Spring Cleaning in Winter
Winter gets a bad rap, it’s the least loved of all the seasons because it’s often associated with death, endings and isolation. There’s no mistaking that winter does have a certain air of bleakness about it. However, I’ve always held a real appreciation for this season for one particular reason.
Let me take you briefly back to summer. How many times did you stop beside a beautiful flower to admire it? How many times did you stop to notice the sweet smell that carries in the air during summer? Did you stand under a canopy of trees, looking up to see how beautiful the sun looks as it shines through them? You didn’t? No, neither did I. We didn’t do that because we didn’t need to, we knew how beautiful the flowers were, how nice the sun felt against our skin and how low the heating bills were. But now, we don’t have it, we reminisce about the longer days when the nights begin to feel eternal. Even the presence of the annoying bees buzzing around are missed. So many things we only truly notice when they’re absent.
What I love most about winter is that it provides the perfect time to reflect and evaluate life, it gives the chance to feel grateful for what we have now instead of always looking into the future. It’s at this time every year, I start to spring clean my life. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I’m not much of a planner, however, each year I thoughtfully plan my objectives for the upcoming year. The dreaded New Year resolution is a must and each year I achieve them. I’m not interested in massive jumps in fortune, getting married in the next three months, winning the lottery or anything so wholly out of my control. Instead I choose stepping stones. A couple of well thought out personal goals that are important to me, that I feel will add value to my life in a positive way. A few years ago, my sole resolution was to have more fun because life had become too serious in a negative way and I needed to redress that balance. Incidentally, I totally smashed that resolution and I have done every year since then! I keep my goals attainable because an unachievable goal is nothing but a poisoned chalice. It’s not that you shouldn’t think big, it’s more about breaking that goal down into bite sized chunks to ensure you can make tangible progress.
As any gardener will tell you, while spring and summer enable you to reap the benefits of your hard work, no flower can bloom eternally, even flowers need time to rest and recuperate. While plants may hibernate, the gardener won’t. They’ll still tend to their flowers in the winter months, keeping the weeds away, checking for hard frosts and doing what they can to protect their plants in the hope that when spring comes they will once again flower. To the untrained eye it may look like the flower is dead but the gardener knows different, they can spot the little signs that the untrained eye misses.
The irony is that sometimes in life we tend more to the weeds than we do the flowers. It’s so easy to become fixated on material aspects, like money or other things that will only ever bring material happiness. Before we know it, we’ve lost track of all the things that were actually important to us. We’ve wasted precious time holding onto the things that promise more than they could ever give. Personally, I’m not materialistic so I don’t hold possessions in high regard, no part of me cares what someone thinks of the things I have. There’s only one thing that scares me and that’s not trying for the things that are important to me.
The following quote from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a beautiful illustration of this exact point.
“I’m not afraid of failing. It’s just that I don’t know how to turn myself into the wind.”
“Well you’ll have to learn; your life depends on it.”
“But what if I can’t?”
“Then you will die in the midst of trying to realise your destiny. That’s a lot better than dying like millions of other people, who never even knew what their destinies were.”
I suppose the reason so many don’t realise their destinies is because life takes over, priorities change and the belief we had in ourselves and our dreams is replaced by practicality and certainty. While it’s easier, it’s rarely satisfying. Like fast food, it provides you with what you need at the time but nothing more. In time, if repeated, it will have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. Yet, so many times convenience is placed above wellbeing even when fully armed with this knowledge. Luckily, I was born with a sense of adventure and a penchant to take the hard road in life, if there is an easy way to do something you can be sure I won’t be doing it! Although, the down side is that I can be so prone to thinking I can gallantly assail any obstacle I can be too slow to give up and let go of bad situations. Whichever side you fall on, getting the right balance can be tricky.
So, while I’ll always miss the summer warmth during these bleak days, I also have a deep appreciation for winter. I enjoy having time when I can slow down, recuperate and start the New Year with well thought out plans to achieve my aspirations. Like the gardener, I clear away the weeds of my past, strip out any negativity that has no purpose and by doing so I make room for new opportunities and beginnings. While I have no control of external factors in my life, I can control how I react and deal with challenges that provide conflict or difficulty. That way I’ll never live in fear of what I can’t control. When I find myself on the wrong side of fear, I force myself to do whatever it is that scares me because in my experience it’s the thought of fear that has the most power, not the fear itself. Even my fear of spiders has improved after I recently forced myself to pick up the little ones by hand instead of with a glass. This year, I’ll be paying particular attention to what I can do to free myself of the last of my fears, however small they may be. This year I seek freedom from the ties that bind me. I already know that many will be of my own making and that’s what really has to change.
Just like each year, this is the time when I start to really feel excited about the upcoming year and all the opportunities it may hold. However, I also feel truly grateful for all the things I’ve managed to achieve this year. While it’s always important to look ahead to the future, it’s also important to never lose sight of what we have in the present because this is the moment that we are living in and if you miss it, nothing can ever bring it back. There is a cute adage that I heard once that says something like ‘it’s called the present because it is a gift”.