I recently read a post on the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog, in which she asks her readers to focus on the positive. Rather than rattling off the things that are upsetting us, or making us unhappy/worried/sad/pissed off, she asks us to identify what’s actually giving us life right now. As someone who’s innate worldview is much more of the glass-half-empty type, it felt like a great way to reorient my thinking.
As Anne notes in the post, winter is often a cold, dark, and dreary time of year for many of us. Here in upstate New York, that’s certainly the case. For this reason, I’ve never been a fan of the winter months. Some years they’re worse than others – I still remember last year’s mild, El Nino winter quite fondly – but they all entail a lot of darkness, and a lot of time spent cooped up in the dry indoors.
For years, starting in about late August, I’ve dreaded the start of winter. “I hate the cold!”, “Why do I live here?”, and “Wake me in May!”, were common utterances of mine. I spent the fall dreading winter, and the winter complaining about it. More recently, I did some basic math, and realized that this meant I spent half of the year focusing my mental energy on hating winter. That’s a lot of time – a lot of life – to be unhappy. Over the last couple of years, I’ve become very conscious of this negative focus, and decided to do my best to change it.
I lived in California for almost two years during my twenties, and it really wasn’t for me. One of my biggest complaints was the lack of four, distinct seasons. The trees looked basically the same all year-round. Without the change of seasons, marking time felt much more difficult to me.
As I thought more about how the lack of seasonal change affected me, I also noticed how excited and uplifted I feel in the spring. Every day, I walk around my yard and look for new signs of life – which shrub has leaf buds, which bulbs are peeking out of the ground, and what animals are becoming visible again. This routine brings me great joy. I love my spring-time high. When I lived in a place without much seasonal change, I didn’t experience my spring-time high. I didn’t feel exhilarated by the changing sights, sounds, and smells of the new season.
I finally connected the dots, and realized that, without the cold, dark, and dreary winter, there would be no spring-time high. Without the low, I had no reason to experience the high. Without winter, there was no spring.
This all crystallized for me last fall. As I started to slip into my annual season of dread, I did something I’d never done before: I pushed back against it. I started to focus on the beauty of winter, rather than just the barrenness – the color of the sunsets, the sparkle of the frost on the grass, the wonderland of snow on the trees. I have noticed a huge shift in my mindset this year. I don’t grumble every time I check the forecast. I’m not counting the weeks until daylight savings time begins. I haven’t felt the desperate need to order my garden seeds in January.
When Anne asked her readers to share our list of what’s saving us now, I’m pretty sure she had an actual list in mind, rather than just one thing. But when I asked myself the question, it wasn’t hot tea, fleece clothing, or cozy blankets that I came to mind. No, what’s saving me now is this change in mindset, this acknowledgement that winter plays an important and beautiful role in the seasons of my life.
What’s saving your life right now?