You can’t put a timeline on healing, you can’t put a deadline on suffering and sadly you can’t neatly package grief and trauma into a week off sick as much as I have wished for that over the years. Deep emotions take a long time to excavate and even longer to heal and sometimes it feels like there is no end to what is there to be unearthed. And maybe that’s true, maybe we’re constantly burying things for later retrieval or maybe there will always be more to find if we keep looking but as I sit here right here right now for the first time in a very long time I feel like I have finally reached the bottom of this particular dig. A place I never thought I would find, a place that at times felt so far away that I would rather have died than keep on going but here it is… a moment of respite, a long slow exhale of relief. A moment where all of the long hard days, weeks, months and years of work culminate to a momentary experience of peace, a peace that appears to grow in depth and breadth with the unveiling of each new layer of experience.
I would not be here if I had not slowed the rhythm of my life down to a pace where I could feel...
...a pace where I could hear beyond the ever present and persistent driving drum of survival and expectation and down into a deeper, stronger primordial rhythm that pulls at my soul and waits to be heard; the pull of the cycles of nature. Sometimes it feels as though we all circle ever closer to this primal pulse at winter, a time when the conflicting rhythms of modern life and nature feel more profoundly out of sync. In winter our bodies, minds and spirits cry out for rest and retreat but few of our lives and situations allow us to respond to this call.
This year I decided enough was enough. After 3 major breakdowns, a series of smaller meltdowns, 2 consecutive winter burnouts and the early signs of an autoimmune condition I made the decision that keeping up was no longer an option and I dropped my bundle. I cancelled all non-essential work, got really good at saying no, took a break from cleaning, writing, social media, making plans and feeling the pressure to grow my business. At first it was hard and I felt as though I would fall behind, that friends would resent my lack of replies, that my business would suffer. And yes, I definitely suffered financially but not as much as I thought and to make up the difference I decided to view the winter as a time to get well and let my small, humble savings be my sick pay buffer. It was a hard hit to take at a time when we’re trying to save to start a family some day but what kind of mama could I be when I couldn’t even get out of bed and even talking about calendars was making me cry.
It was quite unbelievable what unfolded when I decided to step into the pain with both feet and surrender to the mysteries of darkness...
...It was a synchronous time and the people, books and situations came into my life that I needed the most. The three books that changed my world for anyone working through trauma of any kind are these; The Body Keeps Score, Complex PTSD from Surviving to Thriving and iRest Program for Healing PTSD by Richard Miller.
These few months ripped me apart to the extent I thought in moments I thought I would die (which sounds so incredibly dramatic stated here in plain text but how incredibly real it feels in the moment) but eventually it helped me to feel the kind of hope I had never before experienced. It was a bumpy ride as I learned more about the way my brain and body had been affected by my experiences and I oscillated between despair and hope until I finally found the tools and techniques that resonated with me and helped me to cope and manage. This included deepening into sisterhood with women of shared experience and into my relationship as I finally found language for my inner experience.
After 3 months of only attending to the bare minimum I returned to life expecting total destruction and to have to start from rock bottom but I found quite the opposite. I realised that my business had not suffered in any major way from me taking 3 months away from promotion, my friends hadn’t abandoned me for not replying or returning their calls and my house took very little time to clean and tidy. But I was new.
Our healing is not a linear upward trajectory, our emotional pain is not predictable and convenient and our suffering does not work to deadlines...
...I choose from hereon out to honour the deeper rhythms of nature and of my own body. I choose to honour and the seasons of nature and of my body as fully as they deserve, to treat them with the reverence and respect that they deserve. Our cyclical nature is as old as the ocean as I choose to honour the pull of its tides.
So this January as I felt the familiar knock of my own inner winter at menstruation I set my support systems in motion and prepared to honour the call. I finished up my work, tidied my house, got in supplies, prepared simple, slow yoga classes for the week and set an out of office on my emails. I attended only to that which was urgent, essential or enjoyable for the next 4 days and I let this be, as was always intended, a time to rest, replenish, feel and process. In slowing down and allowing myself this space I recaptured a sense of joy, pleasure and excitement about life. In stepping off the treadmill of daily routine I reinvigorated my body and mind and step into this new cycle feeling alive, excited, rested and renewed (thank you to my soul sister Cherry for hosting this most perfect red tent for me).
I share this in the hope that we can all begin to find ways to honour the natural ebb and flow of our lives and put in place systems and support networks that allow for regular rest and space to process as opposed to adhering to the unattainable expectations of consistency and limitless resource that inevitably lead to burn out and breakdown. I share this as a reminder of the importance of taking a stand for rhythm.