January does not represent a fresh start or new beginnings for me. It’s more like a menacing mountain that I have no choice but to climb if I want to get to the rest of the year. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, my motto on January 1 is to just keep moving, one step at a time. It wasn’t always this way for me. Winter used to conjure up fun thoughts of sledding, snowball fights, snowshoeing and skiing. However, sometime during the biologic changes that took place during my forties decade, winter morphed into a physical and emotional battle against the darkness of the days, the dreary cold, the absence of flowers in my meadow and leafless trees. I can feel the weight of winter in my heart every bit as much as the cold against my skin. Notwithstanding, I couldn’t be a happier or more content person. Half the battle has been to recognize this change in my body’s chemistry, and not beat myself up over it. The other, more important half of the battle is what to do about it.
I wholeheartedly believe that a positive attitude, a strong will, gratitude and kindness go a long way toward finding happiness and peace. Instead of letting myself be pulled into negative thinking, I struggle against it. On the days that I fall to my knees in the struggle, I get back up and keep going by examining all the things that I’m grateful for. There are so many to count that I don’t have time to wallow in my winter blues. Even when all I want to do is curl up in the fetal position and hide out in my cave, I force myself to exercise. There’s nothing like the endorphins produced by running or boxing to wash away all those nasty brain chemicals that bring on sadness. I eat a healthy diet so that I have the energy to exercise. I surround myself as best I can with music, books, and friends. I kiss and hug my spouse every chance I get. I take time to watch the wildlife outside my window go about their busy days just trying to survive. It gives me perspective on how lucky I am to be alive in such a beautiful world. To show that gratitude, I reach out to friends to give a hand or encouraging words. Being nice to other people is one of the best things a person can do for their own soul.
Finally, I remind myself of the good that comes from a cold snowy January. Among the many things, it gives rise to all the lovely trees that are among my favorites in New England such as the maples and birches. The snow replenishes the rivers and lakes that I spend so much time playing in during the warmer months. It’s a time for some types of wildlife to hunker down and take a much needed hibernating rest. That includes us too. How nice it is to curl up in front of the wood stove with a good book on a cold snowy day. As for spring, it wouldn’t be nearly as sweet if it didn’t come on the heels of winter. Just like happiness, the joy of it is attenuated by the colder sadder times in our lives. Would we appreciate as much the feel of the thawing ground, the smell of spring flowers, the rebirth of the trees or the warmth of the sun if we didn’t go through a time when our world wasn’t frozen by winter? I know I wouldn’t.
So, as I move through the remainder of January, I’ll do it one day at a time with an eye toward keeping a grateful heart, being kind to others, gentle on myself and always taking care of my body and soul. Peace.