Welcome to 2018. Welcome to January … the muffled, monochromatic month. At least in my neck of the woods. Call me nuts but I’ve been looking forward to January’s snowy silence, its quiet calendar. Its deep sigh.
What I once might have viewed as a gloomy time now feels like … freedom. The quiet calendar equals an open calendar, to fill or not. Just for a little while, with our weekends ‘ours’ we can sit on the floor and sort books, read the one we’ve overlooked far too long. We can try the brunch places we keep walking past in busier times. We can walk over to see the frozen lake, sharing it with only a handful of others. All with cameras out like Bob and me.
A lovely image of this month formed in my mind as last year wound down. I pictured the bright red of car brake lights, headlights, traffic of a fast-moving December—everyone going, going, going somewhere. Unnoticed, January was an unlit, unplowed off-ramp leading away, off that oblivious road. Into snow-drifted fields of nothing. Noiseless. Carless. Treeless. A place to enter slowly, then slow even further. To lower your internal volume to dusk. To listen to the quiet. To gaze a long ways ahead.
Years ago this image wouldn’t have had any of the appeal it held for me lately. Around the time I sucked popcorn (November 17 blog) I dreaded dusk settling in, especially in winter. I recall giving myself nightly pep talks as a teenager to get past encroaching feelings of sadness. The talks went very much like this: “Pretty soon we’ll turn the lights on in the house, pretty soon everyone will be home and sitting around the kitchen table, there’ll be talking and people everywhere …” I’ve no idea what led to these daily blues unless it was teen age hormones? Seasonal affect disorder? A depressive trait inherited from my grandfather? I do remember the little pep talks doing the trick, forming the bridge I needed to get over a rough patch; possibly one of my earliest examples of ‘ordinary overcoming.’
It’s also an example of the power of self-talk in soothing our own fears. While working for a New Zealand agency that supported the health and well-being of parents and children under 5, I learned the importance of parents’ fostering characteristics of self-soothing and resilience in their children. As infants this helps with learning to fall asleep on our own. As adults it seems critical for success in just about anything … work, relationships, projects. Of course, anything you read on the topic emphasizes the role of our self-talk in increasing or diminishing our sense of being able to handle the challenges that we face. I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone reading these words. But I hope it’s a good reminder on your January day, whether you face bleakness outdoors or inside your own mind. If its the latter it might help to consider this article:
You might also like comedian Sarah Silverman’s story. If you haven’t yet read how she turned a would be troll’s ugly tweet into an inspiring and popular news story, be sure to check The Washington Post from 1/8.
It has to be this year’s best example so far of someone acting with resilience, using words to heal, not being wounded by the words of another who is hurting.
Last, thanks to the Mindtools article, here’s a fantastic example of person who refused to let everyday blues or negative thoughts hold him back …
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.– American inventor, Thomas Edison
As we start building and sharing a new year of lessons and remembering, I’d love to hear your stories of ordinary overcoming whether its handling everyday blues or something else.