Overcoming the January Blahs

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Chilean poet-diplomat and politician who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971
Today (January 20, 2021) is Inauguration Day here in America, and a new administration has taken over from the previous Trump administration when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took the oath of office of President and Vice President of the United States of America earlier today. I watched the inauguration on TV this morning.

I was not able to vote in the Presidential election in November as a few weeks before Election Day I moved from living in a hotel room (for longer then I ever expected to live in a hotel room) in one county to moving into an apartment (after a six-year search which I have explained previously) approximately 20 miles away located in another county. Unfortunately, in the new county where I moved to requires that a person of voting age must be a resident of that county for 30 days in order to register to vote,  and the registration deadline date had already passed at the time I moved into my apartment. So, I was unable to vote.

What has occurred between Election Day on November 3rd and now doesn’t need to be repeated in this blog post. The entire world is well aware of what has taken place, and hopefully some of the heat has subsided now that Inauguration Day is over and we are moving on.

So here we are–a few days past the middle of January–and even with the installation of a new administration today, I have a bad case of the “January blahs.” It started right after New Year’s Day and it usually lasts throughout the month of January. I call it the “post-Christmas/New Year’s Day letdown,” which takes a while to go away.

Two years ago on January 25, 2019, I published a blog post titled, Journey Out of the Mid-January Blahs,” so this phenomenon is nothing new and it is really quite common for a lot of folks. A Google search produced a bunch of articles on how to beat the January blahs after all of the activities that took place leading up to Christmas through New Year’s Day. It is probably why the Super Bowl is scheduled only a few weeks after Christmas and New Year’s Day to bring us back to life after the January blahs…

I came across an article published on January 28, 2020, titled, 5 Tips for Overcoming the January Blahs,” by Dr. Fields,” who describes herself as a “Nonprofit CEO, innovator, internationalist, feminist, creative, hopeful romantic. Student of power. Not that kind of doctor. Smokescreen for the guilty.” She writes:

Your creativity is hibernating–and that’s okay.

For some reason, my 2020 case of “the Januaries” has been the worst one I can remember.

I’m finally coming out of it, but I’ve had to dig deep into my bag of creative tips and tricks and pull out all my old favorites.

Here are some of the things that are helping me fight to the surface:

1. Get moving

There’s no better thing than movement for loosening up the brain’s rusty hinges and letting thoughts and ideas flow.

I take my pug for a little walk around the block or put on some dance music and jump around. Sometimes I stretch at my desk.

It only takes ten minutes or so to get some dopamine and oxygen into the system and refresh the mind.

That little bit of exercise can make the difference between finishing the day with energy to spare for the rest of life or zoning out on half of what I’m supposed to be doing.

2. Solve other people’s problems

Giving advice—solicited, of course—often results not only in bursts of helpful creativity but insight into my issues.

Some of my best moments have come when listening to my partner talk about problems in their highly technical field and realizing that the difficulties—and the solutions—can apply to my own organization.

It can be much easier to cut to the essence of a problem when you are not invested or emotionally attached to the details.

Talking to a colleague in my field can also be energizing, too, as long as you don’t let it degenerate into a lengthy bitch session. Stay focused on what you can solve, rather than what you can’t.

And don’t forget to comment on what is going well.

3. Create a soundtrack

Music combines well with physical activity to energize you up before a brainstorming session or a difficult negotiation.

I would never share this with my team, but I’ve been known to walk around the block a few times to Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back” and Snap’s “The Power” on repeat.

Silly as it sounds, it helps me channel confidence, which is a good thing in most situations.

Plus, if you’re sitting at your desk with your headphones, most people know not to interrupt you unless it’s crucial.

4. Embrace the downtime

Back in December, I decided to allow myself to hibernate as much as I needed to until Spring.

Humans are denning mammals, after all, and most of our kind are doing the same. Even plants don’t bloom at the same rate all year long, so why should we?

It’s okay to spend the day on the couch drinking tea and watching Netflix when it’s cold and dark outside.

Now is also an excellent time to think about letting some of the stuff that is draining you go. Unfinished projects, especially creative ones, waste energy.

There’s a reason trees drop dead leaves and branches during this season.

5. Consume and digest

Now is an excellent time for Netflix, reading, and for visiting art galleries or museums and soaking up the essence of somebody else’s inspiration.

Make up a story about a work that inspires you. How did the artist, writer, or filmmaker come up with the idea? Did they work from an image or a memory? Or an overheard snippet of conversation? What tools did they need, both physical and intellectual, to get it done? Did they need ladders or special equipment? Did they have to travel or translate documents?

Don’t worry about the real story; enjoy the one you’re making up.

Yes, I do recognize the irony of breaking out of a creative slump by writing an article about creativity, but I’ll take it where I can get it.

In fact, maybe this piece is that no matter how deep the snow is right now, the green shoots will break through. Eventually.

Spring is coming. (Quote source here.)

In another article published in the Los Angeles Times on January 19, 2018, titled, Postcard from 1-A: The January Blahs are a Thing; I Actually Kind of Like Them,” by Chris Erskine, a nationally known humor columnist and editor who retired from the Los Angeles Times in 2020, he writes:

In January, a house is a million little things. The kettledrum thump of the furnace kicking on. The burned coffee smell when you yank the pot out a little too early and the last few drips sizzle on the heating plate. The booming echo of a shower door.

Add in quirky people, quirky traits and you get the full family symphony. Not a good symphony. Just three movements, all out of tune.

People, eh? We live in stubborn, caustic times. I was grumbling the other day how our little newspaper, once as jovial as a college campus, has grown less friendly over the years.

To me, acknowledgment is such a simple gesture. Look up from your phone, note the person passing, fake a nice nod. It’s not such a difficult thing.

Basic civility used to be taught at home and school, but that was in the days before our little Einsteins were primped, coddled and treated like celebrities. I’m pretty sure there are kids today who have never said thank you.

Perhaps our increasingly cold and unwelcoming ways are tied to this. Or, perhaps it’s the nature of popular entertainment. TV is wonderful, but loaded with dark and dysfunctional shows, and our movies are all so cynical and loud.

And when was the last time you heard a love song?

It’s as if we’re afraid of hope and happy endings

If I’m wrong, I’m wrong—and I often am. But on this particular issue, probably not. I must sound like your grandpa. Truth is, I like grandpas more and more.

Or maybe it’s just a seasonal thing, the warmth and sparkle of December giving way to gloomy middle winter.

My buddy Sam made an excellent point the other day. Sam noted that if you wedge your way into a line of cars and don’t raise your hand as a thank you to the driver who let you in, you’ve got issues.

I agreed with him, though someone else added that you need to wave only if you’re allowed in. If you have to wedge your way in, a wave is just sarcastic.

Who knew life could be so nuanced, and that a wave could be sarcastic? Yet these are the times in which we live.

Look, I’m all for sarcasm; it makes my world spin. It greases the gears of daily conversation and makes tolerable the tiny injustices of my too common life. Sarcasm is the little guy’s revenge on the bully. It’s Boise State beating Oklahoma. It’s the Bulls or Clippers beating anyone.

I take sarcasm like I take my coffee. Black. Like I take my steaks — charred and on fire.

Point is, we need to laugh any way we can. So don’t be so damn choosy, OK?

“A good laugh is sunshine in the house,” noted British writer William Makepeace Thackeray.

“If you have no tragedy, you have no comedy,” said Sid Caesar. “Crying and laughing are the same emotion. If you laugh too hard, you cry. And vice versa.”

Or, versa vice, as I always like to say, in another desperate stab at Dad humor, which also makes my world spin.

Like someone who sees Jesus in the clouds, I remain buoyant and a little naïve. To be too wise is to be a little dead. To have all the answers is to have none of them.

Certainly, January is an optimist’s finest challenge.

January is dads on ladders taking down the lights and moms deciding when to toss the half-dead poinsettias. It’s boxes of Kleenex all over the house… the dog sleeping on the furnace vent… stale eggnog forgotten in the back of the fridge.

January is the lent before the Lent. It’s diets and boot camps and proclamations to be a better person.

If you start to feel sorry for yourself in January, just remember that February is even worse. Why do we always insist on starting a year like this anyway?

