“Lagom - noun - the principle of living a balanced, moderately paced, low-fuss life:
- those who achieve lagom routinely take time to appreciate their surroundings, take several breaks during the workday, dress from a minimal and versatile wardrobe, and treat others with respect and kindness”
This winter I am, for the first time in my adult life, actually having a winter. Like a hibernating bear, I am actually resting and sleeping more. Like a frozen lake, I am actually becoming solid and reflecting with deep inner questions. Like the roots of naked and brittle trees, I am feeling the nourishment of inner insight and wisdom beneath the sleeping ground that can only come from this season.
I live in a culture of constant summer. We as a U.S. culture strive for light, warm, happy, beach-play, fun all year round. We fill all empty spaces with checking our phones and scheduling meetings and working overtime and then we decompress by binging on Netflix and watching a hundred TikToks. We value long to-do lists and juggling five things at once and revere the person in our lives who already has all the presents wrapped and all the cards sent. This year COVID has put a halt to a lot of that.
In the past, for me, this time of year meant putting on some kind of winter play or holiday performance with the children I teach, preparing for a long and intense two week run of performing in the Christmas Revels, organizing caroling in hospitals and care facilities, helping my girls with 4-H and school secret Santa exchanges, steal-a-gift parties, birthdays, and somehow finding time to Christmas shop and bake and prepare food in between all of that. In a time when the natural world was calling us all inward, my culture would be demanding more of me (and all of us) than ever. Usually I would end up with Strep Throat or Pneumonia by January from consistently pushing thought the holidays instead of basking in them.
In my world “Lagom” has another shadowy word attached to it - that word is LAZY. It is a taboo to just sit. Practically illegal to bask in the morning sunlight or daydream on the back porch. But this is my own little inner revolution I am currently having - slowing down is not lazy, taking time to be with family is not lazy, sitting in the living room enjoying a cup of hot tea or taking time chat with loved ones is not lazy and in these cold drizzly grey months of winter, laying in bed for hours of the day snoozing off and on and daydreaming … is. not. lazy! Even typing these words feels somehow sacrilegious to some fucked up fundamental brain washing I have been handed by my culture, but I am staying fast to this new revelation! It’s OK to just be! In fact, it’s better than ok - it’s WONDERFUL!
Ironically, it was work to find some Lagom! I have had to make it a priority and … well.. a goal for lack of a better word! It was more of an internal process of asking myself how I wanted to spend my time. It was a mindset that I had to cultivate and remind myself of over and over, usually coinciding with another deep breath out.
If you were to ask anyone in my past to give you words to describe me, I guarantee you, of all the many words you might get - “balanced, moderately-paced and low-fuss” would not be anywhere on the list! SO it was a bit of a challenge I gave myself this season. What would it be like to truly hibernate? To read books of my choosing, when I want to, and to really, really deeply rest. What does a low-fuss life look like? Especially in December, with so many family birthdays and the Holiday Season to boot?
We celebrated my daughter’s birthdays. "Sweet 16 and not within 6 feet of me…" hmmm I don’t think those are the words to the song! I will not lie, they were bummed to be turning 16 in the middle of COVID. We had hoped for a big party with a big theme. What we ended up doing was making them a driving treasure hunt to the porches of all our local friends and family who left them each a present, or activity or just came out to say a masked hello. It was such a simple day with a very balanced amount of preparation and by far the most low-fuss birthday celebration I have ever prepared for them. And it ranked #1 best birthday of all time - for all of us!
We had Christmas… It was so mellow! Just our little quaranteam cozy around the Christmas tree with a fake log in the fire place and hot coffee in our hands. We spent the day slowly opening gifts and telling stories and eating delicious food. We ordered Chinese for dinner. Though we longed to be with other family members, it really wasn’t so bad and it was all kept so simple. Maybe not to the #1 Christmas of all time, but a pretty good one none the less, made so by chilling the fuck out, just enjoying each other and feeling actually grateful for the gifts coming our way.
This winter I have had many nights where I slept over 12 hours at night. If I felt a sniffle coming, I went immediately to bed and didn’t ever get the cold. If it was dark outside, I made tea or curled up with a book. If it was raining outside I skipped my daily walk. If it was the first day of my moon time, I paused all activity and took a long hot bath.
Moral of the story? I think humans might just be meant to hibernate.
Did it take a global pandemic to get this choleric, crazy woman to relax enough to embrace Lagom? Yes. Yes it did. But now that I have tasted just a hint of it, I want to integrate it more and more. A certain go-with-the-flow feeling counter to my culture (as I use to know it). It seems to be so much about staying right here in this moment and savoring it. It makes breathing, and loving and living so much easier! It’s not a religion or a meditative practice, it simply a sigh, and breath…