Life moves along in flows and eddies. The more you attend to your inner world and heal the long-standing and deep-seated pain and trauma that live at the root of intrusive thoughts, the longer the stretches of eddies and the time you’ll stand amongst the reeds, flowing with the small moments of life as they arise, both the poetry and the pain. But we cannot live in the eddies forever, and it’s often when the earth tilts and its relationship to the sun shifts – in the crack between two seasons – that the next layer of grief bubbles up to the surface. This is not an accident; it’s how we remain open-hearted, it’s how we release what is no longer serving us and continue along the spirals and layers of growing closer to wholeness.
The transition from summer into autumn in the Northern hemisphere and from winter into spring in the Southern hemisphere has begun. The earth is tilting, and for the sensitives, we can feel this shift, as if the earth is cracking open ever so slightly. Nature’s tremulous changes initiate our own tremblings, a quaking within as the familiar defenses fall away and we touch into our most vulnerable places.
If we don’t name what’s happening in the natural world it’s frightfully easy for the anxious mind to try to grasp onto something tangible – its favorite story or current hook – as a way to gain a foothold amidst the groundlessness. If we believe this story, it’s a short hop onto the hamster wheel of intrusive thoughts, where the mind spins and spins in its futile attempt to answer a fundamentally unanswerable question.
I found myself on this very treadmill last Saturday night. It was late, I had stayed up past my usual bedtime to finish reading Dani Shapiro’s memoir Hourglass, and it stirred me up. In this ungrounded place, and with the seasonal shift undertow, I could feel restlessness enter my body. Had I chosen to journal in that moment, I likely would have been able to name what needed containment and process it through.
But I was tired, and laziness took over, and instead I allowed my mind to ruminate. It searched frantically like a cat in headlights for a foothold: A significant change of career path for my husband. Anxiety anxiety anxiety. Our son’s recent health scare and a current symptom that anxious mind said must be related. Anxiety anxiety anxiety. I finally fell asleep, but slept fitfully, my mind unmoored and floating out to sea. In the light of the next morning, I knew that neither of those stories were the source of my anxiety, but I couldn’t grasp into the core.
It wasn’t until the evening of the next day that I remembered to name the shift in seasons, and once I did everything inside of me settled into exhale. As I closed my eyes, I sent my imagination out the window, into the darkening night of a waning moon and placed myself next to the chirping crickets. I rode their wings into memory, remembering when I read “The Cricket in Times’ Square” to my son, Everest, when he was about seven years old. He’s turning fifteen this week. The first tinge of grief landed in my heart.
When I allowed myself to soften further into memory, I saw myself sitting at the ocean’s edge, belly full of my unborn son, mind full of the hopes of new motherhood and innocent to the storm of grief and shattering of self that would accompany his birth, blind to the journey of loving a child-into-man that would eventually land me a week before his fifteenth birthday. This teenager who pilots gliders, who soars above our small city and next to the Rocky Mountains in a wide-winged plane by himself. The pride, the grief, the fear, the nostalgia…
“Eleven days,” he informs me that day. “Eleven days until I turn fifteen. And then one more year before I can get my glider rating and drones license and driver’s license.” His face is aglow with growing up. “Do you think I’ll go to Space Camp next summer?” he asks. “Yes, I do,” I say. This requires him traveling across the country on his own.
My husband, a sensitive himself and deeply attuned to the seasons, says, “He’s growing up too fast.” Everest has informed us that he wants to go to college in three years, not four. He simply cannot wait to sink his teeth into the intellectual material that he hopes college will offer. This young man is running toward adulthood while his parents try to slow things down. Wasn’t it just a blink of an eye when I sat on my bed in Los Angeles and held this baby boy, crying then about the day he would leave for college?
I think of my clients whose young toddlers are getting ready to start preschool, mothers whose hearts are breaking at this first separation, and I want to hug them across space and time. I want to tell them, “I’m here with you. Every time you grieve these transitions they prepare you for the bigger ones down the road. It gets easier in some ways and harder in others. But when we remember to link arms and hearts and grieve together, it’s all okay.”
The medicine for these seasonal ruptures is grief. Once the grief-gates open, my soul settles further into the channel of sadness that opens like a river during these transitional times, inviting me to soften my heart and ride on the inner tube of memory. It is through these liminal zones, in fact, that the opportunity to remain soft spreads out more easily before us, like the golden light across the fields, like winter’s chill that is beginning to warm in spring’s new light.
It’s a nostalgic time of year. Memories will float to the surface and grief will roll down your cheeks if you let them. This is how it’s meant to be: the earth’s cracks crack us open, and when we unravel into the grief we remain in the flow of the river, accepting life as it comes. When we resist, anxiety takes hold, and we’re left hovering above the waters, hovering above our bodies, trying to get back inside.
If you’re finding yourself on the treadmill of your intrusive thoughts – whether about relationship anxiety or health anxiety or money anxiety or whatever the hook – instead of attaching onto the familiar escape-hatch fantasies that are telling you that you would feel more grounded or certain if you had a different [house, partner, job, city, etc], try saying to yourself, “The earth is shifting. What do I notice when I name and validate this experience for myself? What mind-chatter quiets down when I give myself a healthy foothold into which my soul can land?”
Then shut the screens, step outside, and ask nature to guide you into your open places, resting into her comfort and wisdom as she reveals whatever it is that is ready to be known.