Last fall, I wrote about winter. I wrote as a reminder that some things which are uncomfortable and inconvenient, or downright difficult, are things I should embrace rather than run away from.
I wrote as a reminder not for fall, but for now, in February. My least favorite month of the year, when the cold has worn me down and it’s not quite time yet to expect spring. Whoever decided this was the best time of the year to create a holiday shaming and pitying those uncoupled was a sadist of the highest order. Traditionally, I hate February. This February, winter has broken cold records and kept my city and its people firmly in its icy grip.
This is the time for a pep talk.
Because it’s still true that this is something to embrace, not run away from. Not only because I don’t have much of a choice, practically, but because, well, this is life. The little decisions I make every moment about how I react to life cumulates to determine how I’m going to react in the big decisions. The spirit I take with me out the door in the morning in subzero temperatures strengthens the muscle I need to respond to a true crisis or opportunity; likewise, staying inside and avoiding the discomfort causes entropy, and leaves me both unprepared and uninspired.
I’ve started early morning walks again, like I do in warm weather. It’s brutal at first. I have to armor myself against the cold like a knight going into battle. I am going into battle. I’m battling against my own apathy and fear, albeit on a very small scale. It’s practice. It’s training. But I have yet to return from a walk or jog I didn’t initially feel like doing not completely awake, energized and motivated for the rest of the day.
I’ve learned over the years that it’s ten times harder to face and fix my self-sabotaging internal habits than it is to distance myself from the unnecessarily harmful external factors. And it’s ten times harder than that to accurately distinguish between the two. Rationalization and self-delusion are powerful tools, and there is a line as thin as a razor blade, and just as dangerous when misused, between what suits us and what constricts us.
So, I’ve adopted these guidelines. Stay with the people who challenge you to be better. Go into the situations that expect more of you. Pay attention to the little reactions and decisions, and mold them. Choose discomfort in deliberate ways and doses. Choose earning pride rather than convenience. Want more from your life than merely being comfortable in it. And remember that those who don’t push themselves through depths of winter will never have any idea what heights of pure, profound, transformative joy there are in spring.