“I don’t change, so I grew.”
That is one of the most beautiful sentences I’ve read in a long time, written by a friend who is nearly four decades younger than me and who is going through processes at that young age that I didn’t even begin to go through until I was in my forties.
Anyway… When I was young I was taught to hate myself, which is a very uncomfortable (painful) feeling. Pain prompts action, so from childhood I sought to improve myself – with very limited success. I put most of my effort into change, something akin to trying to ‘make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’. I wasn’t able to take any real steps forward until I learned to accept myself as I am: Not inferior (as a sow’s ear is to silk) but different.
Accepting my differences was a good start, but then I had to ask myself, ‘different’ from what, exactly? Realized rather quickly that nothing is gained from comparing my self to social norms; it only served to invalidate what is ‘normal’ for me. Self discovery (and sometimes hilarity) ensued.
Which brings me to my point, finally: All of that which I am as a human being exists within the larger context of the physical universe, and specifically this Earth. I’ve found that the process of molding, shaping and growing is best done in harmony with my external surroundings. For example, as I’m writing this it’s winter, the coldest and darkest months of the year, when many living beings hibernate. For me that means introspection is the most valuable use of my energy, taking stock of who and what I am right now.
Which brings me to my other point: Taking a good look at the darker aspects of my being, I’ve learned that ‘dark’ is not equal to ‘bad’; they’re simply aspects of me that I don’t like or that I don’t yet understand. Grief, for example, is a ‘dark’ emotion, a natural response to loss. I certainly don’t like to feel grief, but I’ve found it’s much better to embrace the feeling, allow it to run its course, than to fight against it or ignore it. But. It’s also natural (at least it is for me) to try to bury those uncomfortable emotions, so winter is a great time to suss them out and deal with them. The process is nourishing in its own way.
Once that’s done, I can turn my attention toward where I want to go from here and in what ways I want to grow. It’s sort of like planning a garden: What seeds do I need to sew now in order to enjoy the harvest later? This gives me ample time to take stock of what ‘seeds’ I have on hand, which ones I need to obtain, and to plan on when I’ll plant them and in what parts of my ‘garden’.
Of course that’s the simplified version. Carry the metaphor a bit farther: There’s the rest of the yard that needs tending, plus repair and maintenance of the house, and so on. Most of those things are best considered and planned now so I’m ready to take action when the weather permits.
So. That’s where I’m at right now, still taking a good look at me. The seed sorting has begun in a peripheral way, but I’m not yet to the point of actually planning my garden just yet.
It would do me no good to become impatient, to try to sow seeds right now or to feel disgruntled over the lack of things to harvest at this time. Of course I DO become impatient and struggle with all that, but I can find my way back to balance, and as I become more mindful of this process the struggle becomes way more manageable.
In fact… in fact… after a lifetime of depression, I am now well into my second depression-free year, having (finally) learned to work with, not against, my own natural energy cycles and with those of the Earth’s seasons as well.
Yay me, huh?