Conventional wisdom holds that, when faced with a cold body of water, it is better to just plunge in all at once. Jump in, they say, and get it over with. You’ll warm up soon enough. When you ease yourself in bit by bit, you only prolong the suffering. Better to have one massive shock to the system and then get on with the business of adjusting.
This might be true for lakes, creeks, and swimming pools (though I still prefer to inch my way into the 55 degree water in my favorite swimming hole). But when it comes to the New Year, and the goals and intentions we set, I’m convinced that it’s OK to ease in slowly.
It’s easy to get caught up in the New Year’s momentum, crafting a long list of resolutions and goals that all seem totally doable when you’re a few glasses of champagne in and the clock strikes midnight. I know I’ve done it — made boisterous declarations that I would change my life in countless ways in the coming year, worked frantically in the closing days of the old year to fill in this journal page, craft those affirmations, clean out this closet, choose the word or phrase that would guide my next cycle of the Wheel, in a mad rush to have it all in place by 12:01 am on January 1.
This year? Well, not so much.
This Winter Break, I found that I was too enthralled with my Solstice tree lights, too deeply enjoying the quiet company of my partner and our cats, too contented with the stillness and peace of the season to push myself to meet yet another arbitrary deadline. (My somewhat….casual…relationships with deadlines is a topic for another day. To put it in Gretchen Rubin’s terms, I am a Questioner — I’ll only meet expectations if it makes sense to me to do so.)
Instead, this year, I’ve chosen to ease myself in slowly. I’ve done some journalling. I’ve thought through some goals. I’ve been meditating off and on on my word for the year, but not stressing out because I didn’t have one chosen on January 1. I know it will come to me, as it always does, in its own time, and in just the nick of time. I’m allowing myself to declutter my physical and digital spaces more slowly, more prayerfully — still making progress, still doing the work, but not feeling like a failure because it wasn’t All Done by January 1.
My year is a blank slate, and I’m finding that this approach is somewhat like spending time with a canvas before making the first brush stroke, rather than diving in and painting in a mad rush of inspiration. Neither approach to making art is superior to the other, and neither approach to a New Year is superior. We just have to find what works for us, to create what we want to create at any given time.
Next year may be the year I plunge in, fearless of the shock of cold water that may meet me. But this year, there’s enough on the shoreline to fascinate me that I think the deep water will wait for me while I wade in.