The January blahs are a thing. I actually kind of like them, because they remind us that much of life is mopping floors and taking care of those you love at your own expense. January is obligation and duty—de-linting the dryer and de-gunking the stove.

None of this is fun, but there are payoffs to that as well. It is a deep, unappreciated subset of our love for those we live with.

When I tell my kids that an adult’s life is 70% chores, largely unacknowledged, I can see the gloss of youth leave their beautiful eyes. They start to tremble a little, and the words catch in their throats.

Chores?” they say, a word they only half know. “Are you… kidding us? In our experience, life is life.”

But, oh, kids, this is January. And this is life too. (Quote source here.)

In this next article, we’ll take a look at the January blahs from a Biblical perspective. This article is published in PremierPraise.com and it is titled, Overcoming the January Blues,(the author’s name is not mentioned). The article states:

Winter blues getting you down? You’re not alone, and we’ve come up with a few ways to help lift your spirits…

The days are still dark and the weather is dull, and perhaps you overspent on Christmas presents or overdid the festive snacks. Your relationships may have been put to the test over the holidays, or the Covid tier system may be making you feel trapped and afraid. But don’t worry if you’re suffering from the January blues, as there are ways to get back on track.

Reintroduce a routine

This may sound really basic and boring, but having a routine in place can really help your mental health. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, even at weekends. Shower and dress every day, even if you have nowhere to go. Have set times for the various activities you do throughout the day, even if you’re not currently working (for example housework, taking the dog for a walk or replying to emails).

Look after yourself

Your physical health has a big influence on your mental well-being. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and are eating a healthy, balanced diet. It’s time to ditch the breakfast mince pies and get back on track! Try to eat your five a day and replace caffeinated or alcoholic drinks with water. Get outdoors! The weather may not be wonderful, but it’s really important that you breathe fresh air into your lungs, feel some light on your skin and get some exercise. If you really can’t get out, do an online Pilate’s class or run up and down the stairs 100 times!

Focus on your faith

It’s a good time to focus on your relationship with God if you’re struggling. Talk to him about how you’re feeling and ask him to help you overcome the darkness you’re currently facing. Study those in the Bible who suffered periods of mental challenge, for example Elijah, David, Job and even Jesus as his crucifixion approached. Talk to Christian friends or leaders and ask them to pray with you. Spend more time in prayer and worship, soaking up God’s presence.

Do something fun!

You may not feel motivated to do anything wild and wacky at the moment, but there’s no harm in reviving an old hobby or pursuing a new passion. It could be anything from learning to play the guitar to running a marathon. Maybe you’ve always wanted to own a pet, learn a new language or bake your own bread but never got round to it. Perhaps you just need to take some time out for yourself, put a face mask on and enjoy a nice long soak in the bath with a good book. Don’t feel guilty about making time for the things you love, as having something fun to focus on can really help to lift your spirits.

Connect with people

We may not be able to hang out with friends and family the way we used to, but it’s important to keep relationships going and avoid becoming too inwardly focused. Set up an online book club, pub quiz, bake-off or prayer group. Arrange video calls with loved ones. Send good old fashioned cards and letters through the post. Send someone else who might be struggling a text or an encouraging Bible verse. Respond to people positively on social media. Ask God to restore any relationships that might have fallen by the wayside.

Deuteronomy 31:8“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Quote source here.)

So if you’re feeling a little sluggish and blah as we head through the rest of January and into February, I hope the above articles help to lift your spirits and give you some helpful suggestions. I’ll end this post with these words from Ecclesiastes 3 verses 1 and 4: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to weep and a time to laugh . . .

A time to mourn . . .

And a time to dance . . . .

YouTube Video: “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (1965) by The Byrds:

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Photo #2 credit here

A Fresh New Year Ahead

We are now four days into the new year of 2021, and I’ve decided I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions this year. I didn’t make any last year, either. However, in the midst of the challenges we faced as a nation in 2020 (and Covid-19 is still very much with us heading into 2021), it was during this past year that I finally found two things I’ve been needing for a very, very long time. And both showed up very suddenly and unexpectedly.

In March, I was able to replace my 15-year-old car with a much newer and only slightly used 2019 model car, and it was totally unexpected as I went to a car dealership to look around but I had no expectations as I was just looking (something I had done at other dealerships several times in the past year and a half when my old car started costing me a lot to repair during the previous two years). However, this time I ended up trading in my old car and driving away in the much newer 2019 model car.

Then, in October, I stopped at an apartment complex I didn’t think I could ever afford in the exact location I wanted to live in, and I discovered I did qualify and I could afford an apartment there after all, and I signed a lease and moved in two days later. Mind you, for the past six years I had been applying (and placed on waiting lists) to find a senior apartment in an income-based senior apartment complex, and I was getting absolutely nowhere with it while I was living in temporary housing all during this time. So, in September I gave up the idea of finding an apartment in an income-based senior apartment complex, and I contacted an apartment locater who sent me a list of apartments in the area where I wanted to live. Turns out that it was the last apartment complex listed that was located right where I wanted to live, so I called and made an appointment with a leasing agent, and that is where I am now living.

Who knew, right? I’d been waiting for so long for both of these things to finally come around, and I was getting nowhere with either (especially regarding the housing), but I knew I couldn’t just give up because it was taking so long. And where does one go to give up anyway? Whenever I get discouraged (and I have been at times over the past several years–discouragement visits all of us from time to time), I think about the Parable of the Persistent Widow that is found in Luke 18:1-8:

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

In a devotion published on February 27, 2019, titled, The Persistent Widow,” by Kim Forthofer, author, she states:

When Jesus was with his disciples, he told them a story of a persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). This one had been wrongfully treated, and she sought justice from a local judge.

The judge in the case was a despicable man who didn’t care about anyone but himself. He refused to grant her justice and ignored her case for a considerable amount of time.

This widow had no one else to help her. She had no lawyer. She had no husband or son to fight for her. Yet, she faithfully brought her petition to the judge, each time asking for justice.

Finally, the judge granted her request. He did so, not because he cared about what was right or because he had a sudden revelation. He simply wanted the woman gone.

Jesus concluded his story with a powerful question: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:7)

Sometimes, you may pray for someone else, for them to receive justice in a situation, and it feels like nothing is happening. But God is always working situations out for His glory (Jeremiah 29:11) and our good (Romans 8:28). (Quote source here.)

In an article published on November 1, 2018, titled, The Power of Expectations,” by Matt Hagee, Lead Pastor at Cornerstone Church, he writes:

When you say something like expectation, people think all kinds of things. Some responses are emotional and others are practical…things will turn out the way they’re going to turn out, no matter what you do.

Don’t develop your expectations based upon other people’s opinions. Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, no matter what his circumstances were. He was singing in the midnight hour from a jail cell, and yet remained undeterred in his mission:

“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”2 Timothy 1:12

Recent research shows that 80% of church goers do not openly share their faith with those around them. After they leave church, they don’t do anything else to engage others in the Gospel. Why? I believe they don’t share openly because they have a pre-determined expectation of what will happen when they do. If they invite their neighbor to church… they might say no. Their co-worker might be offended and turn them in to HR. If they take their faith outside of the church, it might cause them some trouble; people might paint them in a negative light. These people are placing their expectations in the wrong place.

If God is for me, who can be against me? (Romans 8:31Only when the church has enough confidence to share their faith outside of the church walls will we make an impact on the world around us. We need to place our expectations in the right place, pointed toward God the Father. We need to believe that He has our very best in mind, even when we can only see the smallest sliver of our existence in front of us.

As a man thinketh, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).

Your expectations drive your beliefs. Where do your expectations come from? Do they come from those around you, or from the Word of God? Are you trying to gain the approval of your boss, friend, neighbor, mother-in-law…? Are your expectations for the future based upon past experiences? That’s a very limited perspective. None of us understands all that God did to bring us to the moment we are living right now. Don’t limit a limitless God.

Do you remember Daniel and the lion’s den? He could have easily become discouraged… but he prayed, as was his habit. He was still thrown into the lion’s den. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you don’t have problems; it means that God shows up for you in a mighty way when you call out to Him with great expectation. Daniel cried out to God from the lion’s den and he was saved.

Even when the rules changed… Daniel didn’t. He stayed the course and prayed… as was his custom. King Darius of Persia paced the floor while Daniel slept like a baby in the lion’s den. When the king cried out for Daniel the following day, he responded that his God had delivered him.

Your beliefs become your behaviors and your behaviors become your habits. Do your habits include praying every day, reading the Word of God, seeking Him in your daily life? Your habit of praying with great expectation gives you the ability to move mountains of impossibility.

You live in the here and the now. You cannot see from your vantage point all that God is doing for you, how He is working in your life on your behalf to give you an unbelievable future. Keep praying with great expectation, even when you cannot see the great things that are just before you.

Because of Daniel’s faithfulness, all that was taken from the children of Israel was returned to them by King Darius. Everything that was stolen from the temple, every item that was stripped….was returned. Do you need something to be restored in your life? Cry out to God with great expectation. Don’t base your prayers on your own ability or your past experiences. Our God is greater! His power is limitless!

I know in whom I have believed and He is able!

What would happen in your life if you were to expect the unexpected?…

In everybody’s life there is something that takes you by surprise because it’s unexpected. But there are things we can expect from God in our lives. We can expect signs and wonders; we can expect the sick to be healed. Supernatural things should be happening in the lives of every Believer.

There are things that God expects from us. When we fulfill our part, it leaves our lives open for God to complete the unexpected in our lives. Are you looking for something supernatural to happen in your life? Expect the unexpected!

God is faithful to fulfill the great work He has begun in you. What are your thought patterns? Are they fixed on Jesus? What are your habits?

Take control of what you are spending your time on, what you are fixating on… and these things will become how you live your life. Begin to expect the goodness of God to flow over every portion of your life like a great tidal wave of blessing. Let His goodness and love, His miracle-working power flood your life like never before. Get ready! Great things are on the way. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on August 10, 2016, titled, When God’s Timing Is Not Our Own,” by Sam Storms, Ph.D., Lead Pastor at Bridgeway Church and founder of Enjoying God Ministries, he writes:

The God of the Unlikely Time

Often our schedule and God’s seem out of sync. He acts earlier than we had expected, or later than we had hoped, or when it seems most awkward and inconvenient. The result is that sometimes we are impatient with God or choose to act impetuously, while on other occasions we are lazy and inactive.

I suspect that’s how the Israelites must have felt as they stood on the banks of the Jordan River, prepared to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. They learned a lesson there that all of us must learn sooner or later. The lesson is simply that the God we love and serve is often the God of the unlikely time.

When the two spies returned from Jericho, Joshua received the news he had been waiting for: “And they said to Joshua, ‘Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us'” (Joshua 2:24). But God then forced them to stand and watch the raging waters of the Jordan River for three days! The torrent was unabated. They could only look across the rising waters into Canaan, on the other side. The river seemed utterly impassable. Their long journey to the Promised Land appeared to have ended just short of their goal. Why did God bring them to the edge of the river and compel them to look with longing and frustration at the land he had promised to their forefathers? His reason seems clear: to drive home to their hearts the seeming impossibility of tomorrow!

God compelled them to wait three days to allow their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and inadequacy to reach the highest level possible. He forced them to wait until the waters of that river had risen to such a height that virtually all hope had been washed away.

A Lesson in Faithfulness

We often find ourselves asking, What does God expect of me? What does he want? The answer is that he wants a people who will faithfully respond to his call to act in the pursuit of his promises, even at the most unlikely time.

Perhaps you are only moments away from seeing the fruition of a dream that you’ve nurtured for years. Perhaps there is some massive problem that is on the verge of being solved, or a fractured relationship that is close to being healed, or a lifelong prayer that may finally be answered. God may be speaking to you in much the same way that he was speaking to the Israelites, saying, “Stand up! Be firm in your faith! The day of inheritance is here. The moment for fulfillment has arrived. As difficult as it may be for you to understand, I’ve actually chosen this challenging and demanding moment precisely because it affords the greatest opportunity for my power and love to be seen when I finally step into the situation and bring it all to pass!” (Quote source here.)

Those articles should give us plenty of “food for thought” as we enter this new year of 2021. However, what is most important of all is what Jesus told his disciples to do in Luke 18:1

Always pray . . .

And never . . .

Give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Miracle” by Unspoken:

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Photo #2 credit here