Valleys

I know everyone has said a variation of this already, but January always feels like two months in one. It even seems to swallow up the first week of February, because I feel like every year I blink on Groundhog Day and suddenly it’s Valentine’s Day. And the older I get, the more I just seem to always make small talk about time flying and the weather. It’s so cliche but it’s like adults can’t refrain ourselves from talking about this stuff…I even kind of enjoy exchanging obvious comments on the temperature with friends and strangers alike. I also always seem to open up my blog posts with small-talky stuff like this, I’m just realizing. Haha, someone stop me! But it’s somewhat relevant, I promise.

Today I wanted to talk about those almost universal valleys of life. Like February. I like February, I really do. There’s stuff I like about every month of the year. But I do find that there are certain times of year where I slide down a hill into a deep valley, and February definitely feels like one of those. The days blur together and life feels like it’s shrouded in fog. And then one day in March my head clears the mist and I’m halfway up the next hill and climbing out of the clouds without hardly being able to tell that I was moving forward for the past month. And I know it’s not just me, because it’s all I hear this time of year, people talking about the late winter/pre-spring slump that hits many of us.

I will say that I think I’m learning how to better handle these predictably recurring valleys, so that they seem shallower in recent years. I’m noticing the patterns. I’ve realized that I do value simple routines and creature comforts built into my daily life, but after too much of the same, I get complacent, and I backslide a little. I always try to have little things to look forward to, but these slumpy times of year I do tend to get a bit tired of everything. I get tired of constant homework, mounting projects, the usual thing for lunch, going to ballet class two days in a row. I let go of productive side pursuits. I watch five youtube videos or play the same six songs on the piano over and over as procrastination instead of taking a productive break to draw something or plan out the next steps of a project I know that I need to tackle.

So…about my 30-day challenges so far? January went fine. I genuinely appreciate that January always feels long, it’s a nice head start to ease into the new year. I finished a book I had been reading on and off for a while, and picked up a new fun read as a mini-reward and to continue the habit (that’s a tip if you decide to reward yourself for a goal…make the reward something that compliments the outcome, not contradicts it). I’ll be honest, I nixed my 20-minute initial requirement, because I decided the more important part was just reading every night, not the length of time. Sometimes I would just read a couple pages and turn out the light. My bedtime routine did not magically transform into a screen-free hour of zen, but even if it was only 5-10 minutes, it felt good to not have my phone be the last thing I looked at before going to sleep. I also switched from music to podcasts on my daily commutes to and from campus, and I actually really enjoy my 8am class days for the most part.

But we’re really here to talk about February. This month started with good intentions. At first I kind of carried over the reading habit, but then I tried transitioning to the 10 minutes of prayer/meditation I had planned. I had a few days with more intentional prayer than I had done in a while, a few days where I really needed it. But like I said, February is often a slump month for me, and I slid into that foggy valley before I even realized it. And I always really need more prayer and true moments of stillness in my life. But this month I just failed at committing to it. And that’s okay.

Do I think my month would have gone better if I had successfully committed to this habit? Of course. That’s why I wanted to do it. But I’m getting gradually better at owning up to failures, big or tiny, and embracing the lessons from them. I know there are a lot of things I could have done better this month. I let my time management slide, did things more last minute, made excuses for myself, and allowed more laziness and distraction. But I also tried to give myself grace this month, because I recognized that I needed it a little more than I did last month. In the past, I would have continued to procrastinate and spiral in a domino effect over guilt of getting behind, but now, I let the past be past and try to focus on just getting back on top of things in the present. I always want to be striving to do better, but continually succeeding in anything is a hard expectation to sustain.

With these 30-day challenges, I wanted to embrace the inherent fresh-start of each new month, and I also wanted to embrace the inevitable failures that would come with my dozen mini-resolutions this year. I’m still thinking over what I want to commit to in March, but I’m hoping I can harness some post-slump motivation to climb up the next hill and be in a good place at the top for April. Every day is a new chance to start again. And hey, it’s Leap Day, so we even got a special bonus chance this year. 😉