special to the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, January 2018
by Billie Wade
We’ve survived the holidays. We made it through January 1. 2018 has arrived. Each new year holds possibilities that life will be somehow different than in the past.
We now face the blank slate between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day. Most of nature is dormant. The excitement of the holidays is over, and life has resumed at a less frenetic pace. We may feel bored, unusually tired, or just a bit out of sorts. Some people made epic New Year’s resolutions that seem daunting as life or second thoughts get in the way or perhaps they’ve lost their appeal. The shine has worn off. The grand letdown happens every year. We may feel a sense of dread as we envision weather-related confinement.
Despite the long five-month stretch, each month has moments of distinction that help ease the transition. January and February are perhaps the most desolate, but the two months combined are only nine weeks, and the time passes quickly. March brings the beginning of Daylight Savings Time and the first day of Spring. Trees and plants bud in April and herald the welcome return of songbirds. May shows off huge blooms of peonies—pink, white, and deep red—and fills the air with the fragrant blossoms of lilacs. Life is stretching itself awake after a long winter snooze. When I look at the stretch and remember what each month offers, the time passes easier as I’m less restless, less anxious, and less depressed.
The transition from winter into spring is a time for refreshing, recuperating, rejuvenating and transforming. On the surface, everything is drab, brown, and gray. Underneath, however, new life is resting until the warm rains of Spring signal that it’s time to come forth. We may look out our windows and see drifts of sparkling snow and icy sidewalks. Or, we may have escaped to a warm climate. We may have plenty to do to ward off cabin fever. Or, we may wonder what we can do to occupy the time. We have a stellar opportunity to create new practices and habits that serve us, an ideal time to ask the deeper questions about what matters most and how we want our lives to unfold over the next twelve months. What is calling us?
I’ve made plans to improve two big areas of my life in 2018, my health and my writing. There is so much more I want to accomplish, but I take care not to overwhelm myself and invite shutdown.
Early in 2017, I created a list of forty-eight life questions to explore. I spend time contemplating the state of my life now, and what I want from life moving forward. I then delve into identifying the steps to turn each into a manageable goal with realistic action steps. What follows are variations of some of the questions.
What do I want my attitude to be in 2018? This is possibly the most important and the most difficult question to ask. Attitude is one area of my life where I have control. How I approach life’s drawbacks can mean the difference between peace and serenity, and hopelessness and despair. I adjust my attitude by getting as much information about my situation as possible, journaling, and talking to people I trust.
What do I want to affirm in 2018? I reflect on 2017 and think about epiphanies and insights that brought focus and clarity to my life. I’m learning to ask for help and to be vulnerable with the people in my life who love and care about me. In the process, I’m affirming that I’m worth the time and attention of other people.
How do I want to spend my time in 2018? Every year has 525,600 minutes, 1,440 minutes per day. Those minutes tick away whether I notice them, or they pass by without getting my attention. I want to engage in activities that are important to me, that bring me joy and peace and evoke a sense of awe and wonder. I want to invite experiences into my life that transform me emotionally and spiritually. I want to invite more play and recreation into my life.
Who are the people I want in my life? I look at the relationships in my life and determine whether they support or cause me pain. Relationships are complex, and I can’t always create a desirable distance between another person and me. I take care to ensure that I am safe before making drastic changes to my relationships. I consider such factors as how much the relationship means to me and how I can deal with the situation in ways that maintain dignity for everyone involved.
What do I want to do differently in 2018? I turn my attention to my intentions, goals, and dreams and choose with care activities that nurture me. I map out doable steps to help me attain my definition of success in my endeavors.
The winter months with the shortened amount of daylight can put the strongest emotional resolve to the test. Dark days and cloudy skies can contribute to a host of emotional issues. Living with emotional upheaval or pain and chronic issues can mean just getting through the day is progress. I try to remember that, back on December 21, the beginning of Winter and the shortest day of the year, meant that subsequent days would become increasingly longer and that sunlight in abundance would return. I know that the darkness and time of dormancy are temporary.
We can look forward to this time of year with a spirit of appreciating and celebrating the seasonal changes. We can welcome each change as an unfolding of the ever-flowing energy of life. We can participate in the transitions and match the rhythm of nature with our own. May 2018 be a year of renewal for you.
Billie Wade is a gregarious introvert whose primary interests are writing, lifelong learning, personal development, and how we all are affected by life’s vagaries. Issues facing black people, women, the LGBTQ community, and aging adults are of particular concern to her. She enjoys open-hearted dialogue with diverse people. The opinions expressed here are her own.