Or not. January is not the time of year when I feel pushed to make big changes. I feel like nesting and baking. I feel like being under blankets with a book. For some reason I still feel the draw of the academic year. Even during long periods in which I was not in school, it is September that feels like the chance to make a fresh start, to make some changes in my life.
This time of year feels like nourishment to me. It feels like rest. It feels like self-care, because at this point I’ve likely overdone it somehow. If I am going to be my best self through a dreary winter, I probably do need to make some changes, but they aren’t going to be drastic ones. They aren’t going to go bone deep. They will more likely be gentle resets, reminders to fill myself up so that I can go back out there and do what I need to do. In this case it is getting ready for the new semester, but this is also on my mind as I have reached the halfway point in my unit of CPE. Every hospital shift is a balancing act between self-care and care for others. Every day I am there I encounter something difficult or heart rending, and I have to do what I need to do to keep going until I hand over the pager. That isn’t so different from other times in my life; we all have the things we must do to get by. We all have the things we really need to do at some point during the week, the month, the season. We also all have the big things, calling out for our attention.
I had the privilege of preaching at First Church in Boston on December 29, 2019. If I’d had the luxury of a multi part series, there is so much I would have said about different angles, but the core for me that day was simply refusing to dive in to our culture of productivity, efficiency, and improvement. No diets, no new regimens. Instead I want to spend this season navigating the life that is right in front of me. I want to step away from productivity instead of into it. So much of what I value doesn’t fit in a narrative of efficient productivity, and religious community and justice work are at the top of that list. Both of those things involve labor, but they aren’t about optimizing value. They are about connection. They are about relationship. They are about living in the world.
I am not against self-improvement. I could definitely do more to nourish myself. But it is not in service of maximizing my production. It is so that I can be the self I want to be and live the life I want to live.