The last several months, I’ve been hard on myself.
It was a busy summer for my family. Without a lot of conscious intention, I filled the days and weeks with art classes, summer camps, family vacations, and lots of memory-making, nurturing experiences for my children. It wasn’t deliberate or intentional, but I lost much of the free-flowing downtime of summers past, and when we jumped into a very busy start to the school year, I suddenly realized how depleted I felt.
By then, though, it was too late. We were immersed in school events, karate tournaments, and family obligations that gave us no chance of catching up… and every chance at catching various infections that begged for us to slow down and me to rethink what I was doing.
Lost in the Doing
In fact, it took me coming down with a particularly persistent UTI (on top of various colds already making their way through the family) and reaching out for Inner Bonding support before I realized that I needed to double-down on the self-care stuff, starting first with mindfulness and a conscious reconnection, to myself and to guidance. As I talked things through with my mentor, Sylvia, suddenly it was like a light bulb lit up in my brain–I’d spent the summer overdoing in an attempt to escape feeling, and then sped into the school year trying to think and organize (rather than feel) my way through life. As a result, I was now completely disconnected from myself, from those I love, and from loving guidance. No wonder I felt horrible.
Since this realization, I’ve made conscious efforts to reconnect. I’ve started meditating on my own most days, focused on my personal health (including nutrition and lots of rest), and reached out to close friends for support and encouragement. Of course, I’m still human and that means I’ve made mistakes along the way. But I’ve also tried to give myself more compassion and forgiveness, especially when making mistakes.
Slowly, this practice of self-care and tuning in is starting to become familiar again, and with familiarity, it gets easier. I’m becoming more aware of the little ways in which I can choose self care over cultural expectation, and how much better it feels.
Just the other day I was walking through the local nature center and came to a split in the trail. One path led up a set of stairs in the sun, a shortcut through the loop, and the other path led to a shaded, even curve around the trees. For a split second, I heard that grind culture voice in my head telling me I should push myself up those stairs (“it’ll be good for you, you’ll burn more calories”) even though I didn’t feel like I had (or wanted to expend) the energy. And without conscious effort, I was able to tune in to my essence and quickly realize that, even though I could have pushed myself, I didn’t really want to take those stairs.
And I wondered in that moment, “What would it be like to live our whole lives from this place of choosing authentic self care?” Must we always force ourselves to choose the steeper climb, because if we don’t grind we’ll never achieve the capitalist ideal of (financial) success? What if, instead of forcing ourselves to work harder just because we can… what if we let ourselves choose the softer path?
As I wandered along the softer path that morning, I reveled in the coolness of the shade, the chill of that autumn morning, protected by the trees from the SoCal heat wave waiting for me outside the canyon. And I felt my soul’s longing for the slowness of winter.
Honoring Stillness and Quiet
It’s hard to remember in Southern California, with our seeming lack of seasonal change, but we humans (just like all of nature) have seasons of hibernation, introspection, dormancy… from the life cycle of a plant to the seasons of entire ecosystems, even the earth as a whole has cycles of growth/expansion, destruction/dormancy, and rebirth. And for this California girl with Scandinavian roots, winter is usually a time of shoring up, going dormant, preparing for change. The more I tune in to my essence, the easier I hear my soul calling for me to honor the cycles of my ancestors that spent the winter months in quiet, honoring the stillness of the cold, the saving of energy, and the storing of fuel for the coming growth of spring.
So as the days get shorter and the weather cooler, I set the intention to allow myself to choose the softer path, the slower pace that allows for hibernation, stillness, quiet reflection, and feeling. And I send out my hope for you to find your own soul’s calling, to listen to your essence and give yourself the time and space for reflection and self care, in whatever form fits your needs best.