If there is one thing I can always count on in my life, it’s that every Jan/Feb/March I will, like the very best of bears, go into a deep dark hibernation that not even the memory of the ripest, juiciest summer raspberries can coax me out of. So attuned to the cycles of my dearest Mother Earth, I can’t fight this pattern.
Believe me, I’ve tried.
I spent years in a futile struggle to free myself from this broken record repeating itself all over my normally energetic existence. I can feel it descending upon me right after the New Year, like a heavy blanket, as if some giant hands are tucking me in, whispering “Go to sleep now…You’ll wake up with the plant kingdom in a few short months”. And I, for many years, responded like a child who doesn’t want to take that nap, fists clenched, “I’m not tired! Hibernation is boring! I’m totally awake now!” only to, once again, find myself snoring my way through the deepest winter, totally powerless against a force much stronger than I, tantrum or not.
It’s not unpleasant, unless I fight it. It’s quiet, cozy, and warm…it feels dense and dark, but in a reassuring way. You’d never know by looking at me that I’m in this hibernation. I still spend time with my clients, my friends and family, and I’m totally present, not sleepwalking through relationships. No, my forced winter slumber is measured by innovation, which takes a hiatus in this state. I’m not building anything during these months. Newsletters and blogs come to a halt. I generally prefer to stay home and watch a movie over big, loud, public social events. I read like an introverted mad-woman, devouring books like a chipmunk who lives in a dark cave, waking for nothing but the call of her glorious pile of life-sustaining acorns.
I could beat myself up about that, but experience tells me it would get me nowhere. I could also stand outside at the base of my sweet little Aspen trees, shake their trunks, demanding that they wake up right now, on my schedule. Just because it energizes me to see their leaves, and dammit I’ve been groggy long enough. They’ve been asleep long enough. But that would be a ridiculous expenditure of energy, wouldn’t it.
I have learned that human beings, like every other force of nature, are accountable to earth cycles. And as much as we kick and scream and beat ourselves up for going dark, or finding ourselves unproductive for a short spell, or becoming less social for a time, those cycles must come to fruition on their own time. Abusing ourselves won’t alter that timing any more than brow-beating an apple tree will result in earlier harvested fruit.
How I learned to get myself through this hibernation period, which has never been easy for my Type-A personality– I tend to measure the success of a day with how many checks I have on my to-do list– is to just let go. To totally release my need to control that which I cannot possibly control. The forces of Nature are awe-inspiring and powerful beyond comprehension.
Who is to say we are meant to control those forces in entirety?
When I feel myself trying to force myself through an energetic cycle, I say something simple: “Kristy, you’re grasping.” It’s a desperate energy. It feels terrible.
It helps to realize that rather than being I’m forcing.
I believe the most powerful act of healing is to accept, in this moment, whatever it is we’re feeling. If we can fully hold the nature of grief, or anger, or sadness, or just…hibernation…and live, without judgement or interruption, without denying or stuffing or hiding, but just live with the powerful emotions our cycles bring, well, there’s nothing we can’t overcome.
I know myself. I know that the plant kingdom is about to explode with life. It already is. May is right around the corner and it will bring with it an energy that I will have a hard time containing. The hummingbirds will return and you won’t be able to shut me up, my productivity will go through the roof, there’ll be no stopping me. To know myself is also a key ingredient to navigating these cycles. If I can say, “Oh ya…here’s this thing again where I go to sleep for three months,” it allows me the reassurance that nothing is (gasp) wrong with me. I know it will pass, it always does, and I’ll be back to my energetic self in no time at all.
And woe to the poor soul who attempts to tell me otherwise. Once I learned to stop beating myself up I lost all tolerance for allowing others to do the same.
I ask you to consider your own energetic cycles. They may not look like mine, they may just drift in and out, not so defined and predictable. But there are patterns with every person’s existence and I plead with you to find yours, to know yours, and to never ever belittle yourself for feeling human, for being a part of nature, for being subject to basic emotional cycles which we are not meant to control or abuse our way out of.
Spring is here. Many of us are waking up. It feels good to be back.
Nancy Haag says
Kristy, while I am definitely a type A personality, I too have always struggled to make it through winters…and I live in an area of the world where winters are long. I have always needed something outside my normal endeavors to help me through. At this time in my life, it is very difficult college courses. Yeah, well, it used to be that I would spend a great deal of money ordering plants for all those pretty catalogs, and then, wonder where I would plant them all when they arrived in Spring! Now, even though college courses are expensive, it’s still less than I spent on plants, and less than I would spend on professional therapy. Hah! People wonder why I am still taking classes “at my age,” They do not struggle with winter. I just want to be outside, and I cannot do so very much in winter. Thanks for sharing this with us. Love you, Kristy!
Kristy Sweetland says
Nancy I think it’s so wonderful that you’re immersing yourself in college courses! Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I get a little unplugged in winter here in New Mexico, but in Minnesota I would become full-on depressed. I can’t deal with THAT much dormancy for that many months in a row. Nature for me is an imperative, to keep me energized and active. Living on top of a frozen tundra for seven months out of the year (my reality in Minneapolis) is just not doable for me anymore. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart here. Love you Nancy!