“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party.’” — Robin Williams
After what’s been a brutal winter in many parts of the country, spring has finally arrived, bringing with it the promise of blooming buds and warm breezes. It’s time to throw open the curtains and windows and let the sun melt away the doldrums.
The words “spring cleaning” might evoke thoughts of chasing dust bunnies from under the bed, taking care of home maintenance tasks and what my parents used to call “summer/winter hookup”— packing up dark corduroy and woolens in favor of lightweight pastels. We’d haul boxes down from the attic, clear out dressers and closets, fold up winter clothes and pack them away for six months. My sister, who’s 2½ years younger than I am, would inherit my hand-me-downs, as I would from older cousins. Finding a place for items that no longer served us so we could make room for those that did became a yearly ritual.
Out With the Old
I’m thankful to have made it through this particular winter with my home, my Jeep and my body intact. Where I live in Pennsylvania, we’ve seen several feet of snow, blustery gusts, ice, downed wires and infamously large potholes. I’ve become, of necessity, as agile as a race car driver, dodging and weaving to avoid damage. I was even pulled over last year on my way home from a counseling job out of concern I was driving under the influence.
Following a heart attack in June, I was admonished not to shovel heavy snow. My driveway and walkway stayed clear via a combination of kind neighbors, my son and some mild rule-breaking: I scraped and slid the shovel rather than hoisting and hauling.
Many of us nest and hunker down against the weather in the winter, similar to the way we hide from internal struggles. This year, I’ve considered my life’s “storms,” most of which have to do with my relationship and career choices. As someone in recovery with codependence and workaholism, I find people and work to be my drugs of choice.
In With the New
Because living in isolation and not working aren’t options for me, I face daily interactions in a manner similar to those who work to maintain sobriety from drugs or alcohol. I need to mindfully examine each decision, asking myself if it serves the addiction or my freedom from it. This process leads to asking myself a long list of questions:
- Am I working myself into a frenzy trying to juggle work and relationship responsibilities, health concerns, household and car maintenance, physical exercise, medical appointments and family issues?
- Am I engaging in “savior behavior?”
- Am I saying “yes” and “no” to requests with equal ease?
- Am I valuing myself and practicing the self-love and compassion I offer others?
- Am I listening to my body and taking time to rest?
- Do I trust that those in my life can choose their own destinies without my intervention?
- Do I engage in a regular spiritual practice? Do I set and maintain appropriate boundaries?
- Most important, do I walk my talk?
These questions help me clear out my mental cobwebs and brighten my outlook.
Steps to Self-Cleaning
Perhaps my list of considerations will help as you evaluate what is and isn’t serving you. Depending on your situation, the following advice might also help you determine what areas in your life are most in need of a good spring cleaning:
- Practice gratitude that you survived the winter.
- Consider what seeds took root under the frozen soil that are ready to burst forth now.
- Ask whether there are hardened, winter-weary attitudes and beliefs you want to change.
- Think about what practices you need to clear out so you don’t take them into the new season.
- Consider whether there are items you’ve outgrown and need to pass on to someone else.
- Ask yourself whether there are ways you can rededicate yourself to your recovery by using the tools you already possess and learning new ones.
- Be ready to see yourself blossom brilliantly.