I have a personal mantra: Never make any major life decisions in February.
Why is this my mantra? Because the world always seems more bleak in February.
It’s cold. It’s dark. The daylight hours are cruelly short. It’s icy and snowy. Someone in the house is sick each week. It’s difficult to get enough fresh air. The kids are stir crazy and bouncing off the walls.
February can feel relentless.
I don’t have anything as serious as seasonal affective disorder, but in my mind and body and heart, there’s a heaviness to the month. It feels like I have icy weights on my arms and my legs and my spirit, and all of the things that usually feel simple and even enjoyable seem just a little bit harder to get through. I’m slower to get up in the mornings, grouchier about getting to the gym, less enthusiastic about cooking, and find myself unable to do much more than hunker down and read a novel under a blanket by the end of a February day.
For an achiever-personality coming off of the New Year’s resolution high, this transition in February, while predictable for me, doesn’t feel comfortable. Progress on my personal, wellness and creative goals slows way down. Efficiency and productivity feel less energizing, which makes me feel panicky. It’s as if some little part of my soul says, “Hibernate. This is not the time to push. Stick to the minimum.”
I don’t recognize this voice, and it freaks me out.
It is a little audacious, isn’t it? The way that modern humans have decided that life in February in cold climates must just go on as usual? Despite the plunging temperatures, the feet of snow that bury us in, the illnesses that take out entire families for weeks at a time… life must go on. Sports practices and choir rehearsals and classes and pilates sessions and long commutes to work each day, all forge ahead, despite the many natural reminders about why staying home and resting might be ideal.
And that’s part of it for me, too. I’m a very extroverted person, but February tries to convince me otherwise. It always feels simpler, easier and safer to stay home in February. Fewer germs, no icy travel, no messing with coats and hats and boots and mittens spread across the house. Visits with friends grow few and far between.
In my own path toward wellness and self-care over the past few months, I’ve knocked down a lot of walls out of sheer will and determination. But I’ve come to realize that for me, February is not a wall I can just knock down. The metaphorical wall that I run into in February is something that’s to be endured, much like the coldness and the darkness outside.
The brick wall of February will recede in its own time. And just because it’s still lodged firmly and icily in the ground for now, doesn’t mean that I won’t get past it to get closer to my own personal and creative goals. And importantly, its fixedness right now, which can feel so discouraging, doesn’t make any of the walls I’ve broken through on my way to it any less valid. Sometimes transformation is a sprint; sometimes it’s a crawl. Honoring a different pace is not a regression.
For me, self-care in February means letting go of almost every lingering ‘should,’ remembering that baby steps are still forward motion toward a goal, and listening very carefully to my body and my heart as they ask for rejuvenation and nourishment and comfort in very different ways than they might during any other time of the year. I must keep in mind the February Filter, avoiding those big life decisions when I’m feeling especially fatigued and feeling things a bit out of proportion to their reality.
Spring always returns, along with my motivation and ambition. And the daffodils. And flip flops. And beach days. And road trips. And ice cream runs. And campfires after late sunsets.
I’m getting ahead of myself. In the meantime, I think I’ll find a book about someplace warm and sunny to read, so that as I’m tucked into bed (far too early, for lack of the energy to do anything else!) I’ll remember what it is that’s waiting for me on the other side of the wall.
“No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland