After months as challenging as February turned out to be, I tend to spiral.
I spiral when I look back at the month because I can only see what I didn’t do. I didn’t really read. I didn’t really write. I couldn’t run. I wasn’t awake long enough in the evenings to cook. All those ways I describe myself – avid reader, writer, runner, food-heater-upper – ring hollow.
One framework that I return to is thinking about what I’ve done over the past year. It’s a framework that used to scare me because the ways in which I identify are so easily called into question. If the last time I baked a pie was over a year ago, then that doesn’t really make me a baker, does it? If the last time I surprised her was who knows when, am I really a romantic? It’s so easy to get comfortable with an identity.
Then I wondered if I could only talk about what I’d acted on in the last year. The actions I took over that period of time should be a good indicator of what I’m interested in and actively pursuing. Of who I am, and will be. For a framework that can supercharge my self-doubt, it has turned out to be an effective way to mitigate my short-term spirals. A month of inactivity doesn’t break me from my lifelong dreams, and shouldn’t change how I see myself. Not reading a novel for a month doesn’t make me less of a reader. I read Elena Ferrante’s series last summer and fall, after all, so I haven’t grown illiterate (but not being able to name the last novel I read in a year might carry more urgency).
So, the last month was hard. From bronchitis and Achilles tendonitis to long workdays and breaking news to friends and family, I was distracted and depleted and divided. The pursuits that energize me were pushed aside. But I believe in what I’ve done over the past year, in the book and the races and the friendships and the crispy Brussels sprouts, and I can find my way back to where I was before. I am more than one month.