November Wisdom

Ahh November. It’s that time of year when we really start to notice the shortening of the days. When it gets harder to drag myself out of bed in the morning, and I feel my body craving more sleep, more rest. 

When I moved to San Francisco, I had some fantasy that I wouldn’t notice any sort of change in my mood over the winter months, that the ‘winter blues’ I’ve noticed most of my adult life would be a thing of the past. But even here, where I can enjoy the outdoors all year round, I’ve discovered that the changes in daylight still make a huge impact on me. 

I can’t think of any person who doesn’t have some fluctuations in their energy over the course of the year. Who doesn’t notice dips in mood and motivation as the dark sets in, and a sense of renewed hope and possibility each spring? Whether we like it or not, we are part of this natural world, and we are subject to its rhythms.

How much of your energy do you spend resisting this truth? I know for me it’s a ton. I “should” be able to get up at 6am every single weekday, no matter what. I “should” make myself get up and out the door to exercise, even if it’s still dark and cold. I “shouldn’t” need that second tea or coffee in the winter months, and so on, and so on.

What might happen if I simply gave in and let this natural time of hibernation impact my life and my work? How much more rested and ready might I be when the longer days of spring emerge once more?

What might it be like to simply allow myself to fluctuate with the seasons? To know that November-March I’ll need more sleep. That I might even exercise less, allowing myself to prioritize sleep over activity in the mornings? That it might be a season for less socializing and more time spent reading on the couch? That I might even (gasp!) gain a pound or two because not only is my body is craving warmth, but being buried in layers makes me a lot less concerned with how my stomach looks on a given day.

What am I so afraid will happen if I just let go a little bit?

When I look back on my Toronto winters, I see myself eating more pasta and other heavy foods, drinking more wine, and then leaning more and more on that after lunch latte to boost my energy in the afternoons. I see myself sort of dragging my way through the days, only to arrive home exhausted and depleted, and not exactly excited about doing it all over again. I think it’s safe to say that that particular version of me is pretty far from my best self.

So maybe I don’t need to go that far. Maybe there is some middle ground between living in resistance to these seasonal shifts, and completely giving myself over to them and abandoning my goals.

This brings me to my intention for the month: BALANCE.

So what does balance mean to me right now? On one side of the scales, balance means honoring my seasonal shifts in mood and energy. Giving myself a little more permission to stay in on the weekends if I’m not feeling up for a big night, or if I can’t bear to drag myself out of the house after dark. Permission to sleep a little later, to start my days more slowly. Permission to exercise less, or rather to exercise differently, not pushing myself to get out the door if my body really wants rest. Balance means not fearing that something’s wrong with me that I don’t feel the same in the winter as I do on a sunny spring day.

On the other side, balance means being intentional, being aware. It means noticing that shorter days can lead to habits I don’t necessarily want to develop, and being conscious of my choices around caffeine, food, and especially alcohol. It means making sure I’m not isolating myself unnecessarily, and that even if I’m not up for as much socializing as I am in the summer months, that I don’t go into complete hibernation and start backing out of commitments I’m genuinely excited about.

Most importantly, I’m remembering that balance is a dynamic thing. That I will likely never find myself and my life in perfect balance, and that’s okay. Imagine standing on one foot for a second. Or actually do it, just for fun. What do you notice? There are moments of perfect stillness, but then we go right back to recalibrating, shifting this way and that in order to stay upright. We might even be able to stay “in balance” for long periods of time, but rarely are we ever still.

How does this picture of balance inform the way you’ve been talking to yourself lately or thinking about your own life? What are some little adjustments you might need to make to keep yourself aloft as the winter months set in? And what’s one little thing you might be able to let go of this month, in honor of the trees letting go of all their beautiful leaves?

I’m letting go of trying to create the ‘perfect’ morning routine, and instead letting myself feel into what my body and my spirit want each day. I make time for myself each morning, but I’m letting go of some of the rules, and that feels really good. Some days I write first thing, others I play with my spirit cards, and sometimes I just sit and savor my tea as I watch the sky come to life.

Watching the sunrise reminds me that when we tap into the rhythms of the natural world, we get access to so much wisdom. It reminds me that things are never static and still, that we are always in motion. And that just like the trees, those masters of balance and groundedness, we need regular periods of letting go in order for fresh life to emerge once more.

May you let go of whatever is no longer serving you,