With all the complaining going on around me at the moment – people moaning about the weather, fretting about the dark evenings and lamenting the passing of Christmas – I thought I might write something about the beauty of January.
The common perception of this first month in our calendar is that it is grey, wet, cold, tedious and generally hard work. As many people struggle to get themselves back inside a mindset of work-focused activities, financial anxiety and expectations of ill-health – a mindset which has never served them well but which they seem reluctant to relinquish – I like to follow a different route into the new year, seeking out the special opportunities that are only here now and will disappear soon for another twelve months.
I love – as I wrote last week – the energised opportunity in January to make new changes, to do things differently. Although it is possible to wake up every day and start afresh, there is something very special about January 1st that invites us to be more pro-active about putting those changes into action. And for me, changes can be just as much to do with letting old things go as with bringing new things in.
So I have been carefully sifting through the list of what it is that often fills my day and deciding which activities I no longer want to spend time on. I think this is one of the gifts of having lived longer; you can develop a sharper eye for the non-essential, non-helpful, non-productive aspects of your life. And you can choose to let them slip away.
From the other end of the spectrum, you can begin to see more clearly what it is you’d really like to experience in life, and the space cleared by the letting-go of previously-considered ‘vital’ activities, now becomes available for use in a much more creative way. For me, this process has enabled me to relinquish my old practices of getting caught up in administrative tasks and ‘finnickety’ paperwork, and instead to relish the time made available to write more stories, tackle three novels at once and finally to own my life as a writer.
I am also welcoming the opportunity to do one uncomfortable thing every day – at least, for the five working days of the week. I might allow myself some time-off at the weekends!
One of the websites I subscribe to has a number of brilliant concepts for getting yourself sorted, including naming every Wednesday as Anti-Procrastination Day. Wednesdays become the day you get to do all those things you keep putting off. By changing the focus from one of avoidance to one of opportunity, it is amazing what you can persuade yourself to do. I am trying out extending the idea into a daily practice for this new year. Yesterday, I finally completed my tax return!
But it’s not just the internal changes that light up January for me. Outside, the world of nature is gearing up, too. The Mallards are already chasing each other down the canal, the Blackbirds are scooting across the garden whilst shouting their heads off, and I’ve seen the local Kingfisher at least five times since New Year, showing off his startling plumage along with his flying and diving prowess.
And, perhaps because the days are shorter at this time of year, I am more conscious of the daylight and the continual changes it makes, too. I am excited to wake up in the dark and watch how the colours change as the daylight gets stronger; I am thrilled by the quality of the sunshine brightening the frost or painting rainbows across dark clouds; I am fascinated by the dimming twilight and the mysterious grey shapes it illuminates.
The first day of February is the start of Spring in the Celtic calendar. The festival of Imbolc. The bulbs already know this and are starting to thrust their way up through the ground. I don’t want to miss a thing. I am choosing to relish every day of the winter season that is left to me and to find its value, its beauty and its very special light.