Dark Days of Winter by Cinda Stevens Lonsway

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Dark Days of Winter
by Cinda Stevens Lonsway
Written for Wild Sister Magazine
February ‘12 Issue

Does this time of year send you in a tailspin of depression, fear and anxiety?  Do you dread the short days, the ‘can’t go outside’ days, these cold and wet days?  OR do you embrace this time of year, as if you are an animal headed into hibernation?  Glorious days of doing nothing, except maybe sitting under a blanket, reading, watching movies, drinking coffee/hot coco/a glass of wine?

When asked what my favorite time of year is, I have always answered Winter.  And usually my answer solicits responses of disbelief; the usual answer I have found is Spring and Autumn, because the visuals are so apparent and lovely. Winter on the other hand, is bare and dark and lonely and depressing.  But not to me.

I am sincere with my answer, I LOVE WINTER!!!  I embrace it when it arrives and I look forward to it all Fall!!!  To me, I am that animal, ready to crawl inside my cave, draw the drapes, pull up a blanket, and settle in for a long winter’s night.  Because Winter is where I get reborn, regrown, rejuvenated, and restored.

But I think I am rare in my desire, because it seems that so many of my peers, dread this time of year.  So I began to wonder, why we fear, dread that which is so good for us?  To me there is nothing healthier than down time, a time to go within and contemplate a new beginning.  When the whole world slows down so nothing extreme is expected out of us.  When I allow myself to be in the same cycle of nature, I am no longer fighting an unseen force, and life flows so smoothly, so comfortably, and yes, gloriously.

Here is my winter routine, and I have learned to embrace this about me.  I have also found that it is helpful to make my friends aware of it, so they don’t take it personally.

I wake up, and stay in my pajamas while I cook a hearty meal and get my kids off to school.  I try to avoid carbs for me, but fill up on protein and veggies instead, so I don’t feel like a slug.  Once alone, I pick up my house, clutter is not a healthy thing to be surrounded by.  Then I will either bathe in a hot salt water bath, listening to a meditation CD or just sit quietly.  I get dressed in sweater s and jeans or just comfortable sweats.  I put on minimal makeup and move to the couch next to the fireplace.  This is the time of year when I am on the lookout for books that run in a series – one year it was the Twilight Saga, another was the Hunger Games Trilogy, and this year I am rereading The Outlander series.  This takes me away to another place and time; I usually fall asleep for a bit, and travel in my dreams.

A light lunch of warmed soup in a mug and toast, while I watch taped shows or feel good chick flicks on TV , DVR, or DVD.  The entire time, I allow my body to slow way down, I am constantly aware of the beauty and grace of this feeling as I sink deeper into my couch, into the storyline of the movie or book, and I may even nap again.  I may pull out my laptop or my iPad and write inspiration as it comes to me, I may even journal, but usually I sit and become one with the couch and mug.

For those who work outside of the home, and feel the constant grind of having to move through the dark days, I would ask that you find the time to sit and be still.  Either on a weekend or before you head out to your day or after you get home.  Allowing yourself the luxury of doing nothing.

The luxury of doing nothing is really hard for some.  I know from experience that there is a silent fear that if we stop, we will have trouble starting up again, and I am here to tell you that THAT is not true.  By allowing yourself the luxury of doing nothing, you are allowing your body to heal, rest and recover from constant and exhausting doing all the time.  If we follow nature’s lead that Winter is the time to slough off the old in preparation for the new, and cover ourselves up with leaves of blankets, and soak up the warmth in our bellies, and hunker down, slow down, rest, we will come out the other side with a new energy for a new beginning.

A friend once called this kind of transition in her life being like “bug juice” – that in between stage of being a caterpillar and turning into a butterfly.   When we are settling in for Winter, we could visualize ourselves going through this transformation of caterpillar to cocoon.  Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar has turned into bug juice, changing drastically who it once was.  It is in this form of transformation and darkness, when the bug gets to decide what it wants to become.  Nature, for a bug, has a plan, but we as humans get a say as to what it is we want to be transformed into.   Winter gives us this rare opportunity once a year, to invest in our future.  To allow the bug juice of our being to become all that it is meant to be for this New Year.  The butterfly of our life, which is waiting to be born, cannot happen unless we allow this transformation to happen.  This transformation cannot happen unless we give it space and time to occur.  Winter is that space and that time.  Winter is where we go within, cocoon in our homes, in the car to work, in the quite spaces we create.  Winter is where we slow so far down so we can have the energy to rev back up.

Do not fear that you won’t come back to life, or turn into that butterfly, you will, nature will not allow you to remain in this constant state of bug juice.  But not allowing this time of transformation, or fighting it, and most certainly fearing it, will prevent your true and full transformation and growth to happen.  But warning, being bug juice is like being in a fog.  You may find conversations hard and maybe even exhausting.  You may have no desire to leave your house, or get dressed, or get out of bed….  I would ask that you give yourself a day of doing just what it is your body is craving.  Ask others to pick up the kids, or call in sick, and try not to justify it, just feel it, luxuriate in it, give yourself permission to sink into yourself, into Winter for one day, maybe two.  Then get up, take that shower, or that salt bath, and embrace the fresh air outside and notice how much you resemble the outside – bare yet beautiful, boring yet stimulating, cold yet lit and warm underneath the surface.

As the bug juice starts to form we will feel it, we will know when the time comes to break out of our shell and embrace the new day, the dawn of a New Year, the beginning of our Spring.  The bud of our existence is ready to bloom new.  But again, we cannot, and I will venture to say we SHOULD not, begin this new journey without the embrace of Winter and all she has to teach us.  Winter teaches us how to evolve into who we are truly meant to be in all our greatness, in all our glorious colors, and to spread our wings and fly towards the sun.

There is no better way to get to know yourself, to feel what needs to be felt, to rest, recover and give birth to the you you will need to be for the months ahead, until it is time to hunker down and rest again.  Consider Winter as something to look forward to, a luxury so seldom allowed, a chance to follow the cycles of nature and become one with the flow of all life. For the light will always return.

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Photos taken by Virginia Stanton on her property 

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