At the start of this year, I quietly agreed with myself that 2018 would be an ‘input year’.
I was feeling drained, running low on reserves. Not as extreme as exhaustion or burnout, but just…like I didn’t have a lot to offer the world, and that that was okay, and that reversing the flow would be helpful.
I agreed with myself that I would not be pushing to create, produce, or launch new things, but instead be sitting back, listening, learning, integrating. Seeking out nourishing experiences and allowing myself time to be fully immersed. Filling my well.
There are times when our wells grow empty. Over-working, over-caring, life just demanding more from us that we have to give. Other times, it feels like the well is being topped up, refilled, from sources old and new. Water flows out, water flows in…ideally (though often not) in equal measures.
These past few weeks, I’ve been consciously filling my well. Or in some cases, others have been filling it for me, whilst I sit, chattering away, or in meditative silence, paddling my feet in the fresh, glittering water as it pours in.
It feels good. So good.
And when friends have asked me how I’m doing lately, the word that comes to mind is ‘nourished’.
I feel nourished. Well-fed. Filled-up.
I wanted to post these experiences here as a personal reminder to myself: this is what nourishment feels like, to me. This is what filling the well looks like, for me. The list below is not a to-do list, but just something to remind me that I can nourish myself, that there are things I can do that make me feel really, really good. And there are things I can ask others for, too. Some of this stuff costs money, some of it I can only access because of financial privilege. But most of it requires me to simply reach out and ask – including asking myself, for permission, mostly – and that can be really, really hard.
Ritual. A few nights after Imbolc, Kirsten, Hele and I took a trip to Borth beach. There, we co-created a ritual for saying thank you and goodbye to the ‘judging voice’ we each carry within us (you know the one, she tells you you’re not good enough, she keeps you small, she prefers you silent and embarrassed.) We shared tarot cards and a druidic prayer and called to Awen. We cast a circle, called in the elements, thanked and released them. We ran about on the sand in the dark whooping and hollering. I know I have a long journey to go with my judging voice…but I’ve felt lighter ever since our ritual.
Beginning that conversation. I have attended community yoga classes my whole adult life. Along with this has come an increasing sense of unease about the roots of what I am learning, and about how I can raise topics like cultural appropriation with my teachers. Last week, I finally approached my current teacher Siân, and a really beautiful conversation has opened up. I feel really inspired by Siân’s determination to dig deeper into hers – and by extension, her students’ – practice, and encouraged by her lack of defensiveness. I feel like I trust in this conversation and I’m grateful we have started it.
Books and baths. I always seem to have a pile of books I’d love to read, books I know are full of wonders and treasures that will nourish me, educate or inspire me… and yet I rarely gift myself time to read. But for the past few weeks, I’ve managed to give myself an almost-daily bathtime read, and it feels like such a freakin’ luxury.
Coaching. I’ve begun working with a feminist holistic business coach, Jennifer Armbrust. I was seeking someone who could guide me not through ‘growing’ my business, but into ‘grounding’ it, helping me to work on its foundations and structures, its principles and its ability to nurture and sustain me and others who work here. Radically, for me, the key focus is listening to my body – something I have made a strong habit of very consciously and deliberately not doing. I loved our first session – it felt like such a huge investment in myself, and as I was explaining to Jennifer, the simple act of making that investment, of saying yes and making payment a few weeks back, seems to have kickstarted a period of self-love and nourishment for me. I’m excited about the work we will do together.
Freelancing together. Alice and I both had writing projects we wanted to wrap up. So each day last week, we met up for two or three hour blocks, in cafes around town. On Friday, we both finished! Hell yeah! I found that working in companionable silence – with planned-in breaks for chats (which kept becoming serious and lovely heart to hearts) – really helped me to feel a sense of balance in my life…and get my writing project finished. Working alone, I was dithering with this project for days on end, getting nothing done whilst also feeling like I wasn’t doing anything else, either (um, I think that’s called procrastination). Being accountable to Alice to show up each day, to work for just a short time was somehow much easier than being accountable to myself and helped me to focus and just freakin’ do the thing.
Freedom School. I’m currently taking Desiree Adaway’s Freedom School programme (which is about personal and collective liberation from oppressive structures). I’d already ‘done’ the first lesson alone, but after telling my friend Elena about it, we decided to try watching the video together (er, yes, with food and wine, of course.) What a difference! I got so much more out of Desiree’s teachings, questions and prompts the second time around, with Elena and I pausing the video regularly to participate in the discussions and dig into our own identities and how they shape our lives. It’s a tiny reminder that social justice happens so much more powerfully in community and conversation than it does when we sit apart from each other.
Not hiding from community. Machynlleth is a busy, bustling, community-spirited place. I must be a part of at least 12 WhatsApp groups right now, each planning some fun activity or other. My introvert tendency is to shy away from this stuff and opt for ‘quiet nights in’ (sometimes genuinely needing solitude…other times I know that I’m hiding, because: social anxiety.) But I’ve been saying yes a little more often lately. Not against my intuition, but just challenging that initial reaction of no and seeing if there’s a yes sitting behind it. Well would you believe, there often is! And that means I’ve been laughing more, crying more, hugging more, walking more, getting out more, talking and listening more, and deepening some special new friendships.
Exercise class. Y’know, I drink, I smoke, I pretty much live on toast, and I don’t move as much as my body wants me to. But local exercise classes are fun and cheap and make me feel stronger, bendier, stretchier and happier. It’s often hard to get myself out the door at 9am on a wet February morning, but every time I do, I come home feeling positive. Win!
Altars, poetry and art. I’ve spent many years berating myself for ‘losing my creativity’ and stopping ‘making art’. Then I realised that creating an altar is an art form, and I embraced it, and I remembered that I am a creative person, that I am an artist, (that we all are). In my notebook I redefined poetry to include anything I might want to write…so now I am writing poetry every few days. It just doesn’t usually look like the poetry you get in bookshops. Of course, I was doing these things before, but I was not allowing myself to frame them as creative acts, instead succumbing to a separate narrative about my ‘lack of creativity’. In reclaiming my artist in these small ways, I’m throwing out that narrative and claiming a new one.
Monday club. I belong to a group of ten people that meets most Monday evenings to explore the intersections of dark goddess archetypes, the lunar cycle, the sacred feminine, and the menstrual cycle. I struggle with a lot of this and very nearly shunned the group, but I’m so glad I showed up. The group is container – beautifully facilitated by Hele – in which each of us get to show up with our flaws, our vulnerabilities, our wild emotions, our day-to-days, and share. Learning to hold space for each other, and to have space held for our selves, is a radical and transformative experience that is impacting other areas of my life in really subtle ways. It feels like within the group we’re creating a language, and whilst our secrets remain within the group, the language moves outwards into the rest of our lives.
Dentist, doctor, massage… just getting a hold of those pieces of my everyday life (my painful, messed-up shoulder, my broken fillings, another minor health issue I’ve been ignoring for years…) and prioritising my physical health. Deciding that I probably don’t have to live with pain or anxiety, and taking practical steps to improve things. It feels good to pick up the phone and begin this type of ground-level self-care, to remind myself I’m worth it.
How about you? What nourishes you? What fills you up? What helps you grow? And how do you practice prioritising those things when it’s hard to do so?