These are the months, this the season, that pushes us to our limits. Winter, in this northern hemisphere, can be a strangling season, more so in states like mine that suffer the most extreme iterations of it. The holidays being smack-dab in the center of this frozen time can push us even further into feeling like we’re not celebrating them, but surviving them. I’ve been there, and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that you have as well. The pressures of finances, of travel plans, of trying to please a lot of people in a lot of different ways, crossing names off of gift lists, worrying about spreading time equally out across everyone that matters can add up and smother us faster than you can say Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Listening?
I’m here today, to tell you to step back, to protect yourself, to understand that you, yes you, are worth finding new routines that you can implement into your daily lives, weekly lives, or whenever you can possibly sneak them in, that soothe you, that offer a slice of serenity when you need it more than ever. The poem above is about this, about understanding that there is in fact time to take that bath, to do that workout, to allow yourself the self-care that is so fundamental to first surviving the more turbulent times in our lives, so we can one day return to celebrating our days.
I know the past 20 months or so have been trying in unimaginable ways, I know we’re all shells of the people we were before Spring of 2020, and we’re all figuring out how to rebuilt what was torn down, heal from what was injured, grieve what was lost. Now, more than ever before, we have to be willing to place our own health, physical yes, but in this instance our emotional and mental health, at a higher priority than it ever has been before. We cannot heal, grieve, rebuild, if we never allow ourselves the time or space to do so, if we’re so busy trying to endure the new bits of life that challenge us that all we do is add more to the never-ending pile. Fact is, things will happen that bring us down, that sink us lower than we believe we’re prepared to cope with, and if all we do in response is refuse to slow long enough to face them, where else can we possibly go but further down?
I won’t go over the ten thousand different ways you can soothe yourself, but I will throw out a few examples that I have seen, first hand, work miracles. For Sarah it’s baking and always has been. She bakes when she’s sad, she bakes when she’s overwhelmed, she bakes when someone betrays her, or when someone she loves has been betrayed. She bakes if it’s cloudy, if it feels like Autumn, if it snows and she feels weighed down. She bakes to set herself free. She also bathes, and that’s something she introduced to me and now, overshare as it may be, something we share every day after our workout. Another we share, our workouts. Every day, without fail, we do a workout, even if short, even if brief. We get our bodies moving so our minds don’t fall apart. When the final exercise has been completed, especially in the winter months, we draw a post-lunch bath, and we share it in the darkness. Sometimes, it is only a 10 minute bath, but it reconnects us, and it slows the spin of the world beyond us.
For me, personally, it’s writing. I write to set my mind free, I write to calm my mind and release the pressure that builds up inevitably over the days, the weeks, the months. I write because I cannot Not write, because writing is the lifeline, writing is the escape pod, writing is the meditation. Music, too, and it almost always is playing while I am writing. Simple things that can be done anywhere, at any time, to give my mind the reprieve it so desperately needs.
Point is friends, it’s up to us to carve out these routines and make them stick. It’s up to us to prioritize our own mental health, our own natural responses to things, and to trust our guts when they begin to feel just a tad overwhelmed. It’s up to us to draw the bath, write the poem, bake the cookies, or take that run. It’s up to us to say No more when a Yes is the straw that will break our back. Make yourself and the health that’s been such a concern lately, the new leaf you’ll be turning over, as snowy as that may be.
For those of you who are already doing this, please feel free to sound off in the comments on any routines that you think might help others? What tricks have you found to help yourself cope, endure, and eventually celebrate? Please, sound off.
Create the routines,
carve them out of your sorrow,
shape them from your ache.
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