This winter has been difficult, perhaps more so than I had anticipated, the result of a combination of winter blues, too much political news and the “endless endlessness” of an ongoing pandemic.
I’ve heard from many friends and acquaintances who have felt slower, more tired, sad, less creative during these past winter months. Part of that is the nature of winter, a time when our bodies crave hibernation. But there has been something deeper at play too, the weight of the last 12 months, this feeling of endlessness.
As an antidote to that, I have been working at reminding myself of the cyclical nature of our lives.
We are surrounded by cycles. A calendar marks a cycle. We track our movements from one month to the next, all of them adding up into a full year before we start over again. The seasons are a cycle. We’re slowly watching winter change into spring and the days growing longer. A day is a cycle, a chance for renewal every time we wake up in the morning.
These cycles are the most constant thing in the natural world, taking place above us, beneath us, around us. It’s easy to forget they take place within us too. It’s even more difficult to recognize a cycle when things feel static, which is exactly the feeling the last 12 months have left us with.
But if we can acknowledge the cycle then we can remember that this too will change.
On a chart, a cycle is a succession of waves. Up and down, up and down, one after another. The upper parts of a wave in this cycle, the “crest,” are often the easier ones. These are the times when we feel inspired, fueled, passionate, committed. It’s the low parts, the “trough,” that can be a bit tougher to get through.
How do we carry ourselves through these low moments? We need everyday investments in our wellbeing. We need rituals that keep us grounded, give our lives structure. We need to create pockets of joy.
As a writer and an artist, over the last year I have found that the best thing I can do for myself creatively is to commit to small, daily acts to stay active and present, even in the lowest moments.
Whether creativity is your outlet or not, we can all focus on identifying our own cycle. If it’s helpful, start to jot down notes every day on how you feel. If you pay attention long enough, you will start to notice the cycles. This will help to give you more awareness next time you’re in a lull, an ability to say to yourself, with a little more confidence: “this too will change.”
Because while those low moments can at times feel intolerable, it is thanks to the cycle that we grow, shaped by the ups and downs of the waves that we encounter along the way. As Katherine May writes in the book “Wintering,” “We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.”
I have swum in the saltwater every single day since Dec. 1, another regular routine that has become essential for maintaining balance. Every day the water is different, the sky is different, the temperature is different. Change is constant.
On Monday morning last month, the tide was higher than I had ever seen it. After I had come out of the water, showered, dressed in several layers of wool, and started to warm back up again, I checked a tide chart. There it was, clearly marked: one of the highest tides of the month.
There is something reassuring looking at a tide chart, the ups and downs clearly marked, constant, yet still shifting. There they are, the crests and troughs of a daily cycle that is part of a monthly cycle, that is part of a yearly cycle, that is part of a cycle on a timescale bigger than we can comprehend.
It is a visual reminder that even an endless endlessness will eventually have an end, evolving into the next chapter. The best that we can do for ourselves is to embrace this cyclical nature, work with it instead of against it.
Because the thing about a cycle is that it doesn’t stop; it keeps going. And so do we.
Anna Brones is a writer and artist who lives in Vaughn.
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