This winter has been rough. Not rough weather-wise, as the winters in the Pacific Northwest aren't nearly as bad as the New England winters I grew up in, but rough emotionally.
The darkness and the pandemic and the seasonal effective disorder really got to me this year. My usual sense of energy, brightness, curiosity, and creativity went dim, and I've felt disconnected from myself.
With this disconnection I stopped doing things that usually cheer me up. I stopped going outside. I stopped walking. I stopped lounging on a sofa for hours and reading. I stopped making strange and wonderful snacks from scratch, like strawberry coconut ice cream or chocolate.
I haven't even wanted to drink tea, which is one of the ultimate red flags that I have become disconnected from my true self, because my truest self always loves a cup of tea.
A shift came, however, this January when it stopped being pitch dark at 4:30pm, and instead got pitch dark at 4:35. With that slight change came a little gleam of hope. Perhaps spring really would come again?
With this renewed sense of hope also came a little bit of curiosity. What did I used to do that would help me feel like myself? Didn't I used to love sitting outside, communing with trees? Why wasn't I doing that? What if I started doing that again?
And so this January, in the midst of feeling depressed but also a little curious, I put on my thermal underwear, tucked a hot water bottle under my coat and started sitting outside in a special spot for 15 minutes every day.
As I sat I noticed the ferns, vine maples, big leaf maples, cedars, hemlocks, moss, and rocks. I let their colors and sounds fill my senses. The more I went outside, the more my curiosity began to grow. What was happening with the rest of the yard? How were all the other trees doing?
After my daily sitting practice, I started wandering around our acre+ of land, checking in on the trees and the shrubs and the moss, until one day I walked by a big cedar hidden behind a giant salal bush.
The cedar was surrounded by twisting green leaves and spiky blackberry vines. Its base was covered by layers of old dead leaves. It looked a little forlorn, and suddenly all I wanted was for this cedar to be uncovered and to become a part of things.
So after sitting outside for my daily 15 minutes, I started wandering over to the cedar with the yard waste bin, shears, and a rake.
I raked, cut, and cleared the space. I filled the yard waste bin with piles of leaves, until there was a sweet little path through the bushes, which I decided to call Blackberry Lane, and a peaceful clearing under the tree, which I decided to call Aunty Cedar's Tea Room.
I put a little table in the clearing, a couple chairs, and a few candles, and this past Sunday I walked through Blackberry Lane and sat in Aunty Cedar's Tea Room with my friend (in a pandemic-safe way), pulled oracle cards, and chatted about all the soulful things.
And I realized I had made something. It had been months since I had made anything from a sense of pure play and curiosity, but it happened. Something had shifted.
Then I found myself taking out the food processor to make ice cream, ordering herbs to blend teas, and sitting on the couch for hours listening to a book. That's when I knew I might have found my way home to myself.
Then the funniest thing happened. Yesterday, I re-read a course I wrote a few years ago called Find Your True Self Again. It's a 35 day guide with daily 10-minute activities to help you come back to yourself.
As I read it, I was like holy crap, the solution was here all along. My past self had written it all down. I had written about finding yourself through taking action that helps you feel like yourself.
I had written about finding peace, connecting to your senses, and experiencing wonder. I had written about how to remember the things that make you feel like you and how to make an ongoing practice of doing these things so you can stay connected.
Throughout this winter I felt so lost and confused, but it turns out my past self had left a list of thorough instructions for me. I had set it all down in writing three years ago.
So here's my question for you this week: If you're going through a hard time right now, is it possible that your past self wrote down the solution somewhere? It might be a good time to read old journals or old pieces of writing where your wise, wonderful self may have left you the instructions you need today.
P.P.S. Have you listened to the most recent episode of Glennon Doyle's podcast, We Can Do Hard Things, where she interviews Martha Beck about coming home to yourself? It's really good! Have a listen here.