Breaking through

Self care, self love, self acceptance, these are all mighty nice sounding buzz words and hashtags. But you know what? All this self discovery is exhausting most of the time.  Self care is less yoga/writing/nature retreats and more nitty gritty taking a close look at yourself and deciding to take care of this being that you are. You have to do the simple and mundane for yourself before you can ever get anything out of doing the grand for yourself. Can you look yourself in the eyes and truly believe you are deserving of your own love? Because that is step one.

It’s not just step one, it’s the step that you actually have to keep reverting back to when you’ve gotten lost out in the world, again.

And again and again and again.

We all have our own cycles and patterns that we are diligently and dedicatedly trying to get out of or change or make better in some way. It’s a delicate dance sometimes, more often , it’s a bloody brawl. We’re fighting ourselves over trying to make ourselves better. And those of us who have had breakthroughs in this self work can tell you that it does and it doesn’t get any easier. I still can’t explain how both of these are simultaneously true, but maybe it’s the same as how I am able to feel immense sadness but also joy and gratitude in my life at the same time.

The further you go into the hard work of heart work, the more you notice that it’s a complex landscape of mountains to climb, of cliffs to nearly fall off of. Then of meadows to rest in, and waters to bathe peacefully in one moment, and the next you’re thrown back into the deep and forced to swim or sink.

I was thrust back into the deep icy waters that I started out in. It’s funny that their absence went so unnoticed by me until here I was back in them. The familiarity with them made the water feel colder and the current crueler. I began to panic and let the chill paralyze me there, slowly freezing up until the heaviness began to pull me under, the water line crept up my waist, my pounding heart threateningly slowing as my chest now submerged. My throat daring to attempt a sound as it fought off the iciness creeping in and taking hold. As I took one last shaky breath that felt like could very well be the last before the water took hold of me completely a very small voice repeated a very simple charge. Take another breath. I did.

Take another breath, I tried again. Take another breath. As I inhaled my lungs rose me just the slightest above the water line I had been frozen in. In the exhale I found slight movement again. The ins and outs gave me the smallest bit of momentum I needed to begin to generate the heat and the hope that I needed. Take another breath, my chest swelled and my arms broke free. Take another breath, my legs went from moving frantically to moving slower, and more consciously. The voice stopped repeating the mantra, seeming to realize that I could now remember to breath on my own. It said instead, swim.

I began to swim to the shore that was only minutes away. Mere moments ago I could swear I was in the very middle of the ocean, but here I was standing on the shore looking at the spot I nearly drowned. Still shaking, less from the cold and more from the fact that I had let my fear of the cold icy water blind me from the simple fact that I knew how to swim. It was in this moment that I realized that it’s not enough to know how to swim, it takes the strength of mind to use what you know to spur yourself into the action. Self care is the tiny tiny voice that you’ve built a relationship with, so that when you feel like you are drowning it knows how to call to you to keep breathing. Self care is being able to listen to this voice, to trust it and to let it save you.

 

two weeks after a major panic attack I rested, processed, and finally felt ready to go out to dinner with my husband where he snapped this picture. Take the time you need, and don’t feel guilty for being able to smile amidst the darkness. 

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