When we first moved to Cleveland, people warned me about the cold, snowy winters. I was undaunted, having spent much of my childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, where snow is abundant.
But to my dismay, those first winters were miserable. I was cold. My feet were always chilly or wet. My fingers were numb. My ears were frozen.
What I had neglected to take into account in my blithe lack of worry is that when I was happily tumbling in snow banks as a child, my mother had been dressing me in snow gear. And she knew what she was doing.
I, clearly, did not know what I was doing!
As the adult in charge (of myself), I was a more than a little overwhelmed by the range of choices. There were boots for $40 and boots for $400. Coats, gloves, etc., came in a variety of price ranges as well. What were the things that it was okay to get something less pricey and what things did it pay to spend on?
It took a few years of trial and error, but eventually, I did find a combination of supplies in a price range I could live with, discovered which things I needed to spend a little more on (boots) and which things I could get the more economy model (gloves).
Now my winters are much more comfortable. I don’t love being out in the cold, but I am much less miserable when I need to walk somewhere on Shabbos, or get my kids to and from school, or go grocery shopping.
This method of identifying what was wrong (I was cold and miserable), brainstorming what could be improved (better outerwear) and experimenting until I found the right solution can also be applied to those times when I feel like I’m going through a spiritual winter.
Maybe you know what I mean – times when I feel uninspired, unconnected, and just blah in general.
These spiritual winters seem to happen when I’m too busy and/or have fallen out of the positive spiritual routines that keep me balanced.
When I realize that I have gotten disconnected again, I can apply those three steps of identifying what’s wrong, brainstorming some solutions and experimenting until I get it right.
One area where I successfully used this method was in my relationship to formal prayer from a siddur.
I like formal prayer, I feel like it connects me to the spiritual practices I developed back when I was first discovering Judaism and everything was new and exciting and I was super motivated.
When I take the time to pray from a siddur, even if my concentration level isn’t the most ideal, I am still tapping into those emotions and memories, and it makes my day better, putting my focus on the values that I want to live by.
Because I am in the phase of my life where I am taking care of small children, I haven’t been able to consistently keep up with formal prayer, and I’ve been okay with that. I would try to do it when I could, and I would talk to G-d in my own words, but that just didn’t have the same impact.
This year, all my kids are in preschool or day school, and so for the first time in a decade, I have a whole chunk of uninterrupted time where I could actually pray.
But I found that I didn’t. I would drop my children off at school and then run off to errands, or call my mother or a friend to chat, or start housework as soon as I got home, and before I knew it, I had missed my window of opportunity.
It was frustrating, because when I had small children at home, I didn’t feel bad about not engaging in formal prayer. Now, what excuse did I have to not do this practice which I actually liked? It didn’t even take up that much time, I just wasn’t prioritizing it.
So I embarked on a plan to start making it more regular. I added it as a goal in my bullet journal and every time I pray, I color in a little square. There were many weeks in many months when I didn’t meet my goal, but I trained myself to not call anyone or start any errands before I take the time to pray.
I’ve been on a good streak for a while now, and while I know that sooner or later something will derail my focus again (mid-winter break is coming up), but I know that since I have established the tools to get it done, I will be able to keep myself warm from a spiritual winter again!