February is a funny month. It’s the shortest of the year, but it often feels like the longest. Especially this year — when everything just feels different.
The Super Bowl veered from tradition with sparsely filled stands and pre-kickoff poetry. Extreme weather pummeled much of the country. Classrooms skipped the exchange of candy valentines. Punxsutawney Phil went looking for his shadow without a crowd to cheer him on, reminding us all that every day feels like Groundhog Day right about now.
As we wrap up February, winter is waning, but spring has not sprung. The year 2020 has ended, but the full prospects of this new year have yet to unfold. It feels like we are moving through a giant “in-between.” It is a time of tremendous transition — we aren’t quite here, but also, we aren’t quite there.
And, man, I really want to be there. Wherever there is.
At first, my instinct was to do more — to add more to the calendar and move past my discomfort as quickly as possible. Like many, I thrive on a packed schedule. It keeps me busy, and if I’m being honest, it numbs my feelings a bit.
But, when I opened my calendar to try to squeeze in more doing, I realized that just wasn’t possible. So, I thought, maybe what I actually should be prioritizing is more time being.
New-age semantics? Perhaps. But, also, a genuine prompt to pause, check-in with myself, and really evaluate what I need and what I might gain from the in-between.
We have experienced so much change in the past year. As we approach the one-year mark of this extended trauma, we have gotten used to working remotely, helping our kids with virtual school, and wearing masks. We have learned to elbow bump, air hug our friends, and experience boredom and chaos — at the same time. All of this is new. And all of it is hard.
I recognize that remote work, digital schooling and the end of “life as we knew it” have been extraordinarily difficult for me. At the same time, it has gifted me more time with my daughters. I’ve had a front-row seat to bear witness to their development. At 10 years of age, they are no longer littles, but aren’t quite tweens either. They are beautifully in-between.
They hold my hand on neighborhood walks and snuggle next to me watching movies on the couch. They are also spending more time on their own, forming their own opinions and developing more independence, as they slowly evolve into who they are meant to be.
Watching them is a reminder that there isn’t a linear path for their journey, or for anyone’s really. It’s two steps forward, one step back. Or maybe an unending spiral — forever moving forward, while always circling back.
It seems critically important to notice the incremental fits and starts of this in-between time. Since we don’t know how long we will be waiting for new activities, inspiration or change, we can use this time to be mindful of the progress we’ve made and how we’ve grown.
So, how can we make the most of this in-between time? I am certainly not an expert, but here are a few things I am trying to do:
» Letting go of expectations: If the past year has taught us anything, it is that we don’t have control over anything — except our own thoughts. If we can free ourselves from attachments to specific outcomes, we can live in the here and now.
» Taking small steps: From a young age, I was programmed to achieve. I like to set goals and get things done. However, taking small but consistent steps forward — while noticing and celebrating the little wins along the way — is my mantra right now.
» Trust in the possibilities: Life goes at its own pace, whether we like it or not. Although I sometimes wish I could speed it up or slow it down, I have to honor the honesty of what is. When I do, I find joy in the unexpected and allow myself to really be in the moments as they come.
So, while I opted out of adding tons more to my calendar this month, I am going to the nursery with my daughters this weekend. I’ve never had a green thumb, nor do I anticipate a flourishing garden, but I love the symbolism of planting a few seeds.
Together, we’ll get them in the dirt and watch what happens. We’ll check on the sprouts every few days, watering them or just noticing new leaves emerging on a stalk. I will do my best to let go of expectations of what will grow, or when it will flourish, and just take note of the changes. It will be an apt reminder that some of the best things in life require us to step back and let nature take its course, knowing the best is yet to come.
As February comes to a close, I’ve decided to trust that during this in-between time, something powerful is growing. I don’t yet know what it is, but if I remain open and create space for it to develop, it might just be more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.
— Alana Walczak is CEO of the nonprofit CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), a leader in developing programs and services that effectively treat child abuse and promote healing, as well as programs that help prevent abuse through family strengthening and support. Click here for more information, or call 805.965.2376. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.