025. That goal felt reasonable and doable then. I set many intermediate goals. I moved those goalposts a few times. I have made progress but not as much as I’d hoped. Hence the high expectations for this January. And now I’m here, with only thirteen months left until I turn sixty. I’m not moving the goalposts this time, but I have altered the goal: a complete draft of decent quality, probably not ready for publication but ready for an editor, a fresh set of discerning eyes. To that end, I hope January, and February, continue to provide the perfect weather—dark, damp, and cold—to stay inside and write.
Do you set short- and long-term goals for your various projects? Any tips for helping to meet those goals? How do you feel about moving the goalposts or altering the goal itself?
Wonder: Last month I read Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. “Wintering” doesn’t just occur in the winter but any time when illness, a major life event, a failure, or a period of transition sidelines you from your regular routine. Wintering may arrive slowly or suddenly, and can be painful and lonely. Most assuredly wintering is inevitable. “life is, by nature, uncontrollable. . . . we should stop trying to finalise our comfort and security somehow, and instead find a radical acceptance of the endless, unpredictable change that is the very essence of this life.” Fighting this fundamental truth brings on only more suffering.
What do I do when winter finds me? Recognize it for what it is: a change of season, temporary. Treat myself kindly: walk outside or stay inside and watch the birds at the feeder. Sleep in, nap, and go to bed early. Try to honor what I need in this particular season.
What helps you get through a wintering and/or this literal cold dark season? In what ways, if any, do you change your daily routine? What books help sustain you this time of year?
Window: Single digit temperatures I can do without but it isn’t winter, to me, if we don’t get at least one snowfall to brighten the day and settle a hush over the world. My love of snow isn’t shared by all, and I understand the hardships snow poses to those who must go out into it or get stuck, against their wishes, at home. Still the snow possesses a touch of the magical, and transports me to a world seen anew, if only for a few days.