Wintering

I can’t wait to eat in a restaurant. Hug my parents. See my friends. I miss being on campus.

But, I don’t miss my commute. I wonder, how anxious am I going to feel congregating in groups? Have I lost my in-person social skills? Wait, am I going to have to wear dress pants again? How much longer will we have to wear masks?

Katherine May did an Instagram post about England opening up again and how she was tired of lockdown; but she also felt dread and anxiety about it ending. She referred to this as “pure introvert talk.” I related to her realization that the pre-pandemic pace of our lives was too fast, too hectic. Having everything canceled and losing the expectation that we need to be somewhere else has been restorative.

In her book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, May defines wintering as a fallow period in life – times of transition and lost confidence. I may not have been as interested in this idea of wintering were it not for the pandemic; which seems to me a planet-wide wintering. During times of wintering, we do “those deeply unfashionable things – slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting. ” Pre-pandemic, doing these things were radical acts. Once the initial anxiety of the pandemic passed, I started getting a solid 7-9 hours of sleep every night. I haven’t been this rested since before I had children. Yes, on the days spent in eight hours of Zoom meetings I emerge from my home office like a zombie but, in general, I’m more rested than I have ever been. I don’t want to go back to the exhaustion that I had considered normal.

May encourages us to emerge slowly from our wintering. “We must test the air and be ready to shrink back into safety when blasted by unseasonal winds; we must gradually unfurl our new leaves. There will still be the debris of a long, disordered season. These are the moments when we have to find the most grace . . .when we have to tell truths we’d rather ignore.” We will need courage to craft a new path. A path that includes the people and places we miss most with stops along the way for the reflection and rest we need to flourish.

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