Today I felt somewhat like this excerpt from The Waking by Theodore Roethke
… What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
In a way, it’s an act of self-care, to go beneath the surface and drift there awhile. Being present with the hard parts of our own human state. Submerging – willingly, knowingly, though reluctantly — into darkness and loss, loneliness and hurt. For a finite period of time.
Be assured, I know how to come up again. I did it today.
Though I sink, I don’t stay there, weighted down so long that I drown. Though every once in a while, it’s tempting. Instead I push off the bottom, kick for the sky and break out above the heaving tides. Gulp air and toss my head back toward the sun.
I can do it. I can rise up out of the depths and find what makes me want to be connected, whole, living.
At first, it’s an act of will, to return. Sometimes emergence into the world again – after sinking down — feels deliberate, and ponderous. Like an obligation toward survival, to surface after going under.
I rely on basics. I hold onto them like floatation devices, know they’ll help me stay above the tide tugging at my ankles. Sometimes a good night’s sleep will be enough. Or if I take a shower and change into a new day’s clothes, it gets me moving. I write about my feelings and thoughts; try to pay attention and give them voice. Such simple self-care activities are choices that help me back to shallow waters and solid ground.
Then I take the next risk. One way or another, I reach beyond myself. I leave the sanctuary of my own skin and my own brain, and communicate. Connect. Maybe I say hello to someone in my family, if there’s anyone home to greet. Or walk outside. Make a call. Stop at Zumis for tea. Put myself into a place where I’ll engage others.
At some point, this stimulation fills me with endorphins. Hope. I feel fresh. Renewed. Energized. Ready to participate. Active and optimistic again.
Since I repeat this cycle of waking and moving almost every day, it becomes second-nature. A kind of breathing, a movement of emotional and mental muscles toward hope and something greater, that is involuntary. It doesn’t require thought and decision.
It’s a state of being that remains … at least for me, most of the time … surprisingly natural. Surprising, because I always wondered if I’d sink or float, after Jessie died. Most days, I float. Natural, because I don’t have to fight for it most days. (Though I have shared the other kind of days with you, too.)
Otherwise, how would we manage? If I had to choose, every day, to wake up and keep going … if I couldn’t rely on it as involuntary habit, a part of who I am, what would I actually do? Would I make the decision, each morning, to get up and start all over? Yes. Probably. But not every day. Not always.
And so I am grateful that I can find my way back, after a few tries, to the place of open sky and breathable oxygen. I appreciate the reliable shore on which to set my feet as I raise my hands overhead. They are cast wide. Open. Empty. Willing to wait for what comes next.
I trust this part of myself. I can dive or jump into deep waters. But I can find my way and rise back up. Tread water. Swim. And wade ashore.