Today we welcome our February Pilgrim in Residence Mallory Larsen—a writer, a teacher, and a meaning-maker. As our Pilgrim in Residence, she’ll be sharing with us thoughts on spirituality and intention in travels and daily life each Thursday in the month of February. Learn more about Mallory here.
Is January anyone’s favorite month? The excitement of the holidays has passed, the days are short and the temperature is cold (at least in the places where I typically reside in January). In my (not-very-frequent) ranking of the 12 months, January consistently lands at the bottom of the pile.
But not this January. January 2014 was all set to be my month. I work as an Assistant Instructor at a Seattle graduate school and my classes for the spring term wouldn’t begin until February, giving me and my foe, cold and dark January, time to redeem our relationship. By mid-December, I was busy dreaming and scheming all of the productive, career-building, life-giving, and adventurous things I would do during my 31 days of who-knows-what!? My growing list included activities such as traveling to Alaska*, completing a writing project from the previous year, reading books for work and pleasure, decorating my living room, purging unworn items from my closet and training for a half marathon.
I was eager to live very intentionally and take full advantage of this rare extended break from work. I began referring to January as a sort of sabbatical and soon committed to spending my time with A Sacred Journey writing about the great big experiences I had on my mini-sabbatical.
As it turns out, my plans for this spacious sabbatical did not exactly go as I had intended (more on that in upcoming posts). Looking back on my month, however, it is clear that an organic rhythm to my mini-sabbatical had formed. Each week held a different theme, ones that I hadn’t planned but certainly needed.
My first week of mini-sabbatical was spent with family in Chicago, less-focused on the list I had created and more focused on resting. That list would be tackled head-on when I returned to Seattle, but, for now, I turned to reflection. As is often the case when entering a new year, I did a lot of looking back, writing down the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful (and sometimes the “all of the above”) of 2013. I gathered around the table with family as we shared many “remember whens,” reconnected with old friends, spent hours looking through old photo albums in my parents’ living room and revisited writing and art that I had done as a child.
This time highlighted for me the bigger picture of who I am and where I come from. Regardless of the journey I am on, I find it grounding to take some moments to remember where it is that I began and how far I have traveled. To note the good, bad, ugly or beautifuls of a week is a practice that offers clarity when the busyness of my life blends several of my days together. Even when I have an unproductive day or a stagnant season, I am still moving forward, even if my movement is only mostly evident in the aging process. (Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and wondered when those smile lines appeared? Or can you remember when the “fine print” didn’t seem to be that fine?) We’re moving, our moments are in motion, and the only way to avoid missing them is to notice them.
I have been reminded of who I was “then” and could see which parts of her have come with me into who I am now. When I take the time to name the bumps, bridges, pavement or puddles in the journey of my year, it’s like leaving markers signifying Mallory was here. (Because I was! And that matters.)
*This is only sort of as random as it sounds. Alaska is the only state in the USA that I haven’t been to, and so I recently set a rather lofty goal of making it to all 50 states before my 30th birthday. (Which is in midFebruary. Of this year.)
The reflection of good, bad, ugly, and beautiful that I did for an entire year could be done for shorter periods of time, like each day or week. Try it! Make it a rhythm to create those markers each day. Maybe it will allow each day of yours to have some individuality, even in the midst of a mundane week. Maybe it will grow your gratefulness for the good and beautiful! Maybe your self-awareness will give you better eyes to see what’s happening throughout each day of your journey. Revisit your markings at the end of each week or month and notice how many more of your moments you notice.