The new year has come in like a...well, like a Polar Vortex, really.
January is its own special kind of vortex for me - it always has been. I get completely drawn in to the idea that we have an entirely fresh start, but then get looking at the list of things that did not get accomplished last year or how I'm not where I thought I might be, and I start to spin. Add to that, the perpetual, deep cloud cover here in the south end of the valley, the low fog, the long hours of low light, even with the growing sun, and things begin to slide sideways in my happy little existence.
This is when I'm glad that I have more than just small bottles of booze in my toolbox.
In the old days, before magic found me, I spent long hours hiding in my house, cursing the weather beyond my window. I used to sniffle my way through really bad romantic comedies, all the while telling myself that if that girl could change her life (in two hours, with an amazing make-up crew, and the super-cute boy next door, who we're supposed to believe she never noticed before,) then so could I, dammit!
The thing is, there is rarely a Mark Darcy standing around waiting to tell you that he likes you "just as you are." Instead, in January, there are multitudes of people telling you "here's how you can change everything about yourself so people will like you - for just $49.99 a month!" In this first week of the year, I've stopped counting at 30 emails from people/companies wanting to sell me some way to make my life better.
For the record, I'm not opposed to self-improvement via courses, gym memberships, weight-loss programs, or salsa lessons. If you are the type of person that wants/needs structure, accountability, group or partnered plans of attack to work toward your goals, then I'd say absolutely - check out some classes/memberships and see what fits. What I'm opposed to, is the timing and volume of the ads, and the general feeling running through many of them that you aren't okay unless you sign up for their version of improvement, and that 2014 might just be the 9th circle of hell for you if you don't sign up immediately.
What I'm looking for this time of year is not another reminder of how I don't measure up, but a good scrubbing of everything that isn't making me feel good - including the "only we can help you like yourself more" emails.
The first thing I do is hit "delete" - repeatedly.
After that, I turn to my own body and check in. Your body can tell you everything you need to know. Unless you've been ignoring it for years and then, you've got some catching up to do. Your body will tell you what it wants more of (chocolate seems like the right answer, but in this case it's probably not.) Water, sleep, meditation, movement, protein, laughter, sex - the answers are there. Personal trainers are great, but you have the capacity and the know-how to design your own destiny.
I trace back any uneasy feelings to their source, by continuing to ask "where is this coming from?" Then I pull out my toolkit. I take baths, annoint myself with oils, meditate, speak with my ancestors/gods/guides, do some sympathetic magic for what I'm after (even if it's simply to feel better or lessen my winter blues,) and then decide on a practical plan of attack. It's not a quick fix. The meditation, bath and some good digging into what is going on in my mad little brain, can be pretty instant relief. But for a longer than an evening session of anxiety-easing or life-changing, you've got to follow up with some action.
Kick the winter blues to the curb.* Burn the weight-loss program ads in the fireplace. Ask your body what it wants, and listen. Then do the work yourself, kindly and introspectively at first, then with a good handful of magic, then bust some actual ass - on your terms.
- Some info on spiritual cleansing from the fabulous Bri Sassy: "So Fresh and So Clean.."
- An in-depth post on candle work from Candlesmoke Chapel: "Putting The Work In..."
- A wonderful list of items you can use for magical aid, right in your cupboard, by Sarah Anne Lawless: "Pantry Folk Magic..."
*I am, of course, speaking of low-level "blues" here and not suggesting that those with serious depression or anxiety can just wash it away with a bath. Please see a health care professional for any severe issues.