Winter Break! The most wonderful time of the year! Not only do we get to celebrate the biggest holidays of the year, we get the most days off during the middle of the school year. Winter Break can’t come soon enough for students and their teachers. It’s a time to break routines—sleep in, eat special treats, play favorite games, and indulge in music considered socially unacceptable during other times of the year.
But despite the celebratory nature of Winter Break, it often comes with a long list of To-Do’s. Catching up on doctor appointments, car maintenance, and house cleaning, plus the heavy work of planning for the next quarter of the school year are just a few of the tasks I try to get done during the break. It seems that Winter Break isn’t really a break at all—unless it’s meant to refer to the other kind of break—as in break your back, break your spirit, break the bank. It takes a conscious effort—no, sheer willpower to keep Winter Break from breaking me. I think I’m not alone. Otherwise, why would we have to keep reminding each other, “Make sure to take some time to rest, too!” We all know that the quieter days are too valuable to waste on something as intangible as rest! There’s so much to do and only a handful of days before the return to school and the pressures mount up again. Squandering these precious days feels like a sin.
But this Winter Break has been different for me. I just finished reading a glorious book by Katherine May called, “Wintering.” In her book, May describes a “winter” as any cold, dark, and painful period of one’s life. It may be brought on by loss, depression, rejection, or illness. She not only describes these difficult periods as normal and necessary, but she also describes the benefit of facing winter head on, knowing full well we will experience pain, but also that we will come out on the other side stronger, wiser, and more confident.
I’ve taken her words to heart and am absolutely loving the insight this book has brought me. I’m reframing Winter Break. I’m choosing to rest, not being forced to from sheer exhaustion. (Resting by choice is so much more fun!) I’ve discovered how much I crave warmth and softness. I’ve practiced self-care by wearing soft clothes—warm socks and sweaters all day. I sip coffee or hot tea. I alternate between reading and writing. I did a puzzle! I watch movies. I do a few small chores each day and then go back to reading or movie watching. I am resting, and in so doing, I’m healing. I’m making myself readier for the beginning of the new quarter, much more so than furiously completing a list of tasks meant to get myself ahead.
Winter is also the time of year when we all promise ourselves that this year, we’re going to do things differently. That we’ll eat better, exercise more, be more disciplined. I’m not making those kinds of resolutions this year. This year I am going to intentionally rest. That doesn’t mean I won’t follow through on my obligations or that I won’t step up to lead. But it does mean that I will step away and breathe when I’m upset. It means that I will go for a walk to regulate my mood before going home so I don’t unload stress on family. It means that I will slow my pace in the moment, deliberately noticing and responding. It means I will bring warmth with me wherever I go, spreading it around like a shared blanket. It means I can winter whenever the cold comes, and I don’t have to wait 10 weeks for the next quarter to end.
We will have many winters in our lives. Some big, some small. Certainly, COVID is a big winter, and one that affects each of us keenly, albeit differently. Our response to these winters can help us emerge stronger on the other side. May teaches us: “You’ll find wisdom in your winter, and once it’s over, it’s your responsibility to pass it on” (p. 122).
That’s what I’m doing now. I now better understand the cold, dark, painful winter. I also now understand what I’ve done to come out on the other side with a fresh coat. Now I want to share it with you. However close or far this audience of readers extends, I want you to know. I have wintered and survived. So will you.
How do you winter? What are some ways you find comfort and rest during the literal winter? During a figurative winter? Please share. Arizona’s teacher community will benefit from your words.
Author’s Website: https://katherine-may.co.uk/
Excellent Interviews with the Author: https://www.npr.org/2020/11/10/933008027/in-wintering-katherine-may-encourages-the-active-acceptance-of-sadness
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