• Seasonal Living, Simply Slow

    Permission for a Slow January

    17 January, 2019

    Happy new year!

    We’re nearly three weeks in now, but somehow I’m only just beginning to feel ready for 2019. I’ve been struggling with the mismatch between January’s flurry of goals and resolutions and winter’s call to hibernate, and it’s left me feeling a bit stuck in the middle: full of ideas, yet lacking in focus and energy. It’s always difficult to ease back into real life after that blissful Christmas haze of not even knowing what day it is, but this year the feeling runs deeper than that for me – it’s a fundamental sense that now is not the time for outward advances, but for inward reflection.

    I’ve been inspired and influenced by the seasons for as long as I can remember. Throughout my childhood the back porch of my parents’ house was filled with endless baskets of foraged treasures; a constant reflection of nature’s changing bounty. I’ve always found comfort in the cyclical pattern of the seasons, too – the predictable shifts in weather, clothing, food and activities. Despite this deep-rooted affinity, though, it’s only really within the last year that I’ve come to see how seasonality can be applied to work; how we can, and should, design our working year around the ebb and flow of the natural world rather than the numbers on a calendar.

    It makes total sense when you think about it: of course we should shape our lives around what’s going on outside. And yet we humans have a tendency to falsely believe we’re somehow separate from our environment rather than part of it – that our brains and technology elevate us to a level of superiority that enables us to exist outside of nature’s reach. Well, so much for intelligence. Because while we carry on with business as usual through the cold and darkness of the winter months, most other living things are withdrawing and resting, ready to start anew in the spring.

    I used to be the kind of person who was raring to go on the first day of January, with new stationery and shiny big plans, and I’ve realised that my inner struggle of the past few weeks stems from not knowing how to align that side of myself with the side that now recognises the need to go slower than ever at this time of year. While I still have plans and the stationery has now been ordered, albeit later than usual, I no longer feel that new year spark. But instead of accepting that change, I’ve been berating myself for my lack of clarity and drive – thinking it must mean I’m inherently lazy or that my ideas are no good – when I should be treating myself with kindness and allowing my thoughts to form in their own time.

    I’ve been reading Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig, alongside re-reading Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slow, and both authors touch upon our society’s culture of speed. Everything around us encourages hurry, from fast food chains to the frequency of social media updates – even our dog rushes me out of the house in the morning by whining constantly until I take him for a walk, no matter how early it is. With that in mind it’s easy to see how we end up thinking of time as a luxury we can’t afford; pushing on with our work regardless of how we may feel or what season it is, or perhaps without even noticing these things at all.

    So this is my invitation to you to take a deep breath, and stop. To consider the fact that, yes, it’s the start of a new calendar year, but that’s just an arbitrary date. You don’t have to launch any of those projects you’ve been planning if you’re not ready, and you certainly don’t have to launch them all at once. Give yourself permission to lean into winter, and into your needs. Go at your own pace. Follow your own path.

    As I write this there are still a handful of stray pine needles under my desk (otherwise known as the dining table), reminding me that Christmas hasn’t long passed and the whole year stretches ahead. There are no rules to say things only happen if they’re done in January. The other eleven months count, too.

    Here’s to slow starts.


    (Unrelated photos from a recent trip to the Peak District)

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