The things that are saving my life right now.

The past few winters have been brutal where I live, with unrelentingly cold, snow, and (my least favorite) ice. Lots of ice.

Try as I might, I can’t quite embrace the whole Norwegian winter thing—at least not for more than a month. Positive thinking can only carry me through a certain number of dreary days.

To preserve my sanity last year, I started keeping a list—an actual, physical, pen-and-paper list—of the things that were saving my life in that season.

The idea comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. Some of us are overwhelmed with hurry and worry; some of us face crushing poverty; some feel paralyzed, unable to move.

But few of us stop to note what’s giving us life. Taylor says it’s too good a question to not revisit every once in a while: what are the things—big or small—that are saving us?

Every season carries its unexpected joys and challenges; such is life. In some ways, this winter has been easier than the past two years. (In others, harder, because SICK AGAIN, ugh!) But winter remains the hardest season for me. I miss my sunshine; I miss my fresh air. I’m constantly quelling creeping paranoia over flu season.

And so to beat back the dreary days, this winter I’ve again been keeping a list—a literal, physical list—of the things that are saving my life right now.

Some of these are Big Things. Some are so tiny they hardly seem worth writing down. But I’m marking them all, the things that are saving my life in this season, even if it sounds silly to say so.

Next Monday is February 1: the first day of what is definitely the cruelest month (regardless of what T.S. Eliot may think). Last year we joined together to combat the winter doldrums by making our lists of what’s saving our lives right now and sharing them here. You guys, it was wonderful. So wonderful that we’re going to do it all over again.

On February 1, I’ll share my list—and you’re invited to share yours, too.

Winter is hard, but by pausing at its halfway point to share the things that are helping us through it, we’ll lighten the load.

I can’t wait to hear what’s on your list.


Leave A Comment
  1. Oh, I love this! I’m not in Norway – just the north of England – but a combination of winter, uni work and being away from home is definitely starting to get me down a bit so hopefully this project will help me re-evaluate things. I’ll definitely join in – do I just post on my blog?

  2. Trudy says:

    What a great idea! I dread the winter season every year. Here in Michigan it has also been brutal for the past two years. This winter has been better but I still long for the sunshine!Trying to keep a positive attitude is tough when I’m constantly cold and aching from it. I’m going to start my list today:) I love your blog, by the way!

  3. I love this idea, while Toronto winters aren’t quite as bad its still not great. I have had to pretty much force myself to leave the house lately, so I’m looking forward to this exercise and hopefully a little change in perspective will come from it.

  4. Kendra says:

    I loved when you wrote about this last year! Thanks for the heads up to think about it. Looking forward to reading that post and the comments that follow.

  5. Kimi says:

    Thankfully I’m further south in Georgia and winter isn’t so bad (at least not for more than 3 days at any given time).
    While we all have our situational struggles, with seasonal ones often being overwhelming for manny, I do find that what I appreciate most is that we so often focus on the negatives and that infiltrates our lives. Turning the focus to the positive aspects of our lives gives us a new purpose and allows us to see the real meaning in our lives.

    • Doret Pool says:

      I so agree with you, Kimi. I see what the negatives do to other people and that makes me look for even more positive things in my day to day life.

  6. Katia says:

    I enjoyed last year’s post and the brainstorming session that it inspired. I’m looking forward to reading more on Feb. 1st. I happen to love February because it’s the birthday month of my youngest sun-shine, which gives us a great reason to throw a party.

  7. Sara says:

    The thing that saves me in winter is long underwear. I’m serious. The problem I found while living in New England is that people insist on defiantly ignoring the weather! I routinely saw people running around, usually with their arms folded in shiver, in only a sweater or maybe a jacket, ballet flats or high heels, and no gloves/hats/scarves. Once I started dressing properly (cuddleduds, soft scarves, wool socks, cute boots and hats, actual mittens other than the $1.99 stretch kind), going outside in the winter was a joy. Sure it’s a bit of a pain dressing and undressing when you go inside, but it actually is nice to feel toasty warm instead of complaining of the cold. And it saves on the heating bill!

    • Guest says:

      Sara, I was JUST thinking about this on my walk! I live in an area that is not known for brutal winters but we still get some crazy cold weather and I have to get outside each day if at all possible. This year I finally broke down and bought a coat for very cold weather from LL Bean, a balaclava and good gloves. I am SO enjoying getting outside because I”m not freezing to death. I’m getting my walk in, a little sun (or at least fresh air) and I feel good when I get home. Completely agree dressing appropriately so you still have a “normal” life in winter is a HUGE improvement!

