On the last Monday of each month, Carolyn hosts a wonderful group of bloggers reflecting on their word of the year. My word this year – stillness – has been hovering around me since the summer. I’m back today with just a few thoughts about how important it’s been for me lately – here are all of my posts on this topic if you’d like to explore further.
Friends, I started the first draft of this post in early January in anticipation for Anne Bogel’s annual What’s Saving Me Right Now linkup. Yet – the midwinter struggle for me has been real this year. Blogging and the anticipation of a big linkup felt like too much to bear at the time and my decisions around this post perfectly captured the effect of my word on my life in February. So I’ve revamped this essay to reflect how Stillness itself has gotten me through some dark and difficult days this winter.
Towards the end of January I hit a major wall – I couldn’t bring myself to do any of the things that normally bring me joy. I’m no stranger to depression and recognized all of the red flags. When I start noticing the warning signs, I tend to dig into the things that I typically enjoy with the hope and expectation that I can claw myself out of that black hole and get back to myself quickly. But this year, the stakes felt higher given the pandemic and how completely chaotic things were in the US in January. I decided to do something a bit riskier – instead of clinging to what typically works, perhaps I could try something different.
It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Doing those deeply unfashionable things – slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting – is a radical act now, but it is essential.Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
Have you had a chance to read Wintering by Katherine May yet? If so, then you know exactly what I mean. I wanted to try being open to not clawing back. To accept that I was feeling low in every area of my life: low energy, low mood, low stress tolerance, low motivation. Would it be possible to sit back, accept the feelings, and not fight them? It felt radical and even, possibly, dangerous. It’s definitely not something that I would recommend to anyone with a serious mental illness – to ignore their red flags and allow themselves to sink into their thoughts and feelings. But my “low time,” though disruptive, is typically low grade, seasonal, and predictable. Perhaps it’s something to welcome during the dark months; perhaps a time to retreat is part of an important cycle that my body could benefit from.
But the storm, painful as it is, might have had some truth in it. So sometimes one has simply to endure a period of depression for what it may hold of illumination if one can live through it, attentive to what it exposes or demands.Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton
About a week before Anne was scheduled to post her linkup, I was on the yoga mat in downward dog and worrying about when I was going to be able to finish this post. As I shifted my gaze forward, stepped into a low lunge, and then swept into warrior one, a strange thought occurred to me. I could skip it. Retreat. Rest. Maybe I didn’t need to stress myself out over a blog post and page views — especially right now when it was important to use my energy elsewhere in my life. And what a way to honor my quest for internal stillness.
So I skipped it. And when Anne’s post went up on February 1st, I felt a tiny pang of regret because I felt like I was missing out. Then I read her lovely post on how focusing on her home has saved her throughout this very strange time we’ve been living in and I knew I did the right thing. We’re all so hopeful right now, things are going to get better for the world soon, and yet – we’re still living through an extraordinary time. A perfect storm. There was no reason to expect that I would be able – or need – to keep up with everything that I’ve done in the past.
This reframe – seeking internal stillness – has been more life giving than I can describe. I fail at it every single day, but much like my major lesson of 2020, the key has been recognizing when I’m experiencing internal turmoil. When we can recognize it, we can take the baby steps to start taming it.
So despite being nearly a month late and always privately priding myself on being one of the first commenters on Anne’s linkups, I’m going to add my little link way down below the first 188 comments on the page. Because why not? I’ve participated in this linkup every year since 2018 and this year’s post feels like the most important one I’ve written so far. If you’re interested, here are my previous contributions to Anne’s yearly linkups:
- What Saved Me in 2018: Journaling, my window bird feeder, Tasha Tudor, essential oil diffuser, and purging social media.
- What Saved Me in 2019: A new electric teakettle, sourdough starter, the public library, and my family
- What Saved Me in 2020: My notebooks, more birds, more Tasha Tudor, more following nature
And thank you again to Carolyn for hosting the One Little Worders! I can’t wait to spend the rest of the week getting caught up with all of my blogger friends and reading how their words are making waves in their lives.