“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” William Faulkner
It’s that time again, almost February. Deep winter in New England. Not only is it bitter cold and everything’s covered in ice and snow, we’re still months away from spring. Although the calendar says it’s spring at the end of March, if you live in New England you know spring doesn’t reliably show up until May. Ok, late April if we’re lucky.
Anyway, in addition to my obvious struggle with the climactic reality there’s another factor that make this time of year particularly significant for me. My husband leaves for a three-week vacation/vision quest (alone) to the southwest. Every year for the past 16 years he packs up his truck, decked out for camping and drives off on what he calls a pilgrimage. It’s a time to reconnect with himself, the earth and his reason for being. He finds his way into the Utah desert, forty miles from civilization, with just enough food to keep him alive. There he sits, hikes and finds himself amongst the staggeringly gorgeous landscape of vivid color and isolation.
Although I truly admire and support him in his desire to make this annual trip, it’s a challenging dance for me. In addition to missing him, I’m left to shovel snow, keep the wood box filled, stoke the woodstove, and single parent in addition to my existing routine and full life. It throws me into a vision quest of my own. A quest that although begrudgingly at the start winds up reminding me of who I am and what my purpose for being is.
W hat still amazes me is the amount of resistance I have to this period of time. Even though my experience tells me I will end up enjoying the solo time; I still dread the day he leaves. So, what’s really operating here?
First, I notice that transitions are hard for me, making a shift from one state to another from daily engagement with husband to independence. Second, I get lost in the anticipated story about what a pain it is to do “all” the work myself. I start to feel left behind and sorry for myself. Third, I wonder what in the world I’m going to do to entertain myself during the time we usually spend together. The mental energy it takes to consider and worry about all these things is considerable, no wonder I dread this time.
What life situation are you resisting or dreading?
Here’s how I’ve learned to work with this and other opportunities that challenge my comfort zone. (It’s only taken me 16 years):
1. I slow my thoughts WAY down. I invite all the petty and worrisome thoughts to come to the surface to be heard. I do my best not to judge them, I simply notice them.
2. I inquire into my beliefs to find truth and disqualify the beliefs or stories that turn out to be false.
3. Then, I make a list of all the things I enjoy, look forward to, or seldom have a chance to experience. Then, I and go into action. I ask for help with the tasks I need help with. I remind my friends I’m extra available for outings.
By the time I get through step three I’m energized and looking forward to my time alone. Even though I still feel sad the day he pulls away, I can be with all of my feelings and know I’m fine.
My deep winter alone time has become a period for me to remember my strength, find companionship and enjoyment with myself, and reprioritize what’s important to me. It’s become a welcome time of reflection, reevaluation and reemersion with my own best friend, me.
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities!