I’ve been thinking a lot this winter about life: where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I want to go. Not in the physical sense, but in the “I can do anything I want, so what do I really want?” kind of questions. Winter in the southwest is a good time for that kind of reflection. Everything is quiet, hollowed out, waiting. Me, too.
As I walk through the desert landscape here in New Mexico, I see trees standing tall against the howling wind. Bare branches hide the dormant buds, waiting for the right time to emerge. I’ve been waiting too, listening to my heart, asking questions and writing pages and pages of answers in my journal.
It’s been a difficult few years, and not just because of a global pandemic. Untethered from my long-time identity as a worker bee, as a daughter and caregiver, and emotionally bruised by a lot of things in my past, I’ve struggled to define who I am and what I want to do with my time and energy, my restless mind, my wandering feet.
Slowly, as I write every morning and as I walk every afternoon, the path is becoming clear. Do this, walk away from that. Let that belief go, find a better one. Embrace the uncertainty in the world, and in my own life. Let go of the idea that I can can control much of anything. Learn to go with whatever the days and months and years ahead bring.
I’ve retreated this winter, in more than one sense of the word. I’m focusing on what matters most to me, and it’s not Facebook or photography challenges or keeping up with all the news out there. I’ve thought a lot about why I choose to do something or not do something. My decisions are starting to focus on whether something brings me joy or not (a concept borrowed from Marie Kondo). I’m done with should, with guilt, with doing what other people think is right for me.
I’ve found myself being more calm and centered every day, less prone to anger or frustration when things go wrong (as they inevitably do). I feel like myself, just a better version, one that has aged into a new maturity and wisdom. I’m content with who I am and where I am in my life, and it’s been a long time since I could say that.
I’m not sure where I’m going from here, but, as always, I’m curious to find out.
We must stop believing that these times in our lives are somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower. They are real, and they are asking something of us. We must learn to invite the winter in. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how.
(The book from which this quotation comes, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May, has been a guide and companion on my winter’s journey. I highly recommend it in these difficult times.)