A Time of Lightening—Finding Winter’s Potential
Some people see the winter as an endless stretch of dark and misery. For me? It’s a time to get the creative projects cranking, and see everything as bright. All it takes is a little shift in perspective.
I don’t let the winter get me down. I can think of a million reasons to be miserable—the dark, the biting wind, the bleak landscape, the constant threat of catching the current cold being passed around—but none of them stand up to the undiluted joy the season distills within me.
I find myself drunk on the beauty and the light and the feeling. And the core of it can be summed up in a single word:
The beginning of a long winter reminds me: anything is possible.
I’m thankful for this perspective, but I didn’t always feel this way …
5 Months of Misery
I can recall at least one winter when I wasn’t so cheery. I was seventeen and everything was in flux. I’d just started my coming-out process, and as I entered into my last semester of high school, everything felt upside down. I was busy completing college applications, balancing my competitive swimming career (I ended up axing it after nine years), and generally trying to figure out who I was and where I fit into the world.
Oh, and I had my first boyfriend—sort of. He lived in a little town outside Aspen (a five-hour drive), and our relationship consisted mostly of long phone calls paid for with calling cards, and lengthy AOL Instant Messenger chat transcripts.
When we’d speak (what we had to speak about I couldn’t even tell you) everything felt bright and cheery and like I didn’t have a mountain of shit to figure out. Then we’d get off the phone, and I’d look out the window at the bleak, grey skies and hear the brutal wind rattling the glass, and, well …
I was in a period of change—of intense personal growth—and the season offered no support. I yearned for the spring—to see the crocuses and then the tulips, rising up from the frozen ground, flourishing, and ultimately blossoming as I hoped to do. And this was January. There was so long to go.
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Revenge is better with a side of bacon. . .
My spirit chilled until I was even more bitter than the wind.
I confided in my mother time and again that I was absolutely miserable. Winter was awful, and cruel, and I was so desperate to see something green.
She put up with it for a few weeks before she’d had enough.
“Winter happens,” she said. “If you’re going to be miserable five months out of the year because nothing is green, you’d better figure out somewhere else to live. That’s a lot of wasted time. But since you don’t have a choice right now, I suggest you shift your perspective.”
The admonishment was blunt and true, and even through the haze of my adolescent angst, I could see she was right. Would I really have felt any better if I’d been going through whatever it was I was going through in the spring? In the summer?
I took her words to heart and did my best to find a little beauty and solace in the season.
Of course, it didn’t stop me from comparing our “love” to the vibrant green of the dracaena fragrans (corn plant) growing in the window of the coffee shop where I took the aforementioned first boyfriend when he was finally able to visit a month later. It was snowing that day, and the contrast between the tropical foliage and the brutal grey-white of the world outside spoke to me.
I’m not sure it spoke to him the same way. That metaphor was probably the beginning of the end, and, in the end, that was all for the best.
Eventually, winter turned to spring, my broken heart healed, and I started to find my footing.
A Shift in Perspective
By the time the following winter rolled around, I was in a very different place. I was living in a little split level on the other side of town, and had put off school to pursue my dreams of being a songwriter.
You can see how well that worked out.
Regardless, that winter provided me with the foundation for my enduring outlook on the season.
See, I moved out of my parents’ house in the height of summer, and it took most of the fall to really get settled into my routine of working full-time and adulting (I’d never have imagined that being an actual term back then) to the best of my ability. So January rolled around and it was time to get cranking. And I realized …
There was no more perfect time for it.
It was cold out. It was terrible. The pleasures of other seasons might have lured me away from the keyboard—mountain hikes, bike rides along the river, picnics in the park. Even the idea of bundling up, getting in a cold car, and driving to a friend’s house to hang out seemed like a monumental effort. Sometimes it was easier to just … stay in and write.
And so, on nights spent alone, I’d look out the window at the stale orange sky—a sky I knew meant snow was imminent—and exhale long and slow, struck by the beauty of it.
Then I’d write. That winter forged a lot of beautiful music, and I learned that, for the creative mind, above all, the winter is …
A Time for Industry
I’ve come to view the period of the year from January through the beginning of May as a sort of blank page. It’s an empty notebook, or a new computer. It’s a canvas begging for paint. It’s a stretch of time uninterrupted by holidays or vacations. It’s the one time of year it’s totally acceptable to stay inside, shut the world out, and just be productive.
For myself, that means writing—a lot. For others, however, it could be anything. A time to read, a time to cook, a time to binge-watch all the awesome TV you’ve been meaning to get to. A time for home projects, or a time to focus on reconnecting with family.
It’s a period of unbridled, uninterrupted potential. A time to focus.
Do you really think you’re going to tackle that paint job some Saturday in the summer, when you could be out on the trails instead?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Winter is a time of …
Potential Waiting to be Realized
Perhaps you don’t want to be industrious. Perhaps you’re still stuck on the cold and the dark and that incessant, bitter wind.
Then let me remind you … Winter is a time of lightening. Every day is longer than the one that came before. Every moment is a step closer to the warmth and brilliance of the spring and summer to come.
Winter is potential waiting to be realized—inside ourselves and in the world outside. It’s a necessary period of incubation, of hibernation, of introspection and subtle expression. So if you can’t embrace the industry of the season, perhaps you can at least gaze out the window and daydream about all that winter makes possible.
Because without winter, there would be no spring. So for you, holding onto even a single reservation regarding the season, perhaps the beauty exists in the anticipation.
And I feel that too; of course I do. Just don’t mind if I’m too busy getting drunk on the promise of potential to mention it.
I’m going to see if I can realize some.
Share your thoughts! Do you see winter as a time of potential and industry, or does it just get you down? How do you pass the short days and long nights? Is there anything you’re dying to get done before the weather warms up? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks as always for reading, and Happy New Year!