How I built a better January
Learning to love (or at least like) winter, morning pages vs. morning workouts, my favorite kind of bar, and an inspiring author for the ages.
I wrote a blog for over a decade, which was about many things, but mostly me. Nevertheless, it had a small but dedicated following which resulted in many wonderful internet friends, some of whom are reading this newsletter right now. (Hiiiiiiii 🥰)
One cold day in January of 2015, I received an email from a reader. She’d recently moved to my city, and wanted to know if I’d like to meet up. Nearly two months later, I finally wrote back. “Sorry it took me so long to reply,” I said. “It’s just that I really hate winter. Still want to hang out?”
For some reason she said yes and now, eight years later, we’re literally best friends. You might think the lesson in this story is clear (know your limits, hold your boundaries, patience is eventually rewarded) but there’s a twist. As it turns out, winter doesn’t have to be terrible, and “January” is a poor excuse for putting off friendship.
I live in coastal North Carolina, where winter is relatively mild. And yet, every year, I braced for the season’s many insults (frosty mornings, long nights, unflattering layers, dry skin), resigning myself to misery while longing for the return of the perfect summer day (92 degrees, 90% humidity, a very slight breeze—I might be part lizard).
This year, however, I’m happy to report that January has been surprisingly tolerable, wonderfully gentle, even enjoyable. And it’s all thanks to a two new rituals inspired by my Word of the Year.
Ritual #1: Write.
After a six-month break from writing, I’m back in the habit, baby. This ritual starts the evening before, when I set up the coffee maker to auto-brew at 4:30 a.m. By the time my alarm goes off, I can smell the scent of coffee drifting through the house, luring me out of bed. I pour a cup, head to my desk, and write for one hour, motivated by the progress I’m making on the (hopefully) final revision of my novel. I remind myself that I first started writing this book in January of 2020, which means this cold, quiet month is good for my creativity, my ability to focus. Suddenly, the darkness outside feels less like an insult hurled by winter, and more like a sweet way to ease into the day. By the time I’m done writing the sun is just beginning to rise, which means it’s time for phase two of my morning routine.
Ritual #2: Move.
I sip the last of my coffee, pull on leggings and a sweatshirt, and shiver as I ride my bike half a mile down the street to my beloved YMCA. They recently added a bunch of 7:00 a.m. workout classes, which is perfect for my new return-to-office existence. I always thought I had to choose between writing and working out in the morning, and I’m thrilled that schedules have aligned so I can now do both. The new classes are a fun mix of strength and HIIT, but the best part is exchanging horrified looks with my Y friends while the instructor demonstrates our next move. An hour later, I ride home feeling spent yet strong. For once, the freezing air that envelopes me is not a punishment, but a gift—the perfect cool down after a hard workout.
That’s it: write, then move. Two small things that have transformed what was once my most despised and dreaded month into a season of slow progress and sacred change, and all before 8:00 a.m. I still dream of summer, of course, but thanks to mornings like these, waiting isn’t so bad. 💛
Last weekend my good friend Abby turned 30, and to celebrate she threw a lovely backyard party complete with a BAKED POTATO BAR. (You know you’re getting older when your favorite bar is actually just food.) All jokes aside, I put together an epic baked potato with incredible toppings, including homemade veggie chili, two kinds of cheese, green onions, and sour cream. If this potato is any indication, and I believe it is, Abby’s 30s are going to be great. Happy birthday, friend! 🥔
Reading: I just started Lessons in Chemistry, which is so far proving to be a delightful read! I’m obsessed with the writer, Bonnie Garmus, who is a 64-year-old bestselling debut author as well as a copywriter, creative director, and open water swimmer. (Let’s hear it for those day jobs!) ALSO, Lessons in Chemistry is the third novel she’s written, but the first to be published. This quote from a recent interview might go on my wall: “I feel great about having reached this goal now, at this age. It just proves that age doesn’t matter… [Y]ou do get one big gift: the ability to look at your characters with a little more empathy because you have been through some of their struggles.” 🔬
Clicking: Anne Helen Peterson dives into the ripple effect of layoffs in this excellent and insightful piece. A lot to think about, especially as someone whose tech company just went through this process last week. (I’m still employed, but survivor’s guilt is no joke.) 🔥
Watching: The Last of Us, about a fungi-fueled pandemic, which is not as scary as I feared. We also just started Extraordinary, a very silly but very fun sitcom about a world where everyone gets a superpower on their 18th birthday, except for our 25-year-old heroine, who is impatiently waiting for her power to manifest.
Planting: Heirloom seeds! We usually buy transplants due to poor planning, so this is a big step forward in our gardening journey. Today we’re starting two kinds of onions in our shed, and if all goes well, they’ll hit the garden in about a month. (Follow our slow but steady progress on Instagram.) 🌱
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I really enjoyed this edition thank you Chrissy
This resonates for me. I live in Toronto where it’s currently very cold, and I was having trouble with my usual wake up time of 5:00am. I decided maybe morning pages by the fireplace with coffee would help me get up. So I do that, and when it’s done I exercise. It has been a lot easier to get out bed on these dark chilly mornings!