    • Jennifer says:

      I agree with you Sara! When I wear my fleece lined leggings and a scarf I am so much happier! Also, slippers with a thick sole. The soft ones with only a few layers between my feet and the floor are just not cutting it. And it doesn’t hurt that Feb 1st in my birthday. 😉

  8. MrsD says:

    I have decided recently to embrace winter. I have been taking mental note and writing down all the things I love about winter and it is REALLY helping!! Here’s my list:
    *I love the sight of my husband walking around the house, fastening all the shutters and closing the curtains at night. It’s our “batten down the hatches”. I feel so snug wrapped in the warmth of the house.
    *The leaves have fallen off the trees across the street so that means all winter long, we have a mountain view!! Not so in the summer months!
    *Snow topped peaks on said mountains.
    *I adore burying myself under blankets to warm up.
    *fuzzy socks and slippers
    *The cold air outside feels so crisp and clean. Maybe it’s not…but it feels that way.
    *Warming myself by the fire.
    *Layers of clothes…..I love it!
    *Winter is a great excuse to try new flavors of tea and enjoy them all day long.
    *More time to read.
    *Homemade soups
    *Sledding!! I feel like a kid again 🙂

    By paying attention, all of these have COMPLETELY changed my outlook on winter!

  9. Dana says:

    So enjoyed this list last year! I am certainly needing things to keep me going this year. I am basically providing assisted living in my home for my ill, elderly mom. Making my list!

  10. Doret P says:

    I can already tell you that having a personal trainer and training for a 5K that happens in May is saving my life. It motivates me to get outside (in Colorado, right now, that is easy), move around, and eat healthy so I’ll be at a good weight when I do the walk.

    • Lynette says:

      Today I’m reading on my computer, and the Fs are all showing up. I was looking at the Jane Austen film recommendations the other day on an iPad, and noticed that the Fs were missing, from the post and the comments.

  11. Darla DH says:

    Candles in the evenings when I get home from work and early mornings on the weekends when it is gray and cloudy outside. I also have little white lights I turn on inside.

    Splurging once a week (or more) on a Starbucks Flat White.

    Hot coffee, warm snugly blanket with my small dog on my lap during my quiet time every morning. (We keep each other warm!)

    Planning my spring/summer balcony arrangement. I live in a condo. No yard.

    All these things help but I hate the 15 plus hours of darkness still every day. I live in Oregon…no snow but plenty of rain and gray days and it takes seemingly forever for it to get light in the morning. I am desperate for some fresh inspiration. Just saying.

  12. Cassie says:

    I live for the outdoors, but I can’t get myself out in the cold – hello 8 inches of snow – like I do any other time of the year. Especially with a 20 week old. I’m hoping next year she’ll be big enough that I can take her out a little bit to play when it’s like this, but for now, I’m holed in.

  13. Kam says:

    I love your list, Mrs. D! It makes me feel cozy just reading it. After surviving Jonas/Snowmageddon (I live in Maryland), I am snuggled on the coach with a warm blanket and a freshly bathed dog (who, incidentally, loves the winter because it is the perfect time to cuddle up without being too hot). The sun reflecting off the snow outside makes the house brighter than usual. There is no expectation or guilt that I “should be outside taking advantage of the great weather.” In my opinion, the trees are at their most beautiful in the winter–stripped of their leaves, I see the intricate twists and turns of their branches which are the real life-giving force. Oh, and my crock pot! Definitely a winter thing. It just doesn’t do its job as well any other time of the year. There is nothing like the tender and fluffy sweet potatoes that come forth. The oven just can’t compete. The Bomb: slice open a steaming sweet potato and mix the flesh with coconut oil, stevia powder, pumpkin pie spice, and chopped cashews.

  14. Ashley says:

    We have a family membership to the local YMCA. Once a week (usually a Sunday afternoon), we go for a family swim. The warm room is a lifesaver, and doing an activity that’s typically associated with summer is fun for everyone.

