It’s beginning to look a lot like January…

Doesn’t quite have the same ring as “Christmas,” eh?

And yet, I like it.

I like beginnings. I like cozy. I like sweaters and warm socks and red wine and hot chocolate. Fires in the fireplace. Heavy blankets on the bed. A long happy hour in a restaurant bar with warm lights and small bites of perfect food and deep conversation with a good friend while rain pelts the windows behind us. (How I spent my early Saturday evening this weekend.) I do miss all the twinkly lights on the houses, but when I was driving to work Monday morning, I told myself that there’s a similar kind of something in the way the car lights illuminate the early morning darkness. Even through a rainy windshield.

On my winter break I did a whole lot of nothing much…
…ate good-tasting food (whenever I wanted to)
…sat around tables (with family and friends)
…read (novels and poetry and books about home improvement and starting a business and preventing burnout and embroidery)
…savored (movies, naps, my son’s face)
…laughed (a lot)
…cried (a little)
…moved slowly (through time and space)

I did the things I had to–cooking and cleaning and exercising–but only as much as I had to. Mostly, I gave myself permission to just be. The days passed swiftly, but there was a languid quality to them. Every afternoon I was startled by how quickly darkness descended and by how little I had to show–in conventional terms–for the day that had passed, but it was fine. It was wonderful, actually.

When the break ended I wasn’t excited to return to work, but I wasn’t unhappy about it, either. It was all good.

I have been thinking about what created the sense of well-being that is remaining even as I’ve returned to the routines that had me feeling so spent before the break: sleep, and rest, and physical movement, and connection with others, and creativity, and meaning. I had all of those in spades for two weeks. It was wonderful.

And you know what? I don’t want to give those up. I know that prioritizing those things just listed can feel selfish or self-indulgent or some other negative thing that begins with “self” (and if I had more time I’d do a deep dive into why we think that and how F’d up that kind of thinking is), but I think I’m a better person when I have those things–kinder, more patient, more fun. So, figuring out how to prioritize having that is a win-win, for both me and those whose orbits collide with mine.

January is a perfect time for doing that. It’s a time for the quiet and contemplative comforts of winter, without the expectation and demands of the holiday season. It’s not as outwardly sparkly, but I’m going to be looking for some inside sparkle. Or making some. I’ve been doing some reading and thinking about how to make that happen, but I don’t have any big answers yet.


My friend Kim told me that she likes reading this blog on Sunday mornings over coffee (see, she already knows what I’m just figuring out about time and how to use it!) and one of my favorite features of my friend Kate’s blog is her Friday Finds, an eclectic and interesting collection of things to read. The offerings below are all, in their own way, connected to the ideas above, and my usual inclination would be to delay hitting publish until I could write some (probably overly long) piece connecting all the dots for you–which would likely mean never sharing them at all, because I’d never quite find the time to do it right and the moment would pass (by which I mean that these particular dots would have been pushed to the bottom of the dot pile in my head by newer dots because the dots never stop coming)–and so I’m going to experiment with just leaving the dots for you to peruse or not, as you see fit. Please let me know if this is something you’d like more of (or not).

The most powerful thing I read this week, about living and dying and marriage and the state of the world. It helped me understand why my own committed relationship (sort of) imploded in the wake of 2016 and really hard personal situations out of my control.

I want to be like Ken when I die. I already shared this on Facebook, but it’s so, so good. As a piece of writing, and as a guidebook for living (and dying).

I want to read and think more about the idea of a secular Sabbath.

This isn’t a read, but it’s about reading. And living. And meaning.

I love this case for blogging, and it’s part of why I’m hitting publish on this post even though it’s not in the state I’d usually want a post to be.

Happy Sunday, all. May you be as good at wintering as my Daisy, who is expert at finding a soft place to land and generally has a pretty good time, which is saying something when your lack of teeth keeps you from being able to keep your tongue inside your mouth.

10 thoughts on “It’s beginning to look a lot like January…

  1. Kim says:

    And here I am again on a Sunday morning reading your thoughts with my coffee. Honored to be mentioned and feeling all the same January feels. I’m hoping we can have one of those conversations with a rain pelting backdrop soon. I’ll be in Portland in February.

  2. Marian says:

    “[S]leep, and rest, and physical movement, and connection with others, and creativity, and meaning” — I think that’s the formula for a life well lived 🙂 . Thank you for publishing this post and reminding me of that. (And I’m so glad to know you had all those things over the holidays.)

