If we be discouraged let us never become dull.
Mary Sheerer (Newcombe Potter Collective, Southern Women)

We make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.
~ Carlos Castenada

January 22, 2016

January can be a tough one for me. I can manage the cold – sometimes. But the combination of cold and dark can be too much to bear and I want to hide under a blanket on the couch. Furthermore, as wonderful as the holidays are, they interrupt the usual routine, making the transition back to the routine at best an adjustment and at worst, an arduous challenge.

In the spirit of resolving (evolving) to do things I enjoy in 2016, I set two intentions: to extend hospitality more often to friends and family and seek a new direction for work. But in addition, I decided to get back to a regular pattern of running and start to clear the clutter in the house. Why those two? For a start they are concrete and I should be able to actually observe a difference. My hope is that a focus on the body and the physical space I inhabit would help create an environment that enables other fun things to happen. All well and good, but getting back to a regular practice is not always easy and can be discouraging. Every year it seems to take longer. The word practice is a good one because it’s a reminder that change occurs over time in spite of our desire for instant transformation.

Running is an example. I have never been one of those gazelles who simply bolts out upon immediately hitting the pavement. Running requires effort. Nonetheless, I run because I always feel better afterwards and over time feel strong – better able to deal with whatever comes my way. So last Saturday I began in earnest a practice of regular running. The first half was fine but the second half of the run morphed into a walk. It was discouraging. Was it that long ago that I did the Prince Edward County Half Marathon? Sometimes I wonder – who was that person? It is humbling and frustrating to realize how easily we lose some of our fitness and how long it takes to get back to where we once were – or at least a better place. But I also know if I keep at it, I will slowly but surely get back into the rhythm of running.

Clearing clutter is another example. The process of clearing away stuff is liberating, opening up my mind to invite in more interesting or creative activities. Nonetheless, there is something comforting about being surrounded by favourite objects. I have always loved paper in almost any form (books, journals, reports, articles, note paper and so on). But I know something has to be done when I can’t find what I’m looking for and the “stuff” becomes a barrier to getting anything done. I must say I have been daunted by paper this month – books that are beckoning, reports to read, articles to review, notices to pay attention to – all of which are important but have no permanent home. And so I end up moving things around, dismayed and surprised by what I find; trying to keep the crankiness in check, and resolving to find a better way to manage. In a ruthless moment I cull and eventually the pile goes down. I know if I keep at it, I will slowly but surely get back into the rhythm of clearing clutter.

And so part of dealing with the cold and dark of January is not just doing those things that we love to do but also deciding not to be discouraged, not to be miserable when things get challenging. Rather, to let go. To trust that by keeping at it, we will surely get back into the rhythm that brings joy and makes us strong – and certainly never dull.


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