I hit a wall. It was awful. Unravelling ensued. It continues…
It’s been a minute. Time flies when you’re exhausted af.
Online business guru “best practices” say when you’ve ghosted your mailing list, or haven’t been visible for a while, don’t mention it, explain why you’ve been gone, or draw attention to it. Just get back on the horse and for the love of god try to be more consistent going forward.
The presumptions and values that underpin this advice are dangerous. Namely, it asks us to co-sign the assertion that we should be ceaselessly producing, like good little machines, and that breaks in output or productivity are akin to failure. As if when we are in the midst of something, a creative cauldron, a crisis or crucible, best to tuck it away and not get the smell on others.
I want to talk about the wall I hit, the exhaustion that continues to run through my body and the dumbfounding shame I felt at simply meeting the edges of my capacity when I earnestly wanted to keep going. I hope the truth of it contributes to weaving new collective narratives around work, productivity, visibility and identity.
My need for rest, grief, incubation and silence feels personally mine. Yet the shame that bubbled up when I first met the truth of needing these things is absolutely part of a collective spell.
I’d half expected to leap that wall like a crossbar on a track, even though I could feel how bone tired I was. It came after an incredible push of productivity, of holding, of projects and programs, creative output as steady and unrelenting as the on-demand breastfeeding happening between daytime calls and nighttime sleep cycles. Talk about life sucking the literal life out of me.
Despite loving what I do, or perhaps because I love it, I was being run by an expectation that I shouldn’t need the rest, solitude and creative incubation that I clearly do. That I should be fueled by my love of service, not self-abandoned and burned out by it.
It hit me so quickly and so forcefully, I had to just stop. Exhaustion, cycling illnesses, fog, heartache. I cancelled the programs and courses I planned to run this fall, without even announcing it. I stopped publishing and producing and focused my planning toward putting things down. I stopped everything except for a few, select, one on one coaching clients.
This unravelling began in the summer and coincided with the fourth C-wave, new restrictions, heightened divisiveness and fear, forest fires raging through our province, lapping at friends’ homes and local farms, smoke hovering out closed windows in record heat waves. Small trips for reprieve and gathering with my loves I hadn’t seen since pre-pandemonium were cancelled like dominos tumbling. Tumbling. Weary body. Ecological grief. Sensemaking. Back-to-normal grasping. All tumbling and unravelling.
The proverbial autumn season was upon me.
If you’ve been here a while or worked with me we’ve probably played with the use of seasonality as a developmental lens, drawing on nature and life and death cycles to locate ourselves, our development and the various aspects of our lives. I love this lens. Recognizing the season of autumn in my own life and personhood has been so deeply helpful, like something to tether me in a time of groundlessness. Falling apart as a sacred art. Wrapping up projects, pulling out deadlines and weeding the expectations so I can put the garden of my soul to bed for a needed winter’s rest.
The words woven here make it sound almost romantic. It’s not. I love the actual autumn. The crisp mornings and changing leaves, back to school vibes and sweater weather. The season of autumn in my own life’s cycle is terrifying. It threatens my sense of security and control in ways that I wish I was cool with, but I’m not. I’ve held and beheld so many humans through this crucible, but when it’s my turn, I rail against its whispers until it’s a raging scream that comes for me, insisting on surrender. These past few months have been daily, messy, achy rituals of surrender.
In a culture of constant curation, norms that encourage us to show up with our shit together, sharing the lessons after the storm, with the appropriate amount of palatable vulnerability, I feel a strong impulse to write, share and connect about the dark seasons as the composting is taking place. To rebel against curation. To name and invite the truth and complexity of the human experience.
Simultaneously, I want to disappear into my interiority, to owe the world nothing of my process, to sink into the darkness of the creative cave. To be left the fuck alone. To cry about the state of the world and grieve all of my sorrows and disappointments. I long to honor the invitation of the seasons that don’t want to be seen, but require the cover of mulch to do their sacred work. Hibernation is not meant to be visible.
A dear client and friend shared this acceptance speech by writer Michaela Coel with me recently. I wept at this line: “…for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear, from it, from us, for a while and see what comes to you in the silence.”
I want this. I’ve been doing this. The surface has been scratched. The abyss to tumble into, I long for like a lover.
To me this speaks of a different view of time. Life, and the lived experience through the lens of nature, takes her time. The pace of the capitalist machine, where we’re good little workers, achievers, accumulators (smarter, faster, better, more), tells us we’ll die if we don’t hurry up, show up, succeed and produce. My body is telling me I’ll die if I do.
When I was deciding where to plant the blueberries and learned that for the health of the bush, you mustn’t harvest fruit the first, or even the second year, I was like- wow. Respect, blueberries, respect. Don’t even get me started on asparagus and her three year tease.
I’m in this mysterious in-between, one marked by a lot of grief, in moments feeling like my body is abandoning me but knowing the truth that I’ve asked things of my body that she’s been saying no to for a while.
Extraction is a learned disease, easily transmitted in a society insisting there’s no other time than go time. It’s time to take my time.
As I continue to listen to the impulses to put down, shed, unravel, rest, heal and quietly create, I must also contend with how tiring it is to feel these moves threatening my sense of identity, safety and security. But I know enough to know that this is the way.
So what does this mean for us? I’m over here, cheering you on. And I’ll take your cheers and support if you’ve got ‘em. I plan to write and share at a cadence and pace without promises. Perhaps soon, perhaps not. The Podcast shall continue with no consistency and I’m good with that. Seems like a weird ‘business move’, but a brave human move and honouring my humanity honours my business. Since what are we doing here if not learning how to honour our humanity?
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