It’s been cold here. Snowy, rainy, foggy, and cold. Well, cold for New Mexico. I think I might have been wishing for Spring when I painted Birch Trees in Spring. OK, in the spirit of full disclosure, I was actually begging for Spring! Winter has just gotten started and I am already over it. I miss the sun!
I usually enjoy winter more. I like fires and hot cocoa. I like building snowmen and wearing scarves and hats. The thing I struggle with is an overcast sky. A few days without sun and I start to feel blah. The sun is energizing. I’m pretty sure that is why I am much happier living in New Mexico during the winter than I ever was living back East during the winter. We rarely have days without sun in New Mexico. I I am hoping we don’t have too many more stretches of sunless days this winter. If we do, I might just go into hibernation.
Doesn’t hibernation sound nice? A warm spot to take a nice, long nap? Not to mention we would be able to stuff our stomachs with delicious foods for weeks in preparation. I am ready to sign up for that, aren’t you?
I guess I will just have to satisfy my hibernating urges with Sunday dinner, a blanket, and a short, often interrupted, nap on the couch. That doesn’t sound so bad. Plus, I see sun today so things are looking up.
Have you ever woken up in the morning and looked out the window to see that everything was frozen? Doesn’t it look magical? The ice coating the trees so they sparkle during sunrise is a pretty gorgeous thing to see. Of course, you have to be up for sunrise to catch a glimpse of it before it melts!
I was thinking about what it feels like to be frozen this morning. Not frozen as in cold, but frozen as in “I don’t know which way to move next.” I felt that kind of frozen this morning. I realized I was overwhelmed because I was trying to hold onto several things in my mind at the same time. My to-do list was so big I wasn’t able to prioritize. There are times when everything seems really important so you can’t decide what to do first. Sometimes you have a big worry or something happening in a few days that you are nervous about and the worry and the dread get in your way of consciously and intentionally taking steps forward in other areas of your life. Feeling frozen can be very uncomfortable. You see time passing by, but you are so out of the moment that you aren’t actually participating in your own life.
I think that frozen feeling can be a good thing as long as you acknowledge it. It’s a wake up call that you need to make some adjustments in your life. Everything is paused so you can push the reset button. If you take advantage of the moment you can stop and look around and decide to change your behavior and give yourself some relief.
To get the to-do list out of my head I often write it all down. That way I can visually prioritize what to do and when. Some of those things on my list might not be as important as I thought they were so I can let them go. Sometimes just writing them down means I can stop trying to remember them. I can just check the list to see how I am doing. This frees up some mental space. I think of my brain as a computer. It runs more efficiently when it isn’t bogged down with too many things to remember at the same time.
Writing down your worries can have a similar affect. I’ve often heard people say, “Let go and let God,” but I never fully understood how a person was supposed to do that. I’d tell myself to stop worrying, but the worries would still be there. Writing the worries down is about as close as I can get to letting them go. When I write them down I can get a better sense about what I actually have control over and what I don’t. This helps sometimes because then I can remind myself that whatever will be will be. When the worry starts to creep in I just sing that song, “Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)” in my head to distract myself. Another song that works is “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. For some reason singing really helps me set the worry aside, especially when I am worrying about something I have absolutely no control over. Sometimes writing something down gives me a new perspective on it too. I might find the humor in it or see it as a small moment in a big life. Sometimes I even discover that there really isn’t anything to worry about at all.
I’m imperfect so I’m never completely worry free and I have to consciously redirect my thoughts or sit down and write to get past that frozen feeling. That is easier said than done sometimes. If I am tired, hungry, or feeling bad it’s always harder to do. I think that is why it is so important to notice that frozen feeling when it starts creeping in. That way you can address it before you slide down the slope and find your self obsessing, ruminating, and watching too much TV instead of working toward your goals and getting things done. When my brain is trying to hold onto the to-do list and the worries and I’m overwhelmed I feel like the Tasmanian Devil from the old Looney Tunes cartoons. I am sort of spinning and bumping into things, but I’m not really going anywhere. I’m not moving forward. I’m not fully present in my own life.
What strategies are you using to get “unstuck” or to be more present in your life?
When I was a kid there was a pond down the road from where I lived and it had this very tall grass all around it. My friends and I would create a path through the grass to get to the water. We liked to scare each other about the snakes that would skim along the top of the pond. I’m pretty sure that was the main reason we made the trek to the water and then spent hours clearing a path to it. The snakes were small, but they still made us scream with nervous laughter. We could had fun doing almost nothing back in those days.
Small unkempt ponds are pretty fascinating places to watch wildlife. There are always bugs and birds and wild plants covering every available space. We spent hours staring into the water watching tadpoles grow legs, watching those funny bugs that float on top of the water, and hoping to see a fish. I am sure my friends and I were not supposed to be there, but these were the days when kids roamed the neighborhood and only showed up at home for mealtimes, or when the sun went down. Our parents were content to let us get into some mischief as long as we were outside and not inside driving them crazy.
I think back on some of my fondest memories and they often include being in a place where I technically wasn’t supposed to be. Or at least in a place nobody knew I was visiting. We explored the woods behind our neighbors houses, nearby ponds, old cemeteries, and even some abandoned campsites likely created by a few homeless people. These places always fascinated me. There would be half-rotted clothes hanging from trees and old cans. I always felt like an explorer even though I was probably within a mile of my house. We once found a deers antler. It was like we had discovered a treasure chest filled with gold.
Sometimes when I am painting with alcohol inks these memories come back to me. I find myself putting a little piece of my life story into a painting. I guess that it is a way to give my experiences meaning and to remind me of where I come from.