As the first snow began to fall outside our small-town home outside Bloomington, I thought to myself “how lovely it was to see everything so delicately blanketed in white” and simultaneously though, “here it comes”. The 6-month season Midwesterners know as winter was once again tapping at the door.
It would seem that connecting with others and the winter months are synonymous at first. After all, no matter what you celebrate, it is often a time for folks to get together, usually around a table of tasty food, and to be in community with one and other.
However, the connection with others that I often feel sapped of in the winter months is outside of the confines of what many folks consider the obligatory appearances of the holidays.
The connection I yearn for this time of year, I think requires more stillness, less anxious anticipation, and a quieter sense of being with those who we are living life beside and ourselves.
Winter feels like this time where I may have gotten the chance to see every aunt and cousin that I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with in some time…but somewhere along the way I feel like I missed out on holding hands with my spouse or taking in seeing my kiddos frolic in the snow.
So how do we do it? How do we connect more during a season that calls us to stillness, reflection, and the warmth of affection?
I think first we need to give serious pause and reflection when we feel that gnawing pang in our stomach before a gathering that makes getting ourselves out the door akin to pulling teeth.
If you are dreading an event or gathering because of the toxicity of the environment, one or more of the people there, or just because you haven’t had a moment of breath in a day, a week, or a year yourself…don’t go.
I know that is potentially WAY easier said than done, but at the end of the day IF you can make peace with the fact that someone might have negative feelings or comments about your lack of attendance and that those feelings and comments mean nothing about you as a person, you truly don’t have to go anywhere that isn’t life giving.
I adore my family, immediate and extended, but there have been seasons where I intentionally didn’t go to certain events and it gave me more energy to enjoy the ones I did attend.
Second, I think we need to carve out intentional time for connection during these months that isn’t obligatory, if anything to highlight the obligatory things that are weighing down our happiness.
Maybe you decide to attend a yoga class, maybe you go to dinner and a movie by yourself, maybe you take your partner or spouse back to a spot where you had one of your earliest dates together and reflect on how far you’ve come. There are so many ways to connect because you want to, not because you have to.
I find that in Savasana at the end of my personal practice or if I’m in a class, my truest desires about what I want for the season I’m in and what I definitely don’t want become shockingly clear.
It takes practice to get deeply quiet and listen to your heart. But once you’ve breathed true breath into those spaces within, it becomes easier to see what’s serving you deeply and what’s taking something away from how you experience each moment day to day.
Finally, I think we need to be daring when it comes to those obligatory events about how we approach them. When I say daring, I don’t mean showing up to the company holiday party with a face tattoo (though kudos to you if that’s your style!).
I mean daring to do things like set healthy boundaries around conversation topics, inquiries, and unsolicited advice. I find it helpful to write these sorts of things down or share them with my partner or a trusted friend.
For instance, if you have a family member who tends to like to ask you why you’re not coupled up with someone yet and providing your family 100 babies to love on, set a boundary before that you think is reasonable. Perhaps, “When Aunt Ethel prods me about my relationship status, I’m going to start talking about all the wonderful progress I’ve made at work this year”…or even more daring, “When Aunt Ethel prods me about my relationship status, I’m going to thank her for her charming curiosity but let her know that it’s not really a topic I have a desire to discuss and smoothly make my way to the table where all the cheese and pie is. Once I’ve reached that table, I’m going to take three deep breaths and remind myself what an utter badass I am”.
It’s my firm belief that when we set healthy boundaries for ourselves and seek out means of connection that our hearts crave, the winter doesn’t have to feel so incredibly long. It can be a season of rest, reflection, and rejuvenation.
It’s okay to give yourself permission to be exactly who you are and connect and love exactly in the ways that feel right and healthy.
Whether yoga, a good book, or a long cuddle with the ones you love fireside…I hope you find something comforting and exciting this winter to help you connect more deeply to yourself and the ones you love.