I don’t deny or minimize that this has been an exceptionally difficult winter.
The snow. The cold. The stir-craziness. The SAD. The coughs and sniffles and sore throats. The crazy drivers on the unplowed streets. The extra bodies squeezed onto too few train cars. The relentlessness of it all.
It’s hard. It affects me too.
But walking home from the train after work a week or two ago, looking up into the inky black sky of, oh, 6 pm, I glanced at the moon and suddenly remembered.
The moon. The dark. The cold.
It’s all very much the yin to the sunny, bright warmth of summer’s yang.
Or, from a more mystical perspective, it’s the feminine half of the year counterbalancing the masculine half. It’s the season when we’re invited to slow down — a lot. And look at what a struggle it’s been for so many of us.
Our overdriven impulse to keep producing and participating at top speed is in direct opposition to how nature itself is compelling us to feel and behave. We grimace and complain about how hard it is to get up in the morning or how little we want to do in our spare time on nights and weekends. As if any of that is a problem! This has always been the time of year for rest and introspection and solitude. We do ourselves a disservice to fight it.
We do ourselves a disservice when we ignore the call to be still, to live in the mystery.
Even in such a seemingly small way, it’s important to push back as much as we can against the pervasive cultural imperative to privilege the more traditionally masculine modes of expression and behavior. If left unexamined, it’s easy to fear the power of darkness because it’s so feminine, so elusive. But, our worth and our priorities can’t be exclusively tied to how much we can do, how much we can achieve. These qualities have to be balanced with a healthy respect for quiet receptivity and an intentional honoring of the times when we’re not doing much of anything at all.
So I’m trying to be mindful of all that myself right now. Instead of resisting the slower pace and colder temperatures and lack of visible progress in my life, I’m doing my best to notice the moments when my body wants to stop moving, when my mind wants to wander off into uncharted territory. I’m making more space to be OK with my life feeling a little mysterious, even a little unhinged. There will be plenty of time in months to come to reengage with achievement and activity, when progress seems easier to manifest.
But for now I am claiming space for sleep, for contemplation, for my darker emotions, for my ability to let thoughts and fancies percolate below the threshold of my conscious awareness.
I recently attended an astral body healing workshop, and the instructor told us that she’d left her day job not too long ago. I forget now the exact words that she used, but she said something to the effect that she did so in order to have more time to care for things.
And that phrase hit me like a ton of bricks.
The notion of having more time in one’s day in order to more deeply care for things just sounded like the most obvious, sanest, richest way to live.
Like so many people, I’m prone to overwork. This fact is also exacerbated by my tendency to feel overly responsible for other people and their agendas instead of my own. And when my schedule starts getting packed and the pace of my daily life gets frantic, I find that I start to half-ass things.
And I don’t just mean that I start making silly mistakes, like typos and miscalculations (though that’s certainly a part of it). I also mean that I start half-assing my interactions with other people. I don’t attend deeply enough to conversations, I don’t take the time to remember to be kind, I spend less time interacting with any one person, instead spreading my attention out to perhaps dozens of people so that no one ends up feeling a sense of satisfaction about our encounters (least of all me).
It’s a quietly soul-deadening way to live.
I am an ambitious, multitalented person, so it’s in my nature to want to do a lot of different things. (Not for nothing do my personal business cards read “writer, editor, musician, clairvoyant.”) So, clearly, I’m in no way advocating, least of all for myself, a life of unstructured wandering.
But this idea of having time to care for things suggests a different kind of spaciousness. It’s a spaciousness that somehow feels directly related to whatever sense of mission I may have on this planet—which, as close as I can tell, is just to love. To spread love, to experience love, to cultivate love, to shower people and things with love, to be love.
Like I’ve mentioned previously, I operate as an empath, so that desire to love more deeply can often get used against me if I’m not mindful of separating myself out from other people’s thoughts and emotions and energies. It’s easy for me to get sucked into providing advice, support, and resources in ways that leave me feeling drained, mistaking those efforts for love. (I’m reading Doreen Virtue’s book Assertiveness for Earth Angels: How to Be Loving Instead of “Too Nice” right now, and it’s promising to be a game-changer for me.)
But when I’m operating from my own personal power, and not acting as a doormat, it stands to reason that I would be able to make good use of some more time and space to care for things in the ways that I genuinely want to. It’s the best argument I’ve heard yet for saying no to activities, invitations, expectations, and commitments that are well and truly optional.