It’s February 1. How are you doing?
Have you held firm to whatever promises you told yourself you’d keep this year? Or have you gotten sucked back in?
On January 1, maybe you were (like me) sitting somewhere warm. Or maybe you were simply on a beach in your mind, surrounded by friends and family. Whatever the case, maybe things felt just a little bit simpler than they do today. That classic running monologue in your mind, still on “pause” mode with every “Out of Office” message that crossed over your inbox, hadn’t controlled you for at least a week. It felt good.
But here we are. It’s February 1, and it’s cold. But not just cold. We’re talking — “reschedule coffee dates” cold, “bail on dinner parties “cold, even “cancel Hamilton“ cold.
It’s easier to breathe when the weather is warm. And breathing leads to dreaming. Maybe one month ago, you woke up fresh from the part of the century and gave yourself a dare: 2019 is going to be my year. Or maybe you woke up, barely having slept at all, and finally commanded a change: 2019. Not again. Maybe, despite feeling the worst hangover of your life, you dragged yourself past all the the trains and the people and the bistros to a world-renown contemporary art museum, where you proceeded to puke all over the floor in front of everyone.
(Don’t be silly. That was so 2018.)
2019 was supposed to be different. And we’re in the thick of it now. So how’s it going?
The other night, for the first time since mid-December, I dragged myself out of bed somewhere between 1 and 4 a.m. (you never can tell) and wrote out my giant to-do list for the following day. For some reason, I’d decided that those twilight hours of “not sleeping” was the ideal setting to plan out 22 different tasks for myself. After I finished, I read over the list, taking in the the ease with which it all flowed right out of me, and I felt simultaneously lighter and a little sick with dread. “Is this back?” I wondered. “Is that January feeling over for good this year?”
I tried to channel the nice way I felt right after the holidays. The way I smiled when people asked, “How was your New Year?” The relaxed and easy way I responded, with a fresh, clean, and blank slate for the year ahead.
On December 27, I created a brand new Gmail account. On January 1, I had finally attained “inbox zero” status. Now, here we are, on February 1, and I’m looking at one tab with 19 unread messages and another with 663 unread messages. I try to remind myself that numbers are not “to do” lists, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.
The arrival of February eliminates our opportunity to use the greatest excuse to procrastinate on anything: “Sorry, I got caught up in the post-holiday madness. I’m so behind in emails.” It feels great to pull that card all month long. But then, all of the sudden, here we are, with a new month and a new day and along with it, the unrealistic expectation that we’re operating at warp speed all over again.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t need to give in to the emails and the calendar invites and the snow and the lingering feeling that you’re all just one day away from a massive head cold.
Instead, I’ve been trying to look at January like a “Whole 30” for my mind. Each day, as I added back in another layered element to my already over-complicated schedule, I evaluated my life the way you might evaluate a Jenga tower. With each new block that I removed or rearranged, I asked myself a series of questions. Am I still standing? Am I still stable? Can I pull out one more?
There is always a limit. But the objective is the same: Figure out how many pieces you can rearrange before the pieces come falling down and scatter all over your living room floor. And if you, like me, figured out where that little balancing act was in January, I’ve got great news for you. It’s February now. You can start all over again.