The Christmas sparkle has winked out, the decorations have been boxed away for next year, to faintly glow in the dark forgotten, and we find ourselves facing another new year. Is it with zest, with a feeling of Heigh ho, heigh ho, its off to work we go, whistling as we march our way along? Or is it more a case of Oh no, Oh no, it’s back to work we go?
After we’ve wished people a happy new year (and all of that stuff, says my bar humbug husband), we’re kind of put into an involuntary position to feel zest or aversion, or maybe just a dull sense of confusion or weariness, with new year resolutions made yet again. Those inexorable musts that come into your head: I must exercise more this year, I must lose weight, I must paint more, I must write more (that’s mine by the way), I must get that book published (yes, another one of mine, and I won’t be alone with that one!)…the list can be daunting. But why do we get both sucked and suckered into this pattern of thinking and feeling time and time again?
For us creatives it may be a case of ‘rhythm interruptus’ where we stopped our work for a while, and were of course happy to do so. After all, we deserved a rest, didn’t we? And it would do us good to resist the pull of social media for a while, what’s the harm in avoiding twitter or facebook for a few days? And it’s not like you can carry on as normal, with family on vacation from their regular jobs, even if you wanted to. The holiday period is to be enjoyed, relished, with loved ones and good company, and after that you can hit the January sales – just try avoiding them. I don’t mind this, I can enjoy this, but what I don’t like is then having to pick up where I left off with my creative work, with those musts circling in my head like carrion crows, ready to pick, pick, pick. I can happily say this, because I know I’m not alone. The older you get the more you realise how much we have in common as human beings, it’s in our psyche, and it’s in the natural world around us too. And when you dig deeper and ask a few people how they really feel about new year, you do get, ‘I don’t like it very much, actually.’ So I asking the question – why?
Which brings me to our very nature and nature itself. As we scan our gardens with a passing, not a lingering, eye, they look bleak. Dead growth lies above ground waiting to be trimmed down to nothing. But we are dimly aware that a hibernating root system waits underground for Spring to stir it into life to throw up green shoots, the shoots to raise their heads above soil level, to check out whether the conditions will sustain them, or a sharp frost will kill them, but one way or the other to begin the cycle of growth over again. And to answer the question about what’s the problem with a new year, I think it must be linked to this growth cycle, that it is within us too. That’s why winter can be hard for so many, the dull grey days starved of light, or the occasional days of piercing low angled sun to sharply prod into us to get going again, followed by more listless grey days which conversely invite hibernation. Where is the sustained life force, the energy we need? Winter is completing a cycle, brightened up by Christmas for a little while, but all the bleaker for when the festive season is over. Would it be better if we were evergreens, just carrying on regardless, never losing our leaves, never changing colour?
Well, no, it doesn’t sounds attractive either, does it? And that’s because what the seasonal cycle of death and rebirth in the natural world can give us is that sense of starting anew, and it is important that we have that in our lives, for making changes, for self-development. The growth can be different each time, as we need it to be. A plant never throws up exactly the same shoots, it works with its rooting system, it’s primary core, and we have this primary core within us too. And maybe it’s right we should feel a kind of tension at this time, while we decide what are personal growth this year needs to be or what we hope it to be – so maybe this is why we make those resolutions, maybe it reflects this part of us wanting changes for ourselves? As I said in my post on gardening, we need our roots, our core, but we have to keep growing. Cutting back the old can bring a new energy to fill that empty space…and then we can grow some more. And this might be why a new year is daunting, because we have that personal challenge ahead. But maybe winter can be welcomed as a kind of stasis period for rebalancing ourselves and taking stock, before we forge on.
Taking a look at a few different cultural beliefs
- The Chinese view winter as a season with a turn inwards, where it should be a period of self reflection, meditation, a quiet time of writing and reading, and other soul nourishing pursuits. They see is as a time to slow down and feed ourselves physically and spiritually.
- Turning to another culture, the Native American Hopi tribes celebrate the winter solstice as the longest night of the year, and celebrate to give aid and direction to the sun which is waiting to return and give strength to new life.
- And then there’s the practice of Hygge in Denmark, the essence of ‘hygge’ being ‘to surround yourself in a warm, cozy atmosphere with people you care about and enjoy something you love…Activities that would fit into the hygee mentality would be cuddling up with a blanket by the fire, drinking some coffee or wine with friends, watching a favorite movie while indulging in your favorite sweets or lighting candles and preparing a home-cooked meal. It’s all about the feeling you have when you are surrounded by loved ones and indulging in something you enjoy like sweets, board games, movies, music, food, etc…This feeling of relaxation and companionship encourages people to get together more frequently, and the increased interaction can significantly help ward off feelings of sadness and fatigue during the winter months.’
So these are very positive philosophies we can engage with during winter.
How to proceed from here? Gently get back into your creative rhythm, little nibbles then bigger bites when you’re ready. Quell that sense of urgency. Feed your spirit with what you enjoy, and nurture your mind, body and soul, and I wish you a happy and fruitful new year!
(PS with reference to the previous post on Christmas, I owe my sister an apology. I am happy to tell you she does indeed wear the scarf I knitted her – sorry, Sis!)
Images courtesy of pixabay