autumn’s solitude

Long days tented under gloomy skies, wet leaves beneath our feet and the cooler temperatures all forecasting an even darker season yet to come can weigh on even the most optimistic person. Hope can turn to apathy as quickly as a burnt red maple leaf can be tossed by the wind to reveal a paler, less vibrant underside.

(My Heart Says) Come On In

This is also the season of preparing to put gardens to sleep and to acknowledge that new emergent growth will not happen for a long, long while. And that some of the richest, most significant growth will surely follow this dusky period of restful slumber.

In harmony with this natural cycle of the earth, why not choose to occasionally hibernate? Intentionally burrow? Use this season to dig the hole of life much deeper? We could choose to prepare our own inner gardens by cultivating surroundings that are warm and nutrient-rich enough to produce fresh and verdant growth come springtime.

It’s seldom easy to abide the kind of solitary silence it takes to nurture future growth. Too much aloneness whispers twisted messages of scarcity, void and hunger. It might even suggest that we’ve somehow been left behind, abandoned to the margins of life with only self-consolation to comfort us.

But nothing could be further from the truth of intentional times of solitude.

How about going gently into your intentional ‘cave’ and radically accept the often aching discomfort of it? Greet yourself with a warm fleece blanket, a hot cup of tea or cider and even consider creating your very own ritual to celebrate, and even welcome, autumnal solitude.

 

chai love

 

Autumn Light Ritual

Create a place of comfort specifically for you. Surround yourself with your favourite music, books, soft lighting, comfort foods and drinks that warm you. Have a large package of tea lights and matches available. On a table or other flat surface, place one tea light.

Sit comfortably and breathe deeply. As you feel your body relax and your mind soften, bring to mind any person in your life, past or present, who has supported you, helped you, nurtured you, moved you, said a kind word to you or even smiled at you. Don’t rush. Pause. Breathe. Recall.

For each person who comes to mind, light one tea light.

A friend, a lover, a parent, a grandparent no longer with you, a neighbour, a pet, a cheerful cashier at the grocery store, the author of a book or article that resonated with you, the child who was on that school bus in front of your car on the way to work and who made faces at you or waved just to get a response, the artist who sang or played a song so elegantly that it moved you, the person who held the door for you when your arms were full, a teacher who guided you, or even the person who supported you a dozen or more years ago when you needed it the most.

Remember them. Name them. Thank them. And, as you do, light a candle for each one.

 

Candle on the water

Then in the darkness of your previously dimly lit, comfort-cave, notice how many ‘lights’ you have now or have had in your life. Notice how much light and warmth they have provided and will continue to provide for you.  Be mindful of the fact that new ‘lights’ can be lit daily.  All the warmth you need for the imminent season of hibernation is right in front of you.  Always with you.  Glowing.

See? You could not truly be alone, even if you tried.

 

 

words. create. reality?

 

I am a twin.

Well, I guess it is more accurate to say that I was born with a twin. My womb-mate, although technically fraternal, seems identical to me in so many ways yet indescribably different at the same time. Some days it feels as if she’s from a different egg altogether!  Weird.

Twins

Being twins, there’s a slight chance that we were treated more similarly, more alike than just siblings, especially since we were only sold as a set. Two of everything for years on end. Side by side for the pureed peas, high-chair feedings and dressed in matching outfits in every class photo until middle school.

Birthday parties were double the fun, for our guests. But my twin sister and I began to share knowing, resigned glances as the party-ready guests arrived each bearing their single-package gifts knowing that we were about to receive a lot of board games and other items to be shared between us. My twin and I were close, but did not relish spending hours together playing Battleship and Connect Four.

And although, our mother was thoughtfully aware enough to not compare us to each other, the labels we created in our individual self-talk perception journals were very clear. My personal black and white journal from way back then read something like this.

Me: I am the smart, introverted, persevering and sarcastic one.
She: She is the pretty, creative, social and sarcastic one.

I told you there were some similarities. The twin and I have a long-standing joke between us where we will end up sitting side-by-each in a nursing home where the experienced nurses will whisper warnings to the newbies to “stay away from those two, they bite!”

The fifth-grade “I am” statements I had scripted all had some foundation in whatever form truth takes when you’re that young. My twin indeed knew how to successfully socialize and seemed to always have plans with friends. Me, not so much. I preferred to be alone rather than hanging out with friends, chose the library stacks to the sports field and often reading a book over talking with a group of girls who were talking about a group of boys. And her creativity was expressed fluently through art, playing piano by ear or even the way she dressed with a genuine style and flair. Again, me not so much. My untapped creativity was trapped beneath a impenetrable mix of perfectionism and procrastination.

I guess I could say it’s natural to design our own labels but what is the long-term impact? What invisible doors of opportunity in our lives appeared only as walls because the risk involved would only be taken by someone with a different “I am” descriptor than the one we had for ourselves?

