I wrote this essay five days before my mother died on Christmas morning. I was with her through her last hours and the moment of her death, a profound experience. I thank you so much for your comments as I have written about waiting for this moment, which gave me great comfort.
I am sharing this post with you today as a way of also letting you in on some other important news, for which you have had a large part in making happen. These two announcements are so indicative of the nature of life in general and older life in particular in that we are always presented with challenges and opportunities. How we meet them is a test of who we are and who we might become.
I wish you a healthy and meaningful year ahead and look forward to hearing more about your plans, dreams, and hopes for 2022.
“If rest is another dimension, which I think it is, I think the more we go there, the more we’re going to wake up.” Tricia Hersey.
This week we approach the Winter Solstice. In fact, today is the day before, the shortest day of the year. For many animals and wildlife, it begins a time of dormancy and hibernation. It’s a time where animals are in complete harmony with their environment. They let go into it, grow furrier coats, lower their body temperatures, and conserve metabolic energy. They productively use waste, breathe more slowly, and are very creative in how they spend their resources. Conversely, humans go to great lengths to control our environment during the winter months; turning on the heat, making a fire, bundling up in warm clothes, or heading to warmer climes.
During the last six weeks, I’ve gained weight, been doing a great deal of eating, slacking off on my yoga practice and the healthy routine I set for myself. I try new beauty products at the expense of self-care. I have zero motivation to take photos of myself or post them. I don’t want to engage in social media and I can’t make myself do it. I’ve declined every invitation to events, preferring to remain at home and focus on tasks that make it more our own and more comfortable. I’m a social media person who does not want to be social. I’ve been very hard on myself about these behaviors. I don’t like how I look. I won’t even allow the grace of giving myself a break because my mother is dying.
The work I thought I had done when it comes to idealized standards of beauty, self-acceptance, how I define “productive” and good health is coming into the stillness and telling me you are not done yet. Not related to my age, they have been issues in all periods of my life, starting in adolescence. While insight may bloom for a time through therapy, or writing, other non-verbal modes of expression, or becoming an Accidental Icon, after periods of dormancy, these issues tend to re-emerge at different points in our lives in a new form that we must observe, cultivate and tend to again. We are constructed by the times we live through and so the deconstructing process can never end. In each phase of the human lifespan, these concerns are always the same, but different. They will keep appearing to become new growth during times we stop long enough to let the shoots poke through the ground and not get trampled by our ever forward-moving feet,
There are things that animals do in autumn to prepare for hibernation. Bears go through a time of excessive eating known as hyperphagia. This allows them to conserve energy during hibernation by providing stores of fat and protein. They also build, dig, or find a den. Dens can be in caves, trees, underwater falls, or re-claimed abandoned ones that a bear makes their own. Essentially they seek a safe space. For the female bear, during this hibernation time, in this space, she will give birth to and nurture her baby cubs. Even though the mating season occurs during the summer, the fertilized eggs will remain in her womb but will not attach until hibernation begins.
Reading about these autumn behaviors that occur in the natural world makes me less judgmental about my own that mirror them. It provides a different way to think about and understand them. I used to always tell my students that I placed a high premium on writing because writing helps you to think. When I write about something I read or about an article of clothing, there is usually a question implicated or a desire to understand involved. While writing, I always discover something I never knew before. Writing does indeed help you think. It also helps you to know in a much deeper way than you knew before.
I completed something very important to me this summer. It took me a long time to do. It was a struggle; it was hard and I almost quit, in fact, I did for a short while. In June, I decided once again to commit and this time what I produced was “fertilized” and became real. I have held it close through the fall. The need to prepare a space that is mine, to free myself from the distraction of social media so I can lean in, to have plenty of internal resources to draw upon, to let go of the past and allow room for the future are all things that are necessary to nurture my “cub”. My behaviors this autumn makes sense when placed in this frame. I am so much kinder to myself from this realization. I look in the mirror, apply some clean ingredient moisturizer and see myself as I really am. I’m satisfied. I practice my yoga again so my body may be strong and healthy, not to be pleasing for others to see. I share moments with new friends and old; ones that are more intimate than “events” and allow me to experience deep connections. I keep close to nature so she may continue to share her secrets and I can adapt to her soothing rhythms. I take a brief ramble outside my house to stretch and change position. I realize I am the same, but different.
So I am so happy to share the following news! I’m writing a book!
Your support, encouragement, and sharing of your life and experience through the comments make this site so much more than if it was just me sharing mine. You have given me confidence in my writing ability which has helped me embrace a dream deferred. I truly feel a part of an incredible community and for that, I am deeply grateful.
What are you preparing for in the new year?