    Other stuff that has saved my sanity:
    – finally having a good winter wardrobe for work. (I’m in the Midwest, why did I hold out on cashmere sweaters for so long?)
    – embracing cozy activities, like reading, sitting in front of the fire, drinking hot cocoa.
    – getting outdoors and enjoying the crisp air.
    – admiring the beauty of snow-covered trees and roofs in my neighborhood.
    – exercise.
    – reading that article about Norwegian winters as needed. 🙂

  15. Natalie says:

    OK–so I live in Arizona. Can I make my list in August? ?

    And I somehow missed the fact that you live in Norway! How exciting! ?

  16. Erica says:

    I love this idea!! I think this is the key to a happier life. I usually jot about three things down each morning in my journal that are making me happy or that I am thankful for. It gets my mind thinking in a positive direction and it seems to carry on throughout the day. If I find myself feeling sorry for myself I start the mental practice of thinking of things I’m happy about, thankful for or that are bringing me life. Works every time! Thank you for sharing this! I love your blog!

  17. I absolutely love this! Not only for myself (will help me think more positively about upcoming snowy months- northern Minnesota sure is beautiful, but winters are never-ending!) but I may use it as an exercise in a high school creative writing class I teach. Thank you!

  18. Callie Moon says:

    Love this! Can’t wait to share. I do think winter is the time of year to cuddle up, get creative, treat yourself, and get things done. Excited to see what gets you through, what others share, and it will be fun to share what things are my favorites during these chilly months of the year.

  19. Andrea says:

    I dread February too, but for the opposite reason – it’s just too hot here in South Australia. Everything is brown and dry and we are stuck inside because it’s too hot to do anything. How I miss a cloudy day and a cool breeze!

  20. karen says:

    Hi Ann, What a great idea! After just surviving the big storm that dumped nearly 30 inches of snow in my backyard, I need to start thinking of more positive things… forecast is that more Nor’easters will be coming our way on the east coast due to El Nino…YIKES! I better get a LONG list going.

    • Jennifer says:

      I feel you Karen! We are here in this crazy boat too. At least today was much warmer and the beautiful sound of rapidly melting snow down my gutters made me smile today! I hope you got some good melting too. 🙂

  21. Joy says:

    Another reader from the UK here! No snow but grey, mild and rainy days. I’d prefer a sparkling cold day! This is a great idea and here’s my list:
    – knowing and constantly repeating that the days really are getting lighter and longer
    – exercise, my absolute life saver, doing something every day even just a few stretches
    – some craft e.g. crochet or knitting, great fun to make something and I find repetitive hand movements very calming (more productive than adult colouring books?!)
    – planning spring and summer holidays (UK term for vacations!)
    – more time to write letters instead of rushed emails
    – reading seed catalogues and deciding what to order to plant very soon
    – I love winter food, soups and stews seem more appropriate and nourishing in the winter
    – guilt free catching up on reading, TV, radio, podcasts because I seem to have more free time

  22. Laura Ramos says:

    I loathe winter as I was not built for cold weather and it’s difficult for me to find anything redeeming about it. Yesterday I decided I hadn’t fed my backyard birds in a long while so I put out the only makeshift feeder I could find – an old cat food bowl with pictures of cats on it 🙂 Yesterday I walked by the window and a flash of blue caught my eye. Thinking it was a blue jay, I walked closer to get a look. Turns out the bluebird of happiness came by to visit. He stayed all day on my deck and brought his mate as well. I’ve lived in my house for 10 years and have always wanted bluebirds in my yard but have never seen one until yesterday. It was a reminder that beauty really is everywhere and God’s hand is in everything and always at work – even in the season of winter when you feel numb.

  23. Heather H says:

    I love this as I too am NOT enjoying our winters lately in Eastern Canada 🙂 Great idea to concentrate on some things that really get you through it!! Off the top of my head, mine is hot coffee and other warm drinks, as well as a 5K race this weekend that is forcing me to run outside lately 🙂 I also rely heavily on extra Vitamin D supplements during this time of the year and I definitely notice a difference in my energy when I’m taking them regularly!

  24. Ginger G says:

    Count me in! I loved doing this mental exercise last year. I loved it so much that I started taking notes for each season of the year! But winter is definitely the hardest season for me and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in the struggle. Loved all the ideas last year and I’m looking forward to more inspiration this year!

  25. Lynette says:

    I am looking forward to reading your list, and to thinking more about my own. We are having a milder than usual winter in southwestern Ontario, so I haven’t sunk too deep yet into the winter blues. But it’s still a harder season, and it’s not nearly over!

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