    As I’m sure you already know, I, too, want to connect all the dots in my blog posts. So much so that I have more drafts than published posts. I loved the piece you linked to that said “bring back blogs!” I’m currently reading Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism and I think I’m going to try a 30-day digital detox once I’m done reading it, but while I can see myself not going back to FB or IG, I definitely agree with the terribleminds writer regarding the value of long-form blogs.

    The Elizabeth Wurtzel piece…it makes me want to read more of what she wrote. It makes me consider my own mortality. (I was born in ’67 too.) And it also makes my heart ache even more than it already does, given the current state of the world and the happenings of this past week.

    Week 2 of January coming up—I hope you’re able to hold on to your sense of well-being, Rita.
    xo Marian

    • Rita says:

      There were so many things in the Wurtzel piece that resonated for me, but this one paragraph really punched: “Sex and race look different since Trump was elected. We know all the things that we never knew. We were living in a world of trust, we believed we were on a righteous path, that things were incrementally improving, so we did not look so hard into sunlight.”

      Boy, does that feel like me. And it has me wondering how much of the upheaval in my personal life might be connected to just this. Ever since, I think I have felt like I can’t be happy, or it’s a sign of my privilege and unawareness. Or unhappy, for the same reasons. Last week, I saw the idea somewhere that joy is an act of resistance. I’m letting that one roll around a bit. I’ve long believed that we can hold contradictory truths in our hands at the same time. I think we can be both heartsick (about so many things) and joyful. I’m working for that. Maybe that’s a life well-lived? One in which we are fully aware of both?

      I am hoping that Wendig is tapping into some zeitgeist sort of thing with respect to blogging. Maybe this will be the year of the resurgence of writerly blogs. I hope I’ll get to see more of your writing this year.

  3. Kate says:

    Oooh goodness, do I love what you’re sharing. I love your dot to dot posts, of course, but I love the links you’re sharing and hope you’ll continue to write these posts. (I couldn’t pick a favorite among your shares if I tried!)

    I love the idea of Sabbath. I grew up in an area that didn’t have blue laws to the best of my knowledge, but also did not have ANYTHING open on a Sunday. People should just know better. It was quite the hubbub when the local grocery store decided to be open until 2 on Sundays.

    I also really enjoyed the post on blogging. I’m hopeful for a resurgence. I loved it anyway.

    That obituary was so well done.

    The Elizabeth Wurtzel piece hit home. The RAGE I’ve felt in the last two years. Reading it helped me feel understood.

    Finally, as you talk about your break, I just feel this sense of calm and ease. I think that’s what our lives are supposed to feel like. I think we’re better people. And I don’t think it’s the tiniest bit selfish to decide that’s what you want to do for yourself. I hope you find ways to build that in even though you’re now back at work.

    • Rita says:

      I grew up in the liberal west, but I do remember most things being closed on Sundays when I was a (very young) kid. That was just normal. In the mid-70s my grandma went to work for Fred Meyer (do they have those stores in your area?), and I hated it because the only day they were closed all year was Christmas Day. I thought that was just awful and all kinds of wrong.

      I was able to have a day of mostly rest on Sunday this weekend. I stayed home all day, and the only “chores” I did were also creative, so they didn’t really feel like chores. It felt really good. I was mindful in my choices about how I was spending my time. I loved waking up on Sunday knowing that I didn’t have any have-to-dos hanging over my head. I’m sure I won’t be able to do that every weekend, but I’m going to try to do it much more. I really like the idea that are lives are supposed to feel calm.

      And yes, the rage. I think it peaked in 2018 for me, but yes. I’m ready to get past it. Have been, I think. But ready in a different way. I think it’s why I’m feeling like writing more again. I hope both of us do more of that in the coming year.

    • Rita says:

      I would love to discover some new blogs—please do share in some way what your favorites are. I suspect I would like them, too. I hope blogging makes a comeback, too. Maybe they’ll become retro cool? Which will mean we really are as old as we think 😉

  4. Stephenie says:

    Thank you, Rita! I read this post, clicked on Chuck Wendig’s blog and now I feel all fired up to go back to my blog, even if only 3 people read it. Happy 2020 to you. May we all find the peace we need and the sense of gratitude to appreciate it.
    Stephenie recently posted…Grand MananMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I hope you do! I’ll read it! Happy 2020 to you, too. I suspect this will not be a very peaceful year in many ways, but I’m going to searching for some personal peace. Think we’ll all need as much of that as we can get.

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