Recently, I started listening to my current, daily list of “I am”s and the resounding bass line of repeated phrases is interesting.  And kind of sad.

I am tired.
I am too busy to do any more.
I am too busy to get all of this work done.
I am definitely much too busy for a social life.
I am overwhelmed.
I am done.

Now there’s a snapshot of an exhausted life by design. Morbid much?  Designed to run on the steam of the consistently uttered, out-of-breath “I am”s.

But, in a given moment, am I actually tired? Or am I Danette who may at the moment be feeling the weight of a long day expressing itself as lethargy, the need for a relaxing and nourishing meal and simply a brief break from social interaction and multiple deadlines?

As soon as I say “I am tired”, my body is all too quick to agree. My posture imperceptibly crumples, with shoulders rounding forward and breath getting more shallow by the moment. Just enough though for the mind to get on board. “Yes, I am definitely tired. Exhausted even. I need a break. I work too hard.” Clearly, it must be true because I thought it.

Yet, even contemplating inverting those “I am” statements and converting them into less weighty ones might lead me perilously close to the edge of the forest where the secret life of the ‘be positive’ fairies live and dance with the woodland imps and magic fire-flies. Yikes.

Wouldn’t that just be switching one concrete for another? What about not labeling ourselves at all? But then what would we say when we are compulsively chronicling our lives in every conversation. Yes, yes, yes, I am (truly) acutely aware of the irony of that statement coming from an avid Compulsive Chronicler in blog form. Doesn’t mean I can’t question.

True confession time. I invert. And I am a converter. I recently grabbed my most common doomsday “I am”s and turned them on their heads to come up with something less lethargic, with more ease and a little less damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t.

The experiment is to use intentional word tools to see if I can rewire some of the negative, patterned, unconscious reactions. I may be just blowing sunshine up my own kilt but I’ve felt the weight of bearing these old “I am’s” and would like to see if more light-infused statements will be enough to begin some initial re-programming. I’ll keep you posted. If I start posting as a positive-thinking-will-solve-all-your-problems guru, you have permission to tell me to get my head out of my arse!  I won’t be offended. It would’ve been something my dad would’ve said so I’d respond well to it.

I do know though that things can change because when I look back on my twin-based, matching outfit litany of “I am’s”, I’ve noticed that they have oddly morphed into truthful descriptors for both me and my twin sister even if the expressions of them may appear different in varying situations. We are separately, uniquely all of them.

Not to leave all cynicism in the dust of this power of positive thinking party, I’ve still got money on the fact that the twinster and I will be an acerbic pair of old grannies, sitting in wheelchairs with knitted blankets folded on our laps,complaining about getting another board game for our 90th birthdays.

Twins

letting go

If memory serves, I was fourteen years old when I first came upon a dog-eared copy of a Wayne Dyer paperback in a cardboard box of my mother’s books and had my first close encounter with the concept of ‘self-actualization’. I was hooked. Ass-over-tea-kettle in love at first self-development sound byte. It didn’t help that it was clearly such an incredibly sexy word! Don’t you love the way ‘self-actualization’ sounds rolling off your tongue? So what did it matter that I didn’t truly know what it meant or how following its siren call down the left-foot path of life would impact me from then on?

If I’m computing correctly then that means I’ve been walking this personal growth road for literally decades which begs the questions, “where is this path headed” and “when am I going to arrive? Questions more to be asked than answered. Yet no matter where it leads, I am thoroughly enjoying the journey. Learning, growing, evolving….zzzzzz!

Geez, sometimes I even bore myself.

Enough already.  Time for a time-out.

I feel the immediate need to stop learning, growing and evolving and just ‘be’.  For just this moment.  Can’t I take even one moment without naming a specific goal and supporting it with a well-constructed strategic plan? Or spend one evening not examining, analyzing, making a tomorrow’s “to-do” list, plotting beneficial outcomes or being a binge-perfectionist with every thought?

Time to let something go.  Let it all go.

Ways I Will Choose to Let Go This Weekend

  • Stop smiling.  Sorry Thich Nhat Hahn. Love you, but need this.
  • Get out of my head.  Dig in the garden. No mental weeding necessary.
  • Write and say nothing.  A break from bearing witness.
  • Hope for nothing.  It is what it is.
  • Despair nothing.  It is what it is.
  • Be. Wherever I am, whatever I do or not do, be it for all I’m worth. 

Sleeping Cat

So if you wonder where I’ll be this cool, autumn weekend, that’ll be me taking a nap at the side of the road in a bed of reds and oranges.  Rousing occasionally to watch the clouds float by and let my thoughts do the same, counting my blessings, watching my breath, wishing for nothing and only incidentally accomplishing something.  By accident only, not by design, I promise.