After what was definitely our busiest holiday season ever, I was congratulating myself for juggling all the things and pulling off a happy, connected Christmas for our family. Then, I caught the flu. We had driven to Central Oregon to attend a family Christmas party and the combination of being super burnt out, and coming into contact with a family member who was recovering from the flu, and WHAMMO – I was sick. Then my husband caught the flu. Then our 10-year-old caught the flu. Then our 6-year-old caught the flu. Then our 3-year-old… you get the picture. It was awful.
I can’t remember a time when I felt worse, other than the early weeks of all three of my pregnancies. I was upset that this was how we were spending my husband’s vacation time. Thankfully our kids rebounded quickly, but I was hit really hard and even after the flu symptoms cleared, I was struggling with intense fatigue for weeks afterward.
Before Christmas, I had decided to take a break from social media and as the flu dragged on, I felt more and more unplugged from the world. Initially, I felt really isolated and lonely. But as I recovered from the illness and my energy returned, I started feeling like the flu had been a bit of a gift.
I read a 600-page novel. I cleaned and re-organized my bedroom. I read another novel. I ordered myself a grown-up planner. I dove into teaching my 10-year-old a Norse Myths block even though I felt woefully unprepared (that time I spent in bed with the flu was the time I was supposed to spent planning that block). I embraced completely frivolous pursuits like watching makeup tutorials and capsule wardrobe videos on YouTube. We booked tickets to take our kids back to Europe this spring.
When I freed up all of the mental space I had been dedicating to thinking about how to present my life online, which, embarrassingly, turned out to be a lot of mental space, I found myself with an abundance of creativity and an appetite for doing things that fill me up in a really meaningful way.
I have found that January and February are always the hardest months for me as a homeschooler and stay-at-home mom. Cabin fever sets in, illness circulating between five people can feel super overwhelming and my body and spirit are yearning for the warmth and expansiveness of summer. But this was by far our best winter ever. I am coming out of February feeling really content and confident in our home life and what we’ve accomplished academically in the past two months.
It turns out that there is profound wisdom in the instinct to hibernate over the winter. Even though we aren’t bears and we can’t sleep for six months out of the year (sometimes I wish!), we do need to give ourselves permission to pull back and get quiet during these darker months. I have been a big fan of living seasonally since becoming a mother, but I have never embraced winter more fully than I did this year. And part of that has been stepping back from my public life (which includes my online life) and tending to my inner life with rest, books, tea and cultivating the relationships under my roof.
I’m not ready to let go of this quiet season quite yet, and am hoping to hang onto it through Lent, which is a beautiful time for contemplation and growth. My intention for Lent is to focus on gratitude. I’ve recently read two lovely pieces about gratitude and looking for beauty in the everyday, and thought I’d share them here:
Delight by Katrina Kenison
One Tiny Beautiful Thing by Margaret Renki
I hope these thoughts encourage you, if you’re searching for peace and calm in the chaos. I’m there with you.