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Now I Become Myself

I am sitting in bed feeling totally exhausted. It would appear that I also look exhausted. For days now people have been saying to me, “You look so tired” quickly followed by, “Have you considered a holiday?”

I have to ask myself why, when I’ve had a wonderful two week holiday recently and I came back feeling energised.

“When was that?” I ask myself.

“Oh yes, that’s right, it was in June.”

“June! That can’t be right. We’re only in August now.”

As I continue this conversation in my head one question keeps surfacing: How is it possible that only two months later I feel so unbelievably drained?

“Life, Marica. It is life,” I say to myself.

As I reflect on what ‘life’ has meant for me over this time I start to feel validated for being tired. It was as though jigsaw puzzle pieces were falling from the heavens and they were landing in exactly the right spot so that the big picture would reveal itself to me. Workload demands and pressures, numerous challenges and changes within my job and work environment proved to be emotionally taxing, the endless days of cold, wet weather and the resultant inevitable decline in my energy levels due to a lack of exposure to sunshine, my lack of self-care especially in relation to my physical needs such as not exercising regularly, not allowing myself time for the things that nourish my soul, not enough laughter, an acute awareness of the negative energy of others and feeling surrounded by it, questions about what I’m doing with my life, a sadness that people I love and feel energised by don’t live close by and even when they do everyone being too busy to take time out and be together, not tackling anything on what is fast becoming a long list of things I need to get done and feeling bad that I’m not doing anything about them, an overactive mind which is exploding with things I want to create and accomplish and being stuck with making them materialise into something meaningful and tangible, and then there are all those internal battles that seem to surface along the way that normally deplete my energy reserves even at the best of times.

“Wow, that seems pretty intense and I bet you haven’t listed everything that is going on,” says the voice within.

I began to understand why I have found these last two months so arduous. Yet there is something incredibly ordinary about all of this. There was nothing extremely unusual in what I have been dealing with. It was very much more of the same, or as some of my colleagues like to say in our weekly catch-up sessions it was ‘business as usual’, while it wasn’t the same.

“You’re beginning to sound a bit nutty,” I hear myself thinking.

As is fairly typical with me something I read this morning has triggered a series of ‘Ah-ha’ moments which link what I have been writing and thinking about. It began when I read this passage in a book a wonderful work colleague of mine loaned me called A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer. On page 90 Parker wrote:

I do not know who coined the phrase “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better,” but he or she must have a great fantasy life. In sixty five years on earth, my pattern has never been onward and upward. It has always been up and down and back around. I follow the thread of true self faithfully for a while. Then I lose it and find myself back in the dark, where fear drives me to search for the thread once again.

Further on Parker refers to another author I have recently discovered, May Sarton. I have become a fan of May’s work after reading one of her published journals, Journal of a Solitude, and I have another sitting in my ever growing book pile, waiting to be read. I was reminded of a quote by May that seemed particularly pertinent at this moment.

Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers.
May Sarton

We need both the dark and the light

I realised that these past two months matter. Being tired is an important part of a process. It made me stop and evaluate where I’m at and what matters to me. Without it I won’t know the joy of not feeling this way as the days get longer, the sun shines more, and my soul starts to feel the energy of growth, inspiration, creativity and action. We are never static. Like all things that come from the earth we are all susceptible to the many elements that can hinder our growth. My tiredness has been internally driven and externally fed. The ‘darkness’ is there to add balance and to feed new life that grows within.

Hope givers

As May points out in her beautiful poem Now I Become Myself I realise this recent ‘darkness’ I have been experiencing is an expression of me growing into the person I want to be and growing me takes a lot out of us. I need these constant reminders that this is not a straightforward nor an instantaneous process – it takes ‘time, many years and places’ as May Sarton writes. It can seem like one step forward and two steps backwards as Parker Palmer points out. This is normal. This is what it means to be human. Life is a process and living our lives is work; sometimes really hard work. I am reminded that right up until the moment we die we are growing. We have a huge capacity for change and it is through the difficult times that the greatest growth occurs as long as we don’t allow the fear to send us running for shelter and not face the things we need to.

Change has begun as one season merges into another. There is a stirring within which is gaining momentum. Nature is also doing her thing. The air feels different and the spring surge is evident everywhere. Buds are beginning to burst. Colour is returning to our world down here in the Southern Hemisphere. Yellow daffodils with their message of hope are springing up everywhere and they are a joy to behold.

I’d like to leave you with May’s poem and the wish that you feel the power of growth in your life as you journey towards finding yourself. Remember that this is a lifelong journey. I’d like to suggest that as you read the poem identify what really speaks to you and work with that word, phrase or sentence. Try writing about it, drawing or creating something like a collage that will embody who you are at this moment and how you have grown or are growing. Celebrate you – the beautiful, special, talented, unique human being that you are.

May Sarton
Photo source: A portrait of the late May Sarton in the prime of her life by Thayer. Held at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, http://www.languageisavirus.com/may-sarton/

Now I Become Myself
by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before